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The reorganization of cranial cartilages during tadpole metamorphosis is a set of complex processes. The fates of larval cartilage-forming cells (chondrocytes) and sources of adult chondrocytes are largely unknown. Individual larval cranial cartilages may either degenerate or remodel, while many adult cartilages appear to form de novo during metamorphosis. Determining the extent to which adult chondrocytes/cartilages are derived from larval chondrocytes during metamorphosis requires new techniques in chondrocyte lineage tracing. We have developed two transgenic systems to label cartilage cells throughout the body with fluorescent proteins. One system strongly labels early tadpole cartilages only. The other system inducibly labels forming cartilages at any developmental stage. We examined cartilages of the skull (viscero- and neurocranium), and identified larval cartilages that either resorb or remodel into adult cartilages. Our data show that the adult otic capsules, tecti anterius and posterius, hyale, and portions of Meckel's cartilage are derived from larval chondrocytes. Our data also suggest that most adult cartilages form de novo, though we cannot rule out the potential for extreme larval chondrocyte proliferation or de- and re-differentiation, which could dilute our fluorescent protein signal. The transgenic lineage tracing strategies developed here are the first examples of inducible, skeleton-specific, lineage tracing in Xenopus.


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