During vertebrate somitogenesis, retinoic acid is known to establish the position of the determination wavefront, controlling where new somites are permitted to form along the anteroposterior body axis. Less is understood about how RAR regulates somite patterning, rostral-caudal boundary setting, specialization of myotome subdivisions, or the specific RAR subtype that is required for somite patterning. Characterizing the function of RARβ has been challenging due to the absence of embryonic phenotypes in murine loss-of-function studies. Using the Xenopus system, we show that RARβ2 plays a specific role in somite number and size, restriction of the presomitic mesoderm anterior border, somite chevron morphology and hypaxial myoblast migration. Rarβ2 is the RAR subtype whose expression is most up-regulated in response to ligand and its localization in the trunk somites positions it at the right time and place to respond to embryonic retinoid levels during somitogenesis. RARβ2 positively regulates Tbx3 a marker of hypaxial muscle, and negatively regulates Tbx6 via Ripply2 to restrict the anterior boundaries of the presomitic mesoderm and caudal progenitor pool. These results demonstrate for the first time an early and essential role for RARβ2 in vertebrate somitogenesis.
- Received September 8, 2016.
- Accepted April 7, 2017.