A leap forward for chemical genetics
Frogs can now be used as model organisms for chemical genetic screens. Grant Wheeler and colleagues from the University of East Anglia, UK, have successfully developed a new analytical method that identifies which genes are responsible for specific outward physical characteristics of frog embryos and tadpoles.
Chemical genetic research uses small molecules to interrupt activities within cells so that key proteins within complicated cellular pathways can be identified. The screening technique is a powerful tool for studying developmental processes in vertebrate systems.
African clawed toads hold promise for genetic studies of human disease
Previously, zebrafish embryos have been exploited for genetic research but now Wheeler's team has found that African clawed frog (also known as Xenopus laevis) embryos can also be used.
Xenopus laevis may appeal to the chemical geneticist looking to begin investigation with a higher vertebrate system because this is as yet the closest chemical genetic model to human disease and development.
Wheeler investigated a series of compounds using the frogs and found that they gave similar biological effects to those seen in zebrafish.
Xenopus laevis is suitable for use in large-scale screens to identify small molecules that disrupt developmental events. It is hoped that using Xenopus as a model organism in developmental chemical genetic screens may be important to the discovery of new drug targets. In future Wheeler hopes to identify small molecules that impede the migration of macrophages and which may give clues to the processes involved in inflammatory disease.
M L Tomlinson, R A Field and G N Wheeler, Mol. Biosyst., 2005, 1, 223 (DOI: 10.1039/b506103b)