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Researchers discover that changes in bioelectric signals cause tadpoles to grow eyes in back, tail
Date:12/7/2011

pplications of this new technique for eyes, this is a first step to cracking the bioelectric code."

Tufts post-doctoral fellow Vaibhav P. Pai Ph.D., is first author of the paper, entitled "Transmembrane Voltage Potential Controls Embryonic Eye Patterning in Xenopus laevis." .

Signals Turn On Eye Genes

From the outset of their research, the Tufts' biologists wanted to understand how cells use natural electrical signals to communicate in their task of creating and placing body organs. In recent research, Tufts biologist Dany S. Adams showed that bioelectrical signals are necessary for normal face formation in the Xenopus (frog) embryos. In the current set of experiments, the Levin lab identified and marked hyperpolarized (more negatively charged) cell clusters located in the head region of the frog embryo.

They found that these cells expressed genes that are involved in building the eye called Eye Field Transcription Factors (EFTFs). Sectioning of the embryo through the developed eye and analyzing the eye regions under fluorescence microscopy showed that the hyperpolarized cells contributed to development of the lens and retina. The researchers hypothesized that these cells turned on genes that are necessary for building the eye.

Changing the Signals Lead to Defects

Next, the researchers were able to show that changing the bioelectric code, or depolarizing these cells, affected normal eye formation. They injected the cells with mRNA encoding ion channels, which are a class of gating proteins embedded in the membranes of the cell. Like gates, each ion channel protein selectively allows a charged particle to pass in and out of the cell.

Using individual ion channels that allow, the researchers changed the membrane potential of these cells. This affected expression of EFTF genes, causing abnormalities to occur: Tadpoles from these experiments were normal except that they had deformed or no e
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Contact: Alex Reid
alexander.reid@tufts.edu
617-627-4173
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert  

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