Conservation of the spiralian developmental program: Cell lineage of the nemertean, Cerebratulus lacteus

Jonathan J. Henry, Mark Q. Martindale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lineage tracers were injected into individual blastomeres in embryos of the indirect-developing nemertean Cerebratulus lacteus through the formation of the fourth quartet of micromeres. Subsequent development was followed to the formation of feeding pilidium larvae to establish their ultimate fates. Results showed that these blastomeres have unique fates, and their clones give rise to highly predictable regions of the larval body. As in other spiralians, four discrete cell quadrants can be identified. For the most part, their identities are homologous to the typical spiralian A, B, C, and D cell quadrants. In some respects their fates differ from the typical spiralian fate map; however, these can be understood in terms of simple modifications of the early cleavage program. Unlike most spiralians, the first quartet micromeres in the eight-celled embryo are larger than the corresponding vegetal macromeres, and generate most of the larval ectoderm. All four of these micromeres contribute to the apical organ and generate four bilaterally situated domains of ectoderm, where the progeny of the 1a and 1d micromeres lie to the left of the median plane while those of lb and 1c lie to the right. Unlike the progeny of the first quartet, those of the second quartet are situated in left (2a), ventral (2b), right (2c), and dorsal (2d) positions. The third quartet micromeres generate clones situated in a bilaterally symmetrical fashion similar to those of the first quartet. The alternating axial relationships exhibited by successive micromere quartets are a characteristic of spiralian development. Unlike other spiralian larvae possessing a ciliary band, the pilidium larval ciliary band is formed by all blastomeres of the first and second micromere quartets, as well as 3c and 3d. Ectomesoderm is derived from two blastomeres (3a and 3b), which give rise to the extensive array of the larval muscle cells. C. lacteus also possesses a true mesentoblast (4d) which gives rise to a pair of mesodermal bandlets, and scattered mesenchymal cells. The dual origin of the mesoderm, as both ectomesoderm and endomesoderm, appears to be a condition present in all spiralians. The gut is formed by all the fourth quartet micromeres as well as the vegetal macromeres (4A, 4B, 4C, 4D). Despite differences in the determination of axial properties and some modifications in quadrant fates, nemerteans appear to be constructed on the typical spiralian developmental platform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-269
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 15 1998


  • Cell lineage
  • Cell specification
  • Dorsoventral axis
  • Evolution
  • Nemertea
  • Spiralians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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