A model of transcriptional and morphological changes during thyroid hormone-induced metamorphosis of the axolotl

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Developmental Biology | Endocrinology | Evolution | Genetics | Zoology


Anuran (frog) metamorphosis has long-served as a model of how thyroid hormones regulate post-embryonic development in vertebrates. However, comparatively little is known about urodele (salamander) metamorphosis. We conducted a detailed time-course study of induced metamorphosis in the Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) that probed metamorphic changes in morphology and gene expression in the skin. Using morphometrics, quantitative PCR, histology, and in situ hybridization we demonstrate that the development of transcriptional markers is fundamental to the resolution of early metamorphic events in axolotls. We then use linear and piecewise linear models to identify a sequence of morphological and transcriptional changes that define larval to adult remodeling events throughout metamorphosis. In addition, we show that transcriptional biomarkers are expressed in specific larval and adult cell populations of the skin and that temporal changes in these biomarkers correlate with tissue remodeling. We compare our results with other studies of natural and induced metamorphosis in urodeles and highlight what appear to be conserved features between urodele and anuran metamorphosis.