In arthropods, annelids and chordates, segmentation of the body axis encompasses both ectodermal and mesodermal derivatives. In vertebrates, trunk mesoderm segments autonomously and induces segmental arrangement of the ectoderm-derived nervous system. In contrast, in the arthropod Drosophila melanogaster, the ectoderm segments autonomously and mesoderm segmentation is at least partially dependent on the ectoderm. While segmentation has been proposed to be a feature of the common ancestor of vertebrates and arthropods, considering vertebrates and Drosophila alone, it is impossible to conclude whether the ancestral primary segmented tissue was the ectoderm or the mesoderm. Furthermore, much of Drosophila segmentation occurs before gastrulation and thus may not accurately represent the mechanisms of segmentation in all arthropods. To better understand the relationship between segmented germ layers in arthropods, we asked whether segmentation is an intrinsic property of the ectoderm and/or the mesoderm in the crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis by ablating either the ectoderm or the mesoderm and then assaying for segmentation in the remaining tissue layer. We found that the ectoderm segments autonomously. However, mesoderm segmentation requires at least a permissive signal from the ectoderm. Although mesodermal stem cells undergo normal rounds of division in the absence of ectoderm, they do not migrate properly in respect to migration direction and distance. In addition, their progeny neither divide nor express the mesoderm segmentation markers Ph-twist and Ph-Even-skipped. As segmentation is ectoderm-dependent in both Parhyale and holometabola insects, we hypothesize that segmentation is primarily a property of the ectoderm in pancrustacea.
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