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Dev Dyn. 2007 Jul;236(7):1732-47.

Ascidian embryonic development: an emerging model system for the study of cell fate specification in chordates.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Osaka University, Toyonaka, Osaka, Japan.


The ascidian tadpole larva represents the basic body plan of all chordates in a relatively small number of cells and tissue types. Although it had been considered that ascidians develop largely in a determinative way, whereas vertebrates develop in an inductive way, recent studies at the molecular and cellular levels have uncovered several similarities in the way developmental fates are specified. In this review, we describe ascidian embryogenesis and its cell lineages, introduce several characteristics of ascidian embryos, describe recent advances in understanding of the mechanisms of cell fate specification, and discuss them in the context of what is known in vertebrates and other organisms.

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