Specification of polarity of teloblastogenesis in the oligochaete annelid Tubifex: Cellular basis for bilateral symmetry in the ectoderm

Ayaki Nakamoto, Asuna Arai, Takashi Shimizu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Ectodermal teloblastogenesis in the oligochaete annelid Tubifex is a spatiotemporally regulated process that gives rise to four bilateral pairs of ectoteloblasts (N, O, P, and Q) that assume distinct fates. Ectoteloblasts on either side of the embryo arise from an invariable sequence of asymmetric cell divisions of a proteloblast, NOPQ, which occur with a defined orientation with respect to the embryonic axes: the N teloblast is generated first and located ventralmost, and the Q teloblast, which is generated next, is located dorsalmost; finally, the O and P teloblasts are generated by almost equal division of their precursor cell, OP. Polarity of teloblastogenesis on one side of the embryo is a mirror image of the other; this mirror symmetry of ectoteloblasts about the embryo's midline gives rise to the bilaterally symmetric organization of the ectoderm. In this study, we examined whether cellular interactions are involved in specification of polarity of asymmetric cell divisions in NOPQ cells. A set of cell transplantation experiments demonstrated that NOPQ cells are initially uncommitted in terms of division pattern and cell fates: If a left NOPQ cell is transplanted to the right side of a host embryo, it exhibits a polarity comparable to that of right NOPQ cells. The results of another set of cell transplantation experiments suggest that contact between NOPQ cells serves as an external cue for their polarization, irrespective of their position in the embryo, and that in the absence of host NOPQ cells, transplanted NOPQ cells can be polarized according to positional information residing in the host embryo. The competence of NOPQ cells to respond to external cues tapers down before their division into N and OPQ. A set of cell ablation experiments demonstrated that neighboring cells such as posteriorly located M teloblasts and anterolaterally located micromeres play a role in controlling spatial aspects of NOPQ's behavior that gives rise to their division along the dorsoventral axis. These results suggest that NOPQ cells, which do not initially have a rigidly fixed polarity, become polarized through external cues. Possible sources of signals for this polarizing induction are discussed in the light of the present results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-261
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Asymmetric cell division
  • Bilateral symmetry
  • Clitellate annelids
  • Polarity
  • Polarizing induction
  • Teloblasts
  • Tubifex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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