Key words Ascidian embryogenesis
Polarity of unfertilized egg
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Cytoplasmic determinants that specify the fate of endoderm, muscle and epidermis cells are known to be localized in specific areas of fertilized eggs of ascidians. The presence of such cytoplasmic determinants in unfertilized eggs was demonstrated in previous studies, but no information has yet been proved about their distribution. To investigate the distribution of cytoplasmic determinants in unfertilized eggs, we devised a method for distinguishing the polarity of unfertilized eggs using vital staining and we performed cytoplasmic-transfer experiments by fusing blastomeres and cytoplasmic fragments from various identified regions of unfertilized eggs. Cytoplasmic fragments, that contained cortical and subcortical material, from five different positions along the animal-vegetal axis were prepared, and they were fused with a4.2 (presumptive-epidermis) or A4.1 (non-epidermis) blastomeres. The ectopic development of endoderm, muscle and epidermis cells that was promoted by the transplanted cytoplasm was assessed by examining the expression of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), myosin and epidermis-specific antigen, respectively. Differentiation of endoderm and muscle was observed at higher frequencies as cytoplasmic fragments closer to the vegetal pole were transplanted. Conversely, formation of epidermis was observed at higher frequencies as cytoplasmic fragments closer to the animal pole were transplanted. The results suggest that, in cortical and subcortical regions of unfertilized ascidian eggs, endoderm and muscle determinants are widely distributed along a gradient, with maximum activity at the vegetal pole, whilst epidermis determinants are also distributed along a gradient but with maximum activity at the animal pole.
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