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Dev Biol. 1995 Dec;172(2):552-66.

Four-dimensional microscopic analysis of the filopodial behavior of primary mesenchyme cells during gastrulation in the sea urchin embryo.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


During gastrulation of the sea urchin embryo, primary mesenchyme cells (PMCs) migrate from the vegetal pole to a site below the equator of the embryo where they form a ring-like structure and begin producing the larval skeleton. As these cells migrate, they extend and retract filopodia which appear to interact with the basal lamina and underlying ectoderm. To better characterize this behavior in vivo, we studied PMC migration using differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy in combination with four-dimensional imaging (x, y, z space and time). We were able to determine the persistence and direction of extension of each filopodium and were also able to observe the dynamic behavior of each using colorized movie loops. This analysis showed that: (1) Most filopodia are quite transient, usually persisting for less than 0.5-6.0 min, during which time they continuously survey their surroundings; (2) PMCs extend an average of 121 filopodia/hr during migration; (3) the initial direction of extension of filopodia from the cell body is random, with just as many filopodia projecting toward as away from the direction of migration; (4) as a consequence of (2) and (3) above, each PMC explores the area surrounding its cell body approximately once every 5 min; (5) PMCs nearer to the target site migrate faster than those located farther away. To further investigate filopodial distribution, confocal microscopy was used to collect z series of PMCs transplanted to different locations in the embryo and fixed during migration. We found that more filopodia tended to be distributed toward the target site as cells approached the ring, suggesting that filopodial distribution may reflect regional differences in directional cues.

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