Developmental interdeterminacy in embryos of the leech Helobdella triserialis

Dev Biol. 1984 Feb;101(2):326-35. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(84)90146-5.


In embryonic development of the leech Helobdella triserialis, each of the four paired positionally identifiable, ectodermal teloblasts (N, O, P, and Q) generates a bandlet of blast cell progeny that merges with ipsilateral bandlets into a germinal band. Left and right germinal bands coalesce into the germinal plate which gives rise to the segmental tissues of the leech and wherein the progeny of each teloblast generate a characteristic pattern of epidermal and neuronal cells. Experiments reported here show that the positionally identified O teloblast sometimes generates the P pattern and vice versa. The reversal of these teloblasts' generative identities was shown to correspond to the formation of chiasmata by their blast cell bandlets, so that the positions of their bandlets in the germinal band are reversed as well. Thus it is the position of the bandlet in the germinal band, rather than the position of the parent teloblast, which correlates with the fate of o and p blast cells. Moreover, two types of ablation experiments have shown that, in the absence of generative P teloblast progeny, those cells which would normally generate the O pattern take on a new fate and give rise to the P pattern in the nervous system, both at the gross pattern level in the segmental ganglia, and at the level of identified neurons in the peripheral nervous system. If related, these phenomena suggest that the O and P teloblasts, which derive from the symmetric cleavage of the OP proteloblasts, have a common developmental pluripotency. And in that case, the fates of their progeny are determined hierarchically on the basis of relative position in the nascent germinal band, with P-type fate being preferred.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastomeres / cytology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Deoxyribonuclease I
  • Ectoderm / cytology*
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Leeches / embryology*
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Neurons / cytology


  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • Deoxyribonuclease I