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J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1975 Feb;33(1):57-74.

Quantitative studies of germ plasm and germ cells during early embryogenesis of Xenopus laevis.


The germ plasm in the egg is paritioned between the first four blastomeres by the first two cleavage planes. Although the blastomeres divide 10-11 times through the rest of cleavage, as shown by reduction in their size, the number of presumptive primordial germ cells (p.p. germ cells) does not increase significantly. During and as a result of the formation of the first two cleavage planes, the germ plasm aggregates together and moves towards and along the cleavage furrows. At subsequent mitoses, the germ plasm is localized at one of the poles of the spindle and hence is segregated to only one of the daughter cells, thus explaining how mitosis occurs without increase in the number of cells with germ plasm. Early in gastrulation, the germ plasm moves to a perinuclear position, therefore ensuring that as mitosis continues, both daughter cells receive germ plasm and the number of p.p. germ cells increases. Direct counts of the number of p.p. germ cells and measurements of their volume suggest that they divide twice between early gastrula and the stage at which they leave the endoderm. The p.p. germ cells behave similarly to the adjacent endodermal cells until they begin to migrate to the gonad, an event which may represent the first overt signs of differentiation. Measurements of the volume of germ plasm suggest that there is no change through cleavage. The general conclusion is drawn that during cleavage, the morphogenetic determinant germ plasm is segregated to a few cells by the normal processes of cleavage and that subsequently these cells undergo a small number of cloning divisions which are contemporaneous with the first signs of differentiation.

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