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J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2010 Jun 15;314(4):267-79. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.21336.

Identifying the germline in an equally cleaving mollusc: Vasa and Nanos expression during embryonic and larval development of the vetigastropod Haliotis asinina.

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The University of Queensland, School of Biological Sciences, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Members of the Vasa and Nanos gene families are important for the specification and development of the germline in diverse animals. Here, we determine spatial and temporal expression of Vasa and Nanos to investigate germline development in the vetigastropod Haliotis asinina. This is the first time these genes have been examined in an equally cleaving lophotrochozoan species. We find that HasVasa and HasNanos have largely overlapping, but not identical, expression patterns during embryonic and larval development, with both being maternally expressed and localized to the micromere cell lineages during cleavage. As embryonic development continues, HasVasa and HasNanos become progressively more enriched in the dorsal quadrant of the embryo. By the trochophore stage, both HasVasa and HasNanos are expressed in the putative mesodermal bands of the larva. This differs from the unequally cleaving gastropod Illyanasa obsoleta, in which IoVasa and IoNanos expression is detectable only in the early embryo and not during gastrulation and larval development. Our results suggest that the H. asinina germline arises from the 4d cell lineage and that primordial germ cells (PGCs) are not specified exclusively by maternally inherited determinants (preformation). As such, we infer that inductive signals (epigenesis) play an important role in specifying PGCs in H. asinina. We hypothesize that HasVasa is expressed in a population of undifferentiated multipotent cells, from which the PGCs are segregated later during development.

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