Chemical Screening Using Cell-Free Xenopus Egg Extract

Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2018 Aug 1;2018(8):pdb.prot098277. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot098277.


Most drug screening methods use purified proteins, cultured cells, and/or small model organisms such as Xenopus, zebrafish, flies, or nematodes. These systems have proven successes in drug discovery, but they also have weaknesses. Although purified cellular components allow for identification of compounds with activity against specific targets, such systems lack the complex biological interactions present in cellular and organismal screens. In vivo systems overcome these weaknesses, but the lack of cellular permeability, efflux by cellular pumps, and/or toxicity can be major limitations. Xenopus laevis egg extract, a concentrated and biologically active cytosol, can potentially overcome these weaknesses. Drug interactions occur in a near-physiological milieu, thereby functioning in a "truer" endogenous manner than purified components. Also, Xenopus egg extract is a cell-free system that lacks intact plasma membranes that could restrict drug access to potential targets. Finally, Xenopus egg extract is readily manipulated at the protein level: Proteins are easily depleted or added to the system, an important feature for analyzing drug effects in disease states. Thus, Xenopus egg extract offers an attractive media for screening drugs that merges strengths of both in vitro and in vivo systems.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell-Free System
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Ovum / chemistry
  • Ovum / drug effects*
  • Xenopus laevis*