The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 42: 1075 - 1084 (1998)

Vol 42, Issue 8

Formation and localization of cytoplasmic domains in leech and ascidian zygotes

Published: 1 November 1998

J Fernández, F Roegiers, V Cantillana and C Sardet

Departamento de BiologĂ­a, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago.


Leech and ascidian embryos are well suited for the study of certain developmental processes. Although leeches and ascidians belong to different bilateralia groups (protostomes and deuterostomes, respectively) they share important developmental features and, in particular, the determinate character of their embryogenesis. In both types of embryos this property is related to the presence of specific cytoplasmic domains that are selectively allocated to different blastomeres during cleavage. In this review leech and ascidian eggs and zygotes are compared in terms of the structure of these cytoplasmic domains and of the cellular mechanisms involved in their formation and localization. During meiosis the zygote of leeches and ascidians undergo stereotypic actin-dependent contraction movements related to both the emission of the polar bodies and the formation and relocalization of cytoplasmic domains. After completion of meiosis, during first interphase, monaster microtubules nucleated from the sperm-derived centrosome play a key role in pronuclear migration. In addition, these astral microtubules direct the relocalization of cytoplasmic domains and the translocation and accumulation of organelles in the interior of the zygote. Microtubules and microfilaments, on the other hand, are involved in cortical reorganizations and organelle translocations in both zygote species during interphase and cleavage divisions. In the case of leech zygotes, this process leads to formation of characteristic polar cytoplasmic domains called teloplasms. These domains are selectively inherited by teloblasts, precursor stem cells of ectodermal and mesodermal tissues in the leech embryo. In the ascidian zygote, the cytoplasmic movements observed during interphase and mitosis lead to relocalization of the bulk of a mitochondria-rich domain, called the myoplasm, along with an endoplasmic reticulum-rich domain towards the future posterior pole of the embryo. The myoplasm is inherited by a subset of posterior blastomeres committed to become the primary muscle cells of the ascidian tadpole.

Full text in web format is not available for this article. Please download the PDF version.