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Development. 1989 Aug;106(4):641-7.

The oral-aboral axis of a sea urchin embryo is specified by first cleavage.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125.


Several lines of evidence suggest that the oral-aboral axis in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus embryos is specified at or before the 8-cell stage. Were the oral-aboral axis specified independently of the first cleavage plane, then a random association of this plane with the blastomeres of the four embryo quadrants in the oral-aboral plane (viz. oral, aboral, right and left) would be expected. Lineage tracer dye injection into one blastomere at the 2-cell stage and observation of the resultant labeling patterns demonstrates instead a strongly nonrandom association. In at least ninety percent of cases, the progeny of the aboral blastomeres are associated with those of the left lateral blastomeres and the progeny of the oral blastomeres with the right lateral ones, respectively. Thus, ninety percent of the time the oral pole of the future oral-aboral axis lies 45 degrees clockwise from the first cleavage plane as viewed from the animal pole. The nonrandom association of blastomeres after labeling of the 2-cell stage implies that there is a mechanistic relation between axis specification and the positioning of the first cleavage plane.

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