The yolk syncytial layer (YSL) of the teleostean yolk cell is known to play important roles in the induction of cellular mesendoderm, as well as the patterning of dorsal tissues. To determine how this extraembryonic endodermal compartment is subdivided and morphologically transformed during early development, we have examined collective movements of vitally stained YSL nuclei in axiating zebrafish embryos by using four-dimensional confocal microscopy. During blastulation, gastrulation, and early segmentation, zebrafish YSL nuclei display several highly patterned movements, which are organized into spatially distinct morphogenetic domains along the anterior-posterior and dorsal-ventral axes. During the late blastula period, with the onset of epiboly, nuclei throughout the YSL initiate longitudinal movements that are directed along the animal-vegetal axis. As epiboly progresses, nuclei progressively recede from the advancing margin of the epibolic YSL. However, a small group of nuclei is retained at the YSL margin to form a constricting blastoporal ring. During mid-gastrulation, YSL nuclei undergo convergent-extension behavior toward the dorsal midline, with a subset of nuclei forming an axial domain that underlies the notochord. These highly patterned movements of YSL nuclei share remarkable similarities to the morphogenetic movements of deep cells in the overlying zebrafish blastoderm. The macroscopic shape changes of the zebrafish yolk cell, as well as the morphogenetic movements of its YSL nuclei, are homologous to several morphogenetic behaviors that are regionally expressed within the vegetal endodermal cell mass of gastrulating Xenopus embryos. In contrast to the cellular endoderm of Xenopus, the dynamics of zebrafish YSL show that a syncytial endodermal germ layer can express a temporal sequence of morphogenetic domains without undergoing progressive steps of cell fate restriction.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.