Primary differentiation and ectoderm-specific gene expression in the animalized sea urchin embryo

Dev Biol. 1985 Jun;109(2):418-27. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(85)90468-3.


Primary differentiation in sea urchin embryos, animalized by zinc, has been gauged by the formation of characteristic endodermal and mesodermal tissue derivatives and by the accumulation of the ectoderm-specific Spec 1 mRNA. Increasing the dosage of zinc diminishes the differentiation of secondary mesenchyme, primary mesenchyme, endoderm, and ectoderm, in decreasing order. Treatment is effective only during the blastula stages, involving successive periods of sensitivity for these tissues. Removal of zinc with chelator results in the resumption of differentiation to increasing degree for this series of tissues. The developmental initiation of Spec 1 gene expression, normally at the earliest blastula stage, can be delayed by zinc for at least 30 hr before being implemented by treatment of the animalized embryos with a chelator. We conclude (1) that those processes in the blastula which are required for differentiation and are suppressed by zinc are distinguishable from the determinative processes, which are not affected by the animalizing agent and occur earlier during midcleavage; (2) that animalization by zinc involves a graded failure of primary tissues to form; and (3) that animalization involves a pause in the schedule of differentiation, which can be reinstated by removal of the animalizing agent, thereby providing a survival value inherent in a flexible schedule of development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Sea Urchins / embryology*
  • Sea Urchins / genetics
  • Zinc / pharmacology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Zinc