Branching out: origins of the sea urchin larval skeleton in development and evolution.
It is a challenge to understand how the information encoded in DNA is used to build a three-dimensional structure. To explore how this works the assembly of a relatively simple skeleton has been examined at multiple control levels. The skeleton of the sea urchin embryo consists of a number of calcite rods produced by 64 skeletogenic cells. The ectoderm supplies spatial cues for patterning, essentially telling the skeletogenic cells where to position themselves and providing the factors for skeletal growth. Here, we describe the information known about how this works. First the ectoderm must be patterned so that the signaling cues are released from precise positions. The skeletogenic cells respond by initiating skeletogenesis immediately beneath two regions (one on the right and the other on the left side). Growth of the skeletal rods requires additional signaling from defined ectodermal locations, and the skeletogenic cells respond to produce a membrane-bound template in which the calcite crystal grows. Important in this process are three signals, fibroblast growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, and Wnt5. Each is necessary for explicit tasks in skeleton production.
McIntyre, DC; Lyons, DC; Martik, M; McClay, DR
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