A role for BMP signalling in heart looping morphogenesis in Xenopus

Ross A. Breckenridge, Tim J. Mohun, Enrique Amaya

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The heart develops from a linear tubular precursor, which loops to the right and undergoes terminal differentiation to form the multichambered heart. Heart looping is the earliest manifestation of left-right asymmetry and determines the eventual heart situs. The signalling processes that impart laterality to the unlooped heart tube and thus allow the developing organ to interpret the left-right axis of the embryo are poorly understood. Recent experiments in zebrafish led to the suggestion that bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4) may impart laterality to the developing heart tube. Here we show that in Xenopus, as in zebrafish, BMP4 is expressed predominantly on the left of the linear heart tube. Furthermore we demonstrate that ectopic expression of Xenopus nodal-related protein I (Xnr1) RNA affects BMP4 expression in the heart, linking asymmetric BMP4 expression to the left-right axis. We show that transgenic embryos overexpressing BMP4 bilaterally in the heart tube tend towards a randomisation of heart situs in an otherwise intact left-right axis. Additionally, inhibition of BMP signalling by expressing noggin or a truncated, dominant negative BMP receptor prevents heart looping but allows the initial events of chamber specification and anteroposterior morphogenesis to occur. Thus in Xenopus asymmetric BMP4 expression links heart development to the left-right axis, by being both controlled by Xnr1 expression and necessary for heart looping morphogenesis. © 2001 Academic Press.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)191-203
    Number of pages12
    JournalDevelopmental Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2001


    • Bone morphogenetic protein
    • Heart
    • Left-right axis
    • Transgenics
    • Xenopus


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