A sticky problem: the Xenopus cement gland as a paradigm for anteroposterior patterning

Dev Dyn. 1996 Mar;205(3):265-80. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0177(199603)205:3<265::AID-AJA7>3.0.CO;2-G.


The cement gland is a mucus-secreting organ found at the extreme anterior of frog embryos. It attaches the embryo to a solid support before swimming and feeding begin, and also serves a related sensory function that stops the embryo from moving once it is attached. Cement gland is an extremely useful anterior marker, whose study continues to yield fundamental information concerning vertebrate axial patterning. Cement gland arises from the outer layer of the embryonic ectoderm and, in Xenopus, forms a cone of columnar epithelium. It is the first ectodermal organ to differentiate, beginning to do so by late gastrula. A battery of genes expressed in the developing and mature cement gland serve as useful markers. Cement gland development can be influenced by both stimulatory and inhibitory cell interactions. Stimulatory signals arise from the anterior neural plate, head endoderm, and the dorsal mesoderm. Inhibitory signals are present in the posterior dorsal mesoderm and in ventral ectoderm and mesoderm. Further, signalling between the ectodermal layers may restrict cement gland differentiation to the outer ectodermal cells. Several secreted molecules are able to induce or repress cement gland formation: these include noggin, follistatin, hedgehog, chordin, retinoic acid, embryonic fibroblast growth factor (eFGF), Bone Morphogenetic Protein-4 (BMP-4), and Xwnt-8. Several of these factors alter expression of the homeodomain gene Xotx2, which may be a transcriptional activator of cement gland differentiation genes. The significance of the cell interactions and factors described in positioning cement gland at the front of the embryo is explored.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Ectoderm / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Head / embryology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors
  • Xenopus / embryology
  • Xenopus / growth & development*

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U76752