Binary specification of nerve cord and notochord cell fates in ascidian embryos

Takuya Minokawa, K. Yagi, K. W. Makabe, H. Nishida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


In the ascidian embryo, the nerve cord and notochord of the tail of tadpole larvae originate from the precursor blastomeres for both tissues in the 32-cell-stage embryo. Each fate is separated into two daughter blastomeres at the next cleavage. We have examined mechanisms that are responsible for nerve cord and notochord specification through experiments involving blastomere isolation, cell dissociation, and treatment with basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and inhibitors for the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade. It has been shown that inductive cell interaction at the 32-cell stage is required for notochord formation. Our results show that the nerve cord fate is determined autonomously without any cell interaction. Presumptive notochord blastomeres also assume a nerve cord fate when they are isolated before induction is completed. By contrast, not only presumptive notochord blastomeres but also presumptive nerve cord blastomeres forsake their default nerve cord fate and choose the notochord fate when they are treated with bFGF. When the FGF-Ras-MAPK signaling cascade is inhibited, both blastomeres choose the default nerve cord pathway, supporting the results of blastomere isolation. Thus, binary choice of alternative fates and asymmetric division are involved in this nerve cord/notochord fate determination system, mediated by FGF signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2007-2017
Number of pages11
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Jul 12
Externally publishedYes


  • Ascidian embryogenesis
  • Autonomous differentiation
  • Default fate
  • Developmental fate
  • Induction
  • Nerve cord
  • Notochord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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