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Development. 1997 Sep;124(18):3461-70.

Archenteron precursor cells can organize secondary axial structures in the sea urchin embryo.

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Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 53706, USA.


Local cell-cell signals play a crucial role in establishing major tissue territories in early embryos. The sea urchin embryo is a useful model system for studying these interactions in deuterostomes. Previous studies showed that ectopically implanted micromeres from the 16-cell embryo can induce ectopic guts and additional skeletal elements in sea urchin embryos. Using a chimeric embryo approach, we show that implanted archenteron precursors differentiate autonomously to produce a correctly proportioned and patterned gut. In addition, the ectopically implanted presumptive archenteron tissue induces ectopic skeletal patterning sites within the ectoderm. The ectopic skeletal elements are bilaterally symmetric, and flank the ectopic archenteron, in some cases resulting in mirror-image, symmetric skeletal elements. Since the induced patterned ectoderm and supernumerary skeletal elements are derived from the host, the ectopic presumptive archenteron tissue can act to 'organize' ectopic axial structures in the sea urchin embryo.

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