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Keywords:

  • ascidian;
  • embryogenesis;
  • cell fate specification;
  • maternal determinants;
  • embryonic induction;
  • embryonic axis

Abstract

The ascidian tadpole larva represents the basic body plan of all chordates in a relatively small number of cells and tissue types. Although it had been considered that ascidians develop largely in a determinative way, whereas vertebrates develop in an inductive way, recent studies at the molecular and cellular levels have uncovered several similarities in the way developmental fates are specified. In this review, we describe ascidian embryogenesis and its cell lineages, introduce several characteristics of ascidian embryos, describe recent advances in understanding of the mechanisms of cell fate specification, and discuss them in the context of what is known in vertebrates and other organisms. Developmental Dynamics 236:1748–1757, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.