How to grow a gut: Ontogeny of the endoderm in the sea urchin embryo

Gary M. Wessel, Athula Wikramanayake

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Gastrulation is the process of early development that reorganizes cells into the three fundamental tissue types of ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. It is a coordinated series of morphogenetic and molecular changes that exemplify many developmental phenomena. In this review, we explore one of the classic developmental systems, the sea urchin embryo, where investigators from different backgrounds have converged on a common interest to study the origin, morphogenesis, and developmental regulation of the endoderm. The sea urchin embryo is remarkably plastic in its developmental potential, and the endoderm is especially instructive for its morphological and molecular responsiveness to inductive cell interactions. We start by examining and integrating the several models for the morphogenetic mechanisms of invagination and tissue elongation, the basic processes of endoderm morphogenesis in this embryo. We next critique the proposed mechanisms of inductive gene regulation in the endoderm that exemplifies a concept of modular transcriptional regulation. Finally, we end with an examination of the current molecular models to explain cell fate determination of the endoderm. Recent progress at the molecular level should soon allow us to explain the seminal experimental observations made in this embryo over a hundred years ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-471
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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