Epithelially expressed type II collagen is thought to play a prominent role in the embryonic patterning and differentiation of the vertebrate skull, primarily on the basis of data derived from amniotes. We describe the spatiotemporal distribution of type II collagen in the embryonic head of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, using whole-mount and serial-section immunohistochemical analysis. We studied embryos spanning Nieuwkoop and Faber (1967) stages 21-39, a period including cranial neural crest cell migration and ending immediately before the onset of neurocranial chondrogenesis. Xenopus displays a transient expression of type II collagen beginning at least as early as stage 21; staining is most intense and widespread at stages 33/34 and 35/36 and subsequently diminishes. Collagen-positive areas include the ventrolateral surface of the brain, sensory vesicles, notochord, oropharynx, and integument. This expression pattern is similar, but not identical, to that reported for the mouse and two bird species (Japanese quail, domestic fowl); thus epithelially expressed type II collagen appears to be a phylogenetically widespread feature of vertebrate cranial development. Consistent with the proposed role of type II collagen in mediating neurocranial differentiation, most collagen-positive areas lie adjacent to subsequent sites gf chondrogenesis in the neurocranium but not the visceral skeleton. However, much of the collagen is expressed after the migration of cranial neural crest, including presumptive chondrogenic crest, seemingly too late to pattern the neurocranium by entrapment of these migrating cells.
Mu867Times Cited:18Cited References Count:38