Left-right asymmetry is a common feature of many organs, and is crucial for their function. The stomach is one such organ, with marked curvature on the left compared with the right, resulting in a distinctive shape that is highly conserved among vertebrates. Although it is well established that activation of Nodal controls left-right asymmetry of visceral organs, the cell- and tissue-level morphogenetic mechanisms that drive this phenomenon are poorly understood, especially in the stomach. Now, on p. 1477, Nanette Nascone-Yoder and colleagues shed light on the mechanisms that drive left-right asymmetric development of the stomach in both mouse and Xenopus embryos. The authors start with a gross examination of stomach curvature during development and compare their findings with two proposed models: a rotation model and an asymmetric growth model. They find no evidence for the former, and therefore suggest that the stomach acquires its asymmetry by an intrinsic mechanism. In support of this, the authors show that there is an asymmetric thickness of the left and right stomach wall, which depends on intact cilia and Nodal signalling as both Foxj1 mutant mouse embryos and Xenopus embryos treated with a Nodal inhibitor show a loss of this asymmetry. The authors show a role for Pitx2 in this process by overexpressing Pitx2 on the right side or knocking down Pitx2, both of which affect stomach curvature in Xenopus. This study demonstrates that asymmetric morphogenesis of the stomach in frogs and mice is driven by FoxJ1-Nodal-Pitx2-dependent asymmetric remodelling of the gastric epithelium on the left side.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd