Xenopus epidermal and endodermal epithelia as models for mucociliary epithelial evolution, disease, and metaplasia

Genesis. 2021 Feb;59(1-2):e23406. doi: 10.1002/dvg.23406. Epub 2021 Jan 5.


The Xenopus embryonic epidermis is a powerful model to study mucociliary biology, development, and disease. Particularly, the Xenopus system is being used to elucidate signaling pathways, transcription factor functions, and morphogenetic mechanisms regulating cell fate specification, differentiation and cell function. Thereby, Xenopus research has provided significant insights into potential underlying molecular mechanisms for ciliopathies and chronic airway diseases. Recent studies have also established the embryonic epidermis as a model for mucociliary epithelial remodeling, multiciliated cell trans-differentiation, cilia loss, and mucus secretion. Additionally, the tadpole foregut epithelium is lined by a mucociliary epithelium, which shows remarkable features resembling mammalian airway epithelia, including its endodermal origin and a variable cell type composition along the proximal-distal axis. This review aims to summarize the advantages of the Xenopus epidermis for mucociliary epithelial biology and disease modeling. Furthermore, the potential of the foregut epithelium as novel mucociliary model system is being highlighted. Additional perspectives are presented on how to expand the range of diseases that can be modeled in the frog system, including proton pump inhibitor-associated pneumonia as well as metaplasia in epithelial cells of the airway and the gastroesophageal region.

Keywords: airway disease; ciliated metaplasia; gastric; goblet cell metaplasia; transdifferentiation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciliopathies / metabolism*
  • Ciliopathies / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Endoderm / cytology
  • Endoderm / embryology
  • Mucous Membrane / cytology
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism*
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology
  • Xenopus laevis / metabolism*