Asymmetric and unequal cell divisions in ascidian embryos

Takefumi Negishi, Hiroki Nishida

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)


Asymmetric cell division during embryogenesis contributes to cell diversity by generating daughter cells that adopt distinct developmental fates. In this chapter, we summarize current knowledge of three examples of asymmetric cell division occurring in ascidian early embryos: (1) Three successive cell divisions that are asymmetric in terms of cell fate and unequal in cell size in the germline lineage at the embryo posterior pole. A subcellular structure, the centrosome-attracting body (CAB), and maternal PEM mRNAs localized within it control both the positioning of the cell division planes and segregation of the germ cell fates. (2) Asymmetric cell divisions involving endoderm and mesoderm germ layer separation. Asymmetric partitioning of zygotically expressed mRNA for Not, a homeodomain transcription factor, promotes the mesoderm fate and suppresses the endoderm fate. This asymmetric partitioning is mediated by transient nuclear migration toward the mesodermal pole of the mother cell, where the mRNA is delivered. In this case, there is no special regulation of cleavage plane orientation. (3) Asymmetric cell divisions in the marginal region of the vegetal hemisphere. The directed extracellular FGF and ephrin signals polarize the mother cells, inducing distinct fates in a pair of daughter cells (nerve versus notochord and mesenchyme versus muscle). The directions of cell division are regulated and oriented but independently of FGF and ephrin signaling. In these examples, polarization of the mother cells is facilitated by localized maternal factors, by delivery of transcripts from the nucleus to one pole of each cell, and by directed extracellular signals. Two cellular processes-asymmetric fate allocation and orientation of the cell division plane-are coupled by a single factor in the first example, but these processes are regulated independently in the third example. Thus, various modes of asymmetric cell division operate even at the early developmental stages in this single type of organism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResults and Problems in Cell Differentiation
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameResults and Problems in Cell Differentiation
ISSN (Print)0080-1844
ISSN (Electronic)1861-0412

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Asymmetric and unequal cell divisions in ascidian embryos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this