Serotonin signaling is required for Wnt-dependent GRP specification and leftward flow in Xenopus

Tina Beyer, Michael Danilchik, Thomas Thumberger, Philipp Vick, Matthias Tisler, Isabelle Schneider, Susanne Bogusch, Philipp Andre, Bärbel Ulmer, Peter Walentek, Beate Niesler, Martin Blum, Axel Schweickert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


In vertebrates, most inner organs are asymmetrically arranged with respect to the main body axis [1]. Symmetry breakage in fish, amphibian, and mammalian embryos depends on cilia-driven leftward flow of extracellular fluid during neurulation [2-5]. Flow induces the asymmetric nodal cascade that governs asymmetric organ morphogenesis and placement [1, 6, 7]. In the frog Xenopus, an alternative laterality-generating mechanism involving asymmetric localization of serotonin at the 32-cell stage has been proposed [8]. However, no functional linkage between this early localization and flow at neurula stage has emerged. Here, we report that serotonin signaling is required for specification of the superficial mesoderm (SM), which gives rise to the ciliated gastrocoel roof plate (GRP) where flow occurs [5, 9]. Flow and asymmetry were lost in embryos in which serotonin signaling was downregulated. Serotonin, which we found uniformly distributed along the main body axes in the early embryo, was required for Wnt signaling, which provides the instructive signal to specify the GRP. Importantly, serotonin was required for Wnt-induced double-axis formation as well. Our data confirm flow as primary mechanism of symmetry breakage and suggest a general role of serotonin as competence factor for Wnt signaling during axis formation in Xenopus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 10 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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