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Evodevo. 2012 Sep 19;3(1):21. doi: 10.1186/2041-9139-3-21.

Cleavage pattern and fate map of the mesentoblast, 4d, in the gastropod Crepidula: a hallmark of spiralian development.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Illinois, 601 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.



Animals with a spiral cleavage program, such as mollusks and annelids, make up the majority of the superphylum Lophotrochozoa. The great diversity of larval and adult body plans in this group emerges from this highly conserved developmental program. The 4d micromere is one of the most conserved aspects of spiralian development. Unlike the preceding pattern of spiral divisions, cleavages within the 4d teloblastic sublineages are bilateral, representing a critical transition towards constructing the bilaterian body plan. These cells give rise to the visceral mesoderm in virtually all spiralians examined and in many species they also contribute to the endodermal intestine. Hence, the 4d lineage is an ideal one for studying the evolution and diversification of the bipotential endomesodermal germ layer in protostomes at the level of individual cells. Little is known of how division patterns are controlled or how mesodermal and endodermal sublineages diverge in spiralians. Detailed modern fate maps for 4d exist in only a few species of clitellate annelids, specifically in glossiphoniid leeches and the sludge worm Tubifex. We investigated the 4d lineage in the gastropod Crepidula fornicata, an established model system for spiralian biology, and in a closely related direct-developing species, C. convexa.


High-resolution cell lineage tracing techniques were used to study the 4d lineage of C. fornicata and C. convexa. We present a new nomenclature to name the progeny of 4d, and report the fate map for the sublineages up through the birth of the first five pairs of teloblast daughter cells (when 28 cells are present in the 4d sublineage), and describe each clone's behavior during gastrulation and later stages as these undergo differentiation. We identify the precise origin of the intestine, two cells of the larval kidney complex, the larval retractor muscles and the presumptive germ cells, among others. Other tissues that arise later in the 4d lineage include the adult heart, internal foot tissues, and additional muscle and mesenchymal cells derived from later-born progeny of the left and right teloblasts. To test whether other cells can compensate for the loss of these tissues (that is, undergo regulation), specific cells were ablated in C. fornicata.


Our results present the first fate map of the 4d micromere sublineages in a mollusk. The fate map reveals that endodermal and mesodermal fates segregate much later than previously thought. We observed little evidence of regulation between sublineages, consistent with a lineage-driven cell specification process. Our results provide a framework for comparisons with other spiralians and lay the groundwork for investigation of the molecular mechanisms of endomesoderm formation, germ line segregation and bilateral differentiation in Crepidula.

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