Sea Urchin Morphogenesis.
In the sea urchin morphogenesis follows extensive molecular specification. The specification controls the many morphogenetic events and these, in turn, precede patterning steps that establish the larval body plan. To understand how the embryo is built it was necessary to understand those series of molecular steps. Here an example of the historical sequence of those discoveries is presented as it unfolded over the last 50 years, the years during which major progress in understanding development of many animals and plants was documented by CTDB. In sea urchin development a rich series of experimental studies first established many of the phenomenological components of skeletal morphogenesis and patterning without knowledge of the molecular components. The many discoveries of transcription factors, signals, and structural proteins that contribute to the shape of the endoskeleton of the sea urchin larva then followed as molecular tools became available. A number of transcription factors and signals were discovered that were necessary for specification, morphogenesis, and patterning. Perturbation of the transcription factors and signals provided the means for assembling models of the gene regulatory networks used for specification and controlled the subsequent morphogenetic events. The earlier experimental information informed perturbation experiments that asked how patterning worked. As a consequence it was learned that ectoderm provides a series of patterning signals to the skeletogenic cells and as a consequence the skeletogenic cells secrete a highly patterned skeleton based on their ability to genotypically decode the localized reception of several signals. We still do not understand the complexity of the signals received by the skeletogenic cells, nor do we understand in detail how the genotypic information shapes the secreted skeletal biomineral, but the current knowledge at least outlines the sequence of events and provides a useful template for future discoveries.
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