Dev. Dyn. 227: 552-562 (2003)

Establishment of a ventral cell fate in the spinal cord. 

K.S. Moghadam, A. Chen & R. D. Heathcote

The neural plate is induced during gastrulation when the organizer affects the ectoderm around it. Recent experiments show that axial mesoderm can stimulate formation of specific ventral cell types in the spinal cord, including floor plate, motor neurons, and several types of interneurons. We have eliminated or disrupted axial mesoderm by using a variety of methods to show that ventral columns of intermittent dopaminergic neurons in the frog Xenopus also appear to be induced by axial mesoderm. Inversion of the dorsal-ventral neural axis by splitting the presumptive neural plate in vivo, produced two spinal cords with ectopic dopaminergic neurons. The location and number of neurons suggest that even a brief association with axial mesoderm can specify the identity of the first or primary dopaminergic neurons and that notochord retains the ability to induce cells to become secondary dopaminergic neurons.