Axial patterning of the pentaradial adult echinoderm body plan

Dev Genes Evol. 2009 Feb;219(2):89-101. doi: 10.1007/s00427-009-0270-3. Epub 2009 Feb 3.


Adult echinoderms possess a highly diverged, pentaradial body plan. Developmental mechanisms underlying this body plan are completely unknown, but are critical in understanding how echinoderm pentamery evolved from bilateral ancestors. These mechanisms are difficult to study in indirect-developing species; in this study, we use the direct-developing sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma, whose accelerated adult development can be perturbed by NiCl(2). We introduce a new nomenclature for the adult echinoderm axes to facilitate discussion of the radially symmetric body plan and the events required to pattern it. In sea urchins, the adult oral-aboral axis is often conflated with the long axes of the five rays; we identify these as distinct body axes, the proximodistal (PD). In addition, we define a circular axis, the circumoral (CO), along which the division into five sectors occurs. In NiCl(2)-treated larvae, aspects of normal PD pattern were retained, but CO pattern was abolished. Milder treatments resulted in relatively normal juveniles ranging from biradial to decaradial. NiCl(2) treatment had no effect either on mesodermal morphology or on the ectodermal gene expression response to an inductive mesodermal signal. This suggests that the mesoderm does not mediate the disruption of CO patterning by NiCl(2). In contrast, mesodermal signaling may explain the presence of PD pattern in treated larvae. However, variations in appendage pattern suggest that ectodermal signals are also required. We conclude that CO patterning in both germ layers is dependent on ectodermal events and PD patterning is controlled by mutual ectoderm-mesoderm signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Sea Urchins / embryology*
  • Sea Urchins / genetics
  • Sea Urchins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction