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Cilia are present on most vertebrate cells and play a central role in development, growth, and homeostasis. Thus, cilia dysfunction can manifest into an array of diseases, collectively termed ciliopathies, affecting millions of lives worldwide. Yet, our understanding of the gene regulatory networks that control cilia assembly and functions remain incomplete. With the advances in next-generation sequencing technologies, we can now rapidly predict pathogenic variants from hundreds of ciliopathy patients. While the pace of candidate gene discovery is exciting, most of these genes have never been previously implicated in cilia assembly or function. This makes assigning the disease causality difficult. This review discusses how Xenopus, a genetically tractable and high-throughput vertebrate model, has played a central role in identifying, validating, and characterizing candidate ciliopathy genes. The review is focused on multiciliated cells (MCCs) and diseases associated with MCC dysfunction. MCCs harbor multiple motile cilia on their apical surface to generate extracellular fluid flow inside the airway, the brain ventricles, and the oviduct. In Xenopus, these cells are external and present on the embryonic epidermal epithelia, facilitating candidate genes analysis in MCC development in vivo. The ability to introduce patient variants to study their effects on disease progression makes Xenopus a powerful model to improve our understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms and explain the patient phenotype. © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


Venkatramanan G Rao, Saurabh S Kulkarni. Xenopus to the rescue: A model to validate and characterize candidate ciliopathy genes. Genesis (New York, N.Y. : 2000). 2021 Feb;59(1-2):e23414

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PMID: 33576572

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