Recent discoveries indicate that cell lineages and fates play a key role in the establishment of spatially restricted gene expression during sea urchin development. Unique sets of founder cells generate five territories of gene expression by means of an invariant pattern of complete cleavage. Cell lineage analysis demonstrates that the second embryonic axis, the oral-aboral axis, is specified with reference to the first cleavage plane. In the undisturbed embryo, clones that contribute to one territory or another begin to appear at the third cleavage, and founder cell segregation to all five territories is completed by the sixth cleavage. Founder cell segregation is a key feature of mechanisms that establish the spatially defined gene activity of sea urchin embryogenesis.