During the normal development of echinoids, an animal cap consisting of 8 mesomeres in a 16-cell stage embryo differentiates exclusively into ectoderm. Micromeres in an embryo at the same stage differentiate into primary mesenchyme cells (PMC) and coelomic pouch constituents. An animal cap and a quartet of micromeres were isolated from a 16-cell stage embryo and recombined to make a chimeric embryo devoid of presumptive endoderm and secondary mesenchyme cells (SMC). The PMC in the chimeric embryo were completely removed at the mesenchyme blastula stage. The PMC-depleted chimeric embryos formed an archenteron derived from the mesomeres. Some secondary mesenchyme-like cells (induced SMC) were released from the archenteron tip. A considerable fraction of the induced SMC formed the typical mesenchyme pattern after migrating into the vegetal region, synthesized skeletogenic mesenchyme cell-surface protein (msp130) and produced the larval skeleton. These findings indicate that induced SMC derived from the presumptive ectoderm have the same nature as natural SMC in both the timing of their release and their skeletogenic potential expressed in the absence of PMC.
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