Specification to biomineralization: Following a single cell type as it constructs a skeleton

Lyons, DC, Martik ML, Saunders LR, McClay DR.  2014.  Specification to biomineralization: Following a single cell type as it constructs a skeleton. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 54:723-733.

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beta-catenin, gastrulation, gene regulatory network, ingression, morphogenesis, oral-aboral axis, primary mesenchyme cells, sea-urchin embryo, Small micromeres, thin filopodia


The sea urchin larva is shaped by a calcite endoskeleton. That skeleton is built by 64 primary mesenchyme cells (PMCs) in Lytechinus variegatus. The PMCs originate as micromeres due to an unequal fourth cleavage in the embryo. Micromeres are specified in a well-described molecular sequence and enter the blastocoel at a precise time using a classic epithelial-mesenchymal transition. To make the skeleton, the PMCs receive signaling inputs from the overlying ectoderm, which provides positional information as well as control of the growth of initial skeletal tri-radiates. The patterning of the skeleton is the result both of autonomous inputs from PMCs, including production of proteins that are included in the skeletal matrix, and of non-autonomous dynamic information from the ectoderm. Here, we summarize the wealth of information known about how a PMC contributes to the skeletal structure. The larval skeleton is a model for understanding how information encoded in DNA is translated into a three-dimensional crystalline structure.