Mediolateral cell intercalation in the dorsal, axial mesoderm of Xenopus laevis

Dev Biol. 1989 Feb;131(2):539-49. doi: 10.1016/s0012-1606(89)80024-7.


The pattern of mediolateral cell intercalation in mesodermal tissues during gastrulation and neurulation of Xenopus laevis was determined by tracing cells labeled with fluorescein dextran amine (FDA). Patches of the involuting marginal zone (IMZ) of early gastrula stage embryos, labeled by injection of FDA at the one-cell stage, were grafted to the corresponding regions of unlabeled host embryos. The host embryos were fixed at several stages, serially sectioned, and examined with fluorescence microscopy and three-dimensional reconstruction. Patterns of mixing of labeled and unlabeled cells show that mediolateral cell intercalation occurs in the posterior, dorsal mesoderm as this region undergoes convergent extension and differentiates into somites and notochord. In contrast, it does not occur in any dorsoventral sector of the anterior, leading edge of the mesodermal mantle. These results, taken with other evidence, suggest that the mesoderm of Xenopus consists of two subpopulations, each with a characteristic morphogenetic movement, cell behavior, and tissue fate. The migrating mesoderm (1) does not show convergent extension; (2) migrates and spreads on the blastocoel roof; (3) is dependent on this substratum for its morphogenesis; (4) shows little mediolateral intercalation; (5) consists of the anterior, early-involuting region of the mesodermal mantle; and (6) differentiates into head, heart, blood island, and lateral body wall mesoderm. The extending mesoderm (1) shows convergent extension; (2) is independent of the blastocoel roof in its morphogenesis; (3) shows extensive mediolateral intercalation; (4) consists of the posterior, late-involuting parts of the mesodermal mantle; and (5) differentiates into somite and notochord.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Dextrans
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Gastrula / cytology
  • Gastrula / physiology
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Morphogenesis
  • Notochord / cytology
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology*


  • Dextrans
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • fluorescein-dextran-amine