Primordial germ cells originate from the endodermal strand cells in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis

Dev Genes Evol. 2002 Feb;212(1):11-8. doi: 10.1007/s00427-001-0204-1. Epub 2002 Jan 24.


The origin of germ cells in the ascidian is still unknown. Previously, we cloned a vasa homologue (CiVH) of Ciona intestinalis from the cDNA library of ovarian tissue by polymerase chain reaction and showed that its expression was specific to germ cells in adult and juvenile gonads. In the present study, we prepared a monoclonal antibody against CiVH protein and traced the staining for this antibody from the middle tailbud stage to young adulthood. Results showed that positive cells are present in the endodermal strand in middle tailbud embryos and larvae. When the larval tail was absorbed into the trunk during metamorphosis, the CiVH-positive cells migrated from the debris of the tail into the developing gonad rudiment, and appeared to give rise to a primordial germ cell (PGC) in the young juvenile. The testis rudiment separated from the gonad rudiment, the remainder of which differentiated into the ovary. PGCs of the testis rudiment and the ovary rudiment differentiated into spermatogenic and oogenic cells, respectively. When the larval tail containing the antibody-positive cells was removed, the juveniles did not contain any CiVH-positive cells after metamorphosis, indicating that the PGCs in the juvenile originated from part of the larval tail. However, even in such juveniles, positive cells newly appeared in the gonad rudiment at a later stage. This observation suggests that a compensatory mechanism regulates germline formation in C. intestinalis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Ciona intestinalis / cytology
  • Ciona intestinalis / embryology*
  • Ciona intestinalis / genetics
  • Endoderm / cytology*
  • Female
  • Germ Cells / cytology*
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Ovary / embryology
  • RNA Helicases / genetics*
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Testis / embryology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • RNA Helicases