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The experimental manipulation of early embryologic events, resulting in the misexpression of the homeobox transcription factor pitx2, is associated with subsequent defects of laterality in a number of vertebrate systems. To clarify the role of one pitx2 isoform, pitx2c, in determining the left-right axis of amphibian embryos, we examined the heart and gut morphology of Xenopus laevis embryos after attenuating pitx2c mRNA levels using chemically modified antisense oligonucleotides. We demonstrate that the partial depletion of pitx2c mRNA in these embryos results in alteration of both cardiac morphology and intestinal coiling. The most common cardiac abnormality seen was a failure of rightward migration of the outflow tract, while the most common intestinal laterality phenotype seen was a full reversal in the direction of coiling, each present in 23% of embryos injected with the pitx2c antisense oligonucleotide. An abnormality in either the heart or gut further predisposed to a malformation in the other. In addition, a number of other cardiac anomalies were observed after pitx2c mRNA attenuation, including abnormalities of atrial septation, extracellular matrix restriction, relative atrial-ventricular chamber positioning, and restriction of ventricular development. Many of these findings correlate with cardiac defects previously reported in pitx2 null and hypomorphic mice, but can now be assigned specifically to attenuation of the pitx2c isoform in Xenopus.


John M Dagle, Jaime L Sabel, Jennifer L Littig, Lillian B Sutherland, Sandra J Kolker, Daniel L Weeks. Pitx2c attenuation results in cardiac defects and abnormalities of intestinal orientation in developing Xenopus laevis. Developmental biology. 2003 Oct 15;262(2):268-81

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PMID: 14550790

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