An in vitro microculture system of early gastrula cells of Xenopus laevis has been developed; deep layer cells from the lateral marginal zone (prospective somite region) or ventral ectoderm (prospective epidermis region) were fully dissociated, and the desired number of each (1–100) was distributed into a microculture well and cultured under appropriate conditions. When examined with the tissue-specific Mabs (Mu1 for muscle and E3 for epidermis, respectively), a substantial portion of the deep layer cells from the two regions followed their respective normal embryonic fates. It was found that reproducible cellular differentiation was dependent on the intimate reaggregation of dissociated cells and on the size of the resultant aggregate. About 20 lateral marginal zone cells were found to be sufficient, when put into a culture well, for supporting successful muscle differentiation, whereas about 100 ventral ectoderm cells were necessary for epidermal differentiation.

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