Development, growth & differentiation

beta-Catenin in early development of the lancelet embryo indicates specific determination of embryonic polarity.

PMID 12492505


The lancelet (amphioxus) embryo develops from a miolecithal egg and starts gastrulation when it is approximately 400 cells in size, in a fashion similar to that of some non-chordate deuterostomes. Throughout this type of gastrulation, the embryo develops characteristics such as the notochord and hollow nerve cord that commonly appear in chordates. beta-Catenin is an important factor in initiating body patterning. The behavior and developmental pattern of this protein in early lancelet development was examined in this study. Cytoplasmic beta-catenin was localized to the animal pole after fertilization and then was incorporated asymmetrically into the blastomeres during the first cleavage. Asymmetric distribution was observed at least until the 32-cell stage. The first nuclear localization was at the 64-cell stage, and involved all of the cells. At the initial gastrula stage, however, concentrated beta-catenin was found on the dorsal side. LiCl treatment affected the asymmetric pattern of beta-catenin during the first cleavage. LiCl also changed distribution of nuclear beta-catenin at the initial gastrula stage: distribution extended to cells on the animal side. Apparently associated with this change, expression domains of goosecoid, lhx3 and otx also changed to a radially symmetric pattern centered at the animal pole. However, LiCl-treated embryos were able to establish embryonic polarity. The present study suggests that in the lancelet embryo, polarity determination is independent of dorsal morphogenesis.

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