Somitogenesis in the amphibian Xenopus laevis: scanning electron microscopic analysis of intrasomitic cellular arrangements during somite rotation

J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1981 Aug;64:23-43.


The intrasomitic changes in cell arrangement which accompany somite rotation during somitogenesis in Xenopus laevis were analysed with the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Longitudinal, horizontal fractures of whole embryos were examined at various dorsoventral levels of stage-22 to -24 embryos. Observations of the gross morphological features of somitogenesis, and the cellular changes which accompany somite segmentation and somite rotation were made. Several of these observations lead to modifications of previous models for the cellular basis of somitogenesis in Xenopus. Individual cellular rearrangements, rather than simultaneous block rotation of a whole somite, appear to be responsible for the 90 degrees rotation of myotomal cells within a single somite. Cellular arrangements in fused somites were also examined. Some ultraviolet-irradiated embryos displayed a complete lack of a notochord. The somites in those embryos were fused across the midline beneath the neural tube. The dorsal and ventral arms of the somites are not fused. Normal rotation occurs only in the dorsal and ventral arms while, in the majority of cases, cells in the fused region fail to rotate normally. In some cases, individual cells in the fused region undergo partial rearrangement. Those observations support the notion that individual cellular rearrangements account for the rotation of the whole somite.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Notochord / cytology
  • Rotation
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology*