Creation of chimeric mutant axolotls: A model to study early embryonic heart development in Mexican axolotls

L. F. Lemanski, F. Meng, S. L. Lemanski, N. Dawson, C. Zhang, D. Foster, Q. Li, M. Nakatsugawa, R. W. Zajdel, D. K. Dube, X. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) provides an excellent model for studying heart development since it carries a cardiac lethal mutation in gene c that results in failure of contraction of mutant embryonic myocardium. In cardiac mutant axolotls (c/c) the hearts do not beat, apparently because of an absence of organized myofibrils. To date, there has been no way to analyze the genotypes of embryos from heterozygous spawnings (+/c×+/c) until stage 35 when the normal (+/c or +/+) embryos first begin to have beating hearts; mutant (c/c) embryos fail to develop normal heartbeats. In the present study, we created chimeric axolotls by using microsurgical techniques. The general approach was to transect tailbud embryos and join the anterior and posterior halves of two different individuals. The chimeric axolotl is composed of a normal head and heart region (+/+), permitting survival and a mutant body containing mutant gonads (c/c) that permits the production of c/c mutant offspring: 100% c/c offspring were obtained by mating c/c chimeras (c/c×c/c). The mutant phenotypes were confirmed by the absence of beating hearts and death at stage 41 in 100% of the embryos. Examination of the mutant hearts with electron microscopy and confocal microscopy after immunofluorescent staining for tropomyosin showed identical images to those described previously in naturally-occurring c/c mutant axolotls (i.e., lacking organized sarcomeric myofibrils). These "c/c chimeric" axolotls provide a useful and unique way to investigate early embryonic heart development in cardiac mutant Mexican axolotls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-342
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomy and Embryology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal
  • Chimera
  • Gene
  • Mutation
  • Myocardium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Embryology


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