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Dev Biol. 2009 Feb 15;326(2):357-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.11.026. Epub 2008 Dec 7.

Delineating metamorphic pathways in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis.

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Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan.


In most ascidians, metamorphosis of tadpole-like swimming larvae is accompanied by dynamic changes in their shape to form sessile adults. The mechanisms underlying ascidian metamorphosis have been debated for a long time. Although recent molecular studies have revealed the presence of various molecules involving in this process, the basic mechanism of the metamorphic events is still unclear. For example, it has not been solved whether all metamorphic events are organized by the same single pathway or by multiple, independent pathways. In the present study, we approached this question using the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. When the papillae and preoral lobes of the larvae were cut off, the papillae-cut larvae initiated certain trunk metamorphic events such as the formation of an ampulla, body axis rotation and adult organ growth without other metamorphic events. This observation indicates that metamorphic events can be divided into at least two groups, events initiated in the papillae-cut larva and events not initiated in this larva. In addition to this observation, we have isolated a novel mutant, tail regression failed (trf), which shows similar phenotypes to those of papillae-cut larvae. The phenotypes of trf mutants are basically different from those of swimming juvenile mutants (Sasakura, Y., Nakashima, K., Awazu, S., Matsuoka, T., Nakayama, A., Azuma, J., Satoh, N., 2005. Transposon-mediated insertional mutagenesis revealed the functions of animal cellulose synthase in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 102, 15134-15139.), which also show abnormal metamorphosis. These findings suggest a model by which ascidian metamorphic events can be classified into four groups initiated by different pathways.

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