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Dev Biol. 1998 Oct 15;202(2):264-79.

Regulation of the trunk-tail patterning in the ascidian embryo: a possible interaction of cascades between lithium/beta-catenin and localized maternal factor pem.

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Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Sakyo-ku, 606-8502, Japan.


Embryonic cell specification and pattern formation in the ascidian embryo are controlled by prelocalized egg cytoplasmic determinants. In previous studies, we showed that overexpression of a maternal gene, posterior end mark (pem), whose transcript localizes to posterior-vegetal cytoplasm of the fertilized egg, causes a loss of the anterior and dorsal structures of the larva (Yoshida et al., Development 122, 2005-2012, 1996). In the present study, first we observed that lithium treatment resulted in reduction of the larval tail. Lineage tracing analyses revealed that descendants of the A4.1 blastomere of the 8-cell-stage embryo (which forms the greater part of notochord and nerve cord) were missing from the tail region, that they were translocated anteriorly into the trunk region, and that the fate of the A4.1-line notochord cells had changed to endoderm. These results suggest that lithium treatment affects the trunk-tail patterning during embryogenesis by changing the cell fate of specific cell lineages. Second, we showed that lithium treatment could rescue the anterior and dorsal structures in pem-overexpressed larvae. This result suggests that pem plays a role in the patterning of the ascidian embryo via a signaling cascade that is affected by lithium. Third, we isolated an ascidian beta-catenin gene and found that overexpression of beta-catenin in the A4.1 blastomere had effects very similar to lithium treatment, such as reduction of the tail and anterior translocation of A4.1 descendants. These results suggest that the target of lithium is, at least in part, the Wnt-signaling cascade and that pem may also function via this cascade.

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