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Int J Dev Biol. 2001 Oct;45(7):771-95.

Amphibian gastrulation: history and evolution of a 125 year-old concept.

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  • 1Centre de Biologie du Développement, UMR-CNRS 5547, Université Paul-Saba tier, Toulouse, France.


The hypothetical gastraea concept, proposed by Haeckel (1874) to be an ancestral form common to all Metazoans, relied on the characterization of a gastrula stage in their embryonic development. The first steps that led to this characterization in Amphibian embryos fell into oblivion and deserve mention. Similarly, controversial debates about gastrula formation from the blastula, about simultaneous appearance of the three germ layers as opposed to a theoretical diploblastic embryo and about the occurrence of inward morphogenetic cell movements versus that of delamination processes, lasted for years. Following a half-century of polemic (1875-1925), Vogt's studies clearly and definitively established the reality and the complexity of morphogenetic movements, but this breakthrough long remained without further consequences. Holtfreter (1943,1944) illuminated unknown aspects of living gastrula cells and his observations helped to define many problems to be solved. During the second half of the 20th century, cell and molecular biology techniques, applied to the study of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, have brought new insights into the mechanisms of gastrula cell movements. Gene expression during these phenomena still remains an open question, as shown by a few recent studies: this situation strikingly contrasts with the many achievements that have been accomplished during the last decade in the analysis of induction phenomena during gastrulation.

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