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Development. 1997 Jun;124(12):2285-96.

Establishment of the axis in chordates: facts and speculations.

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Department of Cell and Animal Biology, Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.


A master plan for the early development of all chordates is proposed. The radial symmetry of the chordate ovum is changed at or after fertilization into a bilateral symmetry by an external signal. Until now two alternative triggers, sperm entry and gravity, have been demonstrated. It is suggested that a correlation exists between the amount of yolk stored in the egg and the mechanism used for axialization. The speed at which axialization of the embryo proper takes place depends on the translocation speed of maternal determinants from the vegetal pole towards the future dorsoposterior side of the embryo. On arrival at their destination, the activated determinants form, in all chordates, an induction center homologous to the amphibian 'Nieuwkoop center', which induces the formation of 'Spemann's organizer'. On the basis of the above general scenario, a revision is proposed of the staging of some embryonic types, as well as of the identification of germ layer and the spaces between them.

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