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Development. 2003 May;130(9):1735-47.

Early patterning of the spider embryo: a cluster of mesenchymal cells at the cumulus produces Dpp signals received by germ disc epithelial cells.

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  • 1JT Biohistory Research Hall, 1-1 Murasaki-cho, Takatsuki, Osaka 569-1125, Japan.


In early embryogenesis of spiders, the cumulus is characteristically observed as a cellular thickening that arises from the center of the germ disc and moves centrifugally. This cumulus movement breaks the radial symmetry of the germ disc morphology, correlating with the development of the dorsal region of the embryo. Classical experiments on spider embryos have shown that a cumulus has the capacity to induce a secondary axis when transplanted ectopically. In this study, we have examined the house spider, Achaearanea tepidariorum, on the basis of knowledge from Drosophila to characterize the cumulus at the cellular and molecular level. In the cumulus, a cluster of about 10 mesenchymal cells, designated the cumulus mesenchymal (CM) cells, is situated beneath the epithelium, where the CM cells migrate to the rim of the germ disc. Germ disc epithelial cells near the migrating CM cells extend cytoneme-like projections from their basal side onto the surface of the CM cells. Molecular cloning and whole-mount in situ hybridization showed that the CM cells expressed a spider homolog of Drosophila decapentaplegic (dpp), which encodes a secreted protein that functions as a dorsal morphogen in the Drosophila embryo. Furthermore, the spider Dpp signal appeared to induce graded levels of the phosphorylated Mothers against dpp (Mad) protein in the nuclei of germ disc epithelial cells. Adding data from spider homologs of fork head, orthodenticle and caudal, we suggest that, in contrast to the Drosophila embryo, the progressive mesenchymal-epithelial cell interactions involving the Dpp-Mad signaling cascade generate dorsoventral polarity in accordance with the anteroposterior axis formation in the spider embryo. Our findings support the idea that the cumulus plays a central role in the axial pattern formation of the spider embryo.

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