Cellular and molecular mechanisms of regeneration in Xenopus

J. M. W. Slack, C. W. Beck, C. Gargioli, B. Christen

Abstract

We have employed transgenic methods combined with embryonic grafting to analyse the mechanisms of regeneration in Xenopus tadpoles. The Xenopus tadpole tail contains a spinal cord, notochord and segmented muscles, and all tissues are replaced when the tail regenerates after amputation. We show that there is a refractory period of very low regenerative ability in the early tadpole stage. Tracing of cell lineage with the use of single tissue transgenic grafts labelled with green fluorescent protein (GFP) shows that there is no de-differentiation and no metaplasia during regeneration. The spinal cord, notochord and muscle all regenerate from the corresponding tissue in the stump; in the case of the muscle the satellite cells provide the material for regeneration. By using constitutive or dominant negative gene products, induced under the control of a heat shock promoter, we show that the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Notch signalling pathways are both essential for regeneration. BMP is upstream of Notch and has an independent effect on regeneration of muscle. The Xenopus limb bud will regenerate completely at the early stages but regenerative ability falls during digit differentiation. We have developed a procedure for making tadpoles in which one hindlimb is transgenic and the remainder wild-type. This has been used to introduce various gene products expected to prolong the period of regenerative capacity, but none has so far been successful.