Origin of the gonad in the juvenile of a solitary ascidian, Ciona intestinalis

Dev Growth Differ. 1999 Feb;41(1):73-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-169x.1999.00410.x.


In the just-metamorphosed juveniles of Ciona intestinalis, a round mass of tissue debris derived from the resorbed tadpole tail is situated in the broad space enclosed by the peritoneal membrane and the epidermis around the ventral side of the esophagus. In living juveni es, the origin of the gonad rudiment was traced back to the mass of tissue debris. Electron microscopically, the round mass was a clump of irregular-shaped phagocytotic cells engulfing degenerated cell fragments. On the surface of the cell clump, a small number of singly occurring round cells were found and identified as primordial germ cells on the basis of morphological continuity to obvious germ cells in later stages. Presence of nuage around the nucleus characterized the germ cells. In a few days the germ cells assembled to form a solid slender body (gonad rudiment) together with smaller somatic cells. The gonad rudiment left the space around the esophagus, moving into the narrow mesenteric space connecting the stomach and intestine on the fourth day after metamorphosis. It gradually increased in size by proliferation of the germ cells and somatic cells. The solid gonad rudiment changed into an oval vesicle with an eccentrically located cavity on about the seventh day after metamorphosis. The vesicle comprised a thinner wall made of a simple epithelium without germ cells and a thicker wall containing germ cells and somatic cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Germ Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Gonads / embryology*
  • Tail / embryology
  • Urochordata / embryology*