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, 22 (1), 11-22

Preservation and Visualization of the Sea Urchin Embryo Blastocoelic Extracellular Matrix

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Preservation and Visualization of the Sea Urchin Embryo Blastocoelic Extracellular Matrix

G N Cherr et al. Microsc Res Tech.

Abstract

Several methods were utilized to visualize the structure and orientation of the blastocoelic extracellular matrix (ECM) in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus embryos at the mesenchyme blastula stage. Rapid freezing in liquid propane cooled to LN2 temperatures followed by freeze substitution was used to preserve the ECM without shrinkage due to dehydration. Scanning, transmission, and light microscopy were employed to elucidate the ECMs' structure. The blastocoelic ECM consisted of parallel fibrillar sheets that were interconnected by finer filaments and oriented along the animal-vegetal axis. The ECM completely filled the blastocoelic cavity as viewed by scanning electron microscopy. The basal lamina could be distinguished from the blastocoelic ECM as a thin coat on the plasma membrane of epithelial cells; the ECM was in contact with this coat. In contrast, the blastocoelic ECM attached directly to the plasma membrane of primary mesenchyme cells (PMC) which did not possess a basal lamina. The blastocoelic ECM was isolated as an intact "bag" and probed in a hydrated state with Con A and alcian blue. Confocal microscopy confirmed that the entire blastocoel was filled with a fibrillar ECM. These approaches offer advantages for future studies of the ECMs of sea urchin embryos and their roles in gastrulation.

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