In order to more accurately determine the mechanism by which retinoic acid causes embryonic defects, we have developed a simple method of locally applying retinoic acid rather than immersing the whole embryo in retinoic acid solutions. Retinoic acid was suspended in corn oil and then injected between the surface and the deep ectodermal layers of an early gastrula Xenopus embryo. When droplets containing retinoic acid were injected into the presumptive head region, the embryos exhibited inhibited development of anterior structures near the injection site. Development of the eye, cement gland, hatching gland, olfactory pits, and expression of engrailed protein were all disrupted near the injection site. Inhibited development of anterior structures was far greater on the injected side of the embryo than on the uninjected side. The retinoic acid droplet did not cause an anterior shift of structures on the injected side relative to the uninjected side. These experiments suggest that retinoic acid does not cause global respecification of axial level in the head, but rather suppresses development of anterior structures. Retinoic acid injected into presumptive trunk regions had no discernible effect.
Drysdale, T.A. and Crawford, Michael J., "Effects of localized application of retinoic acid on Xenopus laevis development" (1994). Developmental Biology, 162, 2, 394-401.