H,K-ATPase Protein Localization and Kir4.1 Function Reveal Concordance of Three Axes During Early Determination of Left-Right Asymmetry

Mech Dev. Mar-Apr 2008;125(3-4):353-72. doi: 10.1016/j.mod.2007.10.011. Epub 2007 Nov 4.


Consistent laterality is a fascinating problem, and study of the Xenopus embryo has led to molecular characterization of extremely early steps in left-right patterning: bioelectrical signals produced by ion pumps functioning upstream of asymmetric gene expression. Here, we reveal a number of novel aspects of the H+/K+-ATPase module in chick and frog embryos. Maternal H+/K+-ATPase subunits are asymmetrically localized along the left-right, dorso-ventral, and animal-vegetal axes during the first cleavage stages, in a process dependent on cytoskeletal organization. Using a reporter domain fused to molecular motors, we show that the cytoskeleton of the early frog embryo can provide asymmetric, directional information for subcellular transport along all three axes. Moreover, we show that the Kir4.1 potassium channel, while symmetrically expressed in a dynamic fashion during early cleavages, is required for normal LR asymmetry of frog embryos. Thus, Kir4.1 is an ideal candidate for the K+ ion exit path needed to allow the electroneutral H+/K+-ATPase to generate voltage gradients. In the chick embryo, we show that H+/K+-ATPase and Kir4.1 are expressed in the primitive streak, and that the known requirement for H+/K+-ATPase function in chick asymmetry does not function through effects on the circumferential expression pattern of Connexin43. These data provide details crucial for the mechanistic modeling of the physiological events linking subcellular processes to large-scale patterning and suggest a model where the early cytoskeleton sets up asymmetric ion flux along the left-right axis as a system of planar polarity functioning orthogonal to the apical-basal polarity of the early blastomeres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • H(+)-K(+)-Exchanging ATPase / analysis
  • H(+)-K(+)-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / analysis
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Xenopus / anatomy & histology
  • Xenopus / embryology*
  • Xenopus Proteins / analysis
  • Xenopus Proteins / metabolism*


  • Kcnj10 (channel)
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • H(+)-K(+)-Exchanging ATPase