Retinoic Acid is Required for Normal Morphogenetic Movements During Gastrulation

Michal Gur, Tamir Edri, Sally A. Moody*, Abraham Fainsod*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Retinoic acid (RA) is a central regulatory signal that controls numerous developmental processes in vertebrate embryos. Although activation of Hox expression is considered one of the earliest functions of RA signaling in the embryo, there is evidence that embryos are poised to initiate RA signaling just before gastrulation begins, and manipulations of the RA pathway have been reported to show gastrulation defects. However, which aspects of gastrulation are affected have not been explored in detail. We previously showed that partial inhibition of RA biosynthesis causes a delay in the rostral migration of some of the earliest involuting cells, the leading edge mesendoderm (LEM) and the prechordal mesoderm (PCM). Here we identify several detrimental gastrulation defects resulting from inhibiting RA biosynthesis by three different treatments. RA reduction causes a delay in the progression through gastrulation as well as the rostral migration of the goosecoid-positive PCM cells. RA inhibition also hampered the elongation of explanted dorsal marginal zones, the compaction of the blastocoel, and the length of Brachet’s cleft, all of which indicate an effect on LEM/PCM migration. The cellular mechanisms underlying this deficit were shown to include a reduced deposition of fibronectin along Brachet’s cleft, the substrate for their migration, as well as impaired separation of the blastocoel roof and involuting mesoderm, which is important for the formation of Brachet’s cleft and successful LEM/PCM migration. We further show reduced non-canonical Wnt signaling activity and altered expression of genes in the Ephrin and PDGF signaling pathways, both of which are required for the rostral migration of the LEM/PCM, following RA reduction. Together, these experiments demonstrate that RA signaling performs a very early function critical for the progression of gastrulation morphogenetic movements.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number857230
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 21 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Gur, Edri, Moody and Fainsod.


  • Brachet’s cleft
  • Xenopus embryo
  • embryo development
  • gastrulation delay
  • morphogenetic movements
  • retinoic acid signaling
  • tissue separation


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