Pattern formation in embryos of the oligochaete annelid Tubifex: cellular basis for segmentation and specification of segmental identity

  • Takashi Shimizu
  • Kaoru Kitamura
  • Asuna Arai
  • Ayaki Nakamoto
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 158)


The embryonic origin of metameric segmentation was examined in the oligochaete Tubifex using lineage tracers. Segments in Tubifex embryos arise from five bilateral pairs of longitudinal coherent columns (bandlets) of primary blast cells which are generated by five bilateral pairs of embryonic stem cells called teloblasts (M, N, O, P and Q). As development proceeds, an initially linear array of blast cells in each ectodermal bandlet gradually changes its shape in a lineage-specific manner. These morphogenetic changes result in the formation of distinct cell clumps, which are separated from the bandlet to serve as segmental elements (SEs). SEs in the N and Q lineages are each comprised of clones of two consecutive primary blast cells. In contrast, in the O and P lineages, individual blast cell clones are distributed across SE boundaries; each SE is a mixture of a part of the preceding anterior clone and a part of the next posterior clone. Morphogenetic events, including segmentation, in an ectodermal bandlet proceed normally in the absence of neighboring ectodermal bandlets. Without the underlying mesoderm, separated SEs fail to space themselves at regular intervals along the anteroposterior axis. It is suggested that ectodermal segmentation in Tubifex consists of two stages; autonomous morphogenesis of each bandlet leading to generation of SEs, and the ensuing mesoderm-dependent alignment of separated SEs. In contrast, metameric segmentation in the mesoderm (M lineage) is a one-step process in that it arises from an initially simple organization (i.e. a linear series) of primary m-blast cells, which individually serve as a founder cell of each segment. The boundary between mesodermal segments is determined autonomously. The results of a set of cell ablation and transplantation experiments, using alkaline phosphatase activity as a biochemical marker for segments VII and VIII suggest that segmental identities in primary m-blast cells are determined according to the genealogical position in the M lineage and that the M teloblast possesses a developmental program through which the sequence of blast cell identities is determined.

Key words

Tubifex embryogenesis segmentation segmental identity teloblast 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takashi Shimizu
    • 1
  • Kaoru Kitamura
    • 1
  • Asuna Arai
    • 1
  • Ayaki Nakamoto
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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