Evolutionarily conserved and divergent expression of members of the FGF receptor family among vertebrate embryos, as revealed by FGFR expression patterns in Xenopus

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Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) mediate many cell-cell signaling events during early development. While the actions of FGFs have been well-studied, the roles played by specific members of the FGF receptor (FGFR) family are poorly understood. To characterize the roles played by individual FGFRs we compared the regulation and expression of the three Xenopus FGFRs described to date (XFGFR-1, XFGFR-2, and XFGFR-4). First, we describe the expression of Xenopus FGFR-4; XFGFR-4 is present as a maternal mRNA and is found in the embryo through at least the tadpole stage. XFGFR-4 and XFGFR-1 mRNAs are present at comparable levels, arguing that both mediate FGF signaling during early development. Second, the expression of XFGFR-4 in animal caps differs from the expression of XFGFR-1 and XFGFR-2, suggesting that the FGFRs are independently regulated in ectoderm. Third, using whole-mount in situ hybridization, we show that XFGFR-1, XFGFR-2, and XFGFR-4 are expressed in dramatically different patterns, arguing that specific FGF signaling events are mediated by different members of the FGFR family. Among these, FGF signaling during the induction of neural crest cells is likely to be mediated by XFGFR-4. Comparison of our results with previously reported FGFR expression patterns reveals that FGFR-1 expression is highly conserved among vertebrate embryos, and FGFR-2 expression shows many features that are conserved and some that are divergent. In contrast, the expression pattern of FGFR-4 is highly divergent among vertebrate embryos.

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Development Genes and Evolution

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