Wikramanayake Lab Publications

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Selected Publications with Abstracts

Byrum, C. A., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2013). Nuclearization of β-catenin in ectodermal precursors confers organizer-like ability to induce endomesoderm and pattern a pluteus larva. EvoDevo 4 (1), 31

In many bilaterians, asymmetric activation of canonical Wnt (cWnt) signaling at the posterior pole is critical for anterior-posterior (AP) body axis formation. In 16-cell stage sea urchins, nuclearization of β-catenin in micromeres activates a gene regulatory network that defines body axes and induces endomesoderm. Transplanting micromeres to the animal pole of a host embryo induces ectopic endomesoderm in the mesomeres (ectoderm precursors) whereas inhibiting cWnt signaling blocks their endomesoderm-inducing activity and the micromeres become ectoderm-like. We have tested whether ectopic activation of cWnt signaling in mesomeres is sufficient to impart the cells with organizer-like abilities, allowing them to pattern normal embryonic body axes when recombined with a field of mesomeres.

Peng, C. F. J., Wikramanayake, A. H. (2013). Differential regulation of disheveled in a novel vegetal cortical domain in sea urchin eggs and embryos: Implications for the localized ativation of canonical Wnt signaling. PloS one 8 (11), e80693

Pattern formation along the animal-vegetal (AV) axis in sea urchin embryos is initiated when canonical Wnt (cWnt) signaling is activated in vegetal blastomeres. The mechanisms that restrict cWnt signaling to vegetal blastomeres are not well understood, but there is increasing evidence that the egg’s vegetal cortex plays a critical role in this process by mediating localized “activation” of Disheveled (Dsh). To investigate how Dsh activity is regulated along the AV axis, sea urchin-specific Dsh antibodies were used to examine expression, subcellular localization, and post-translational modification of Dsh during development. Dsh is broadly expressed during early sea urchin development, but immunolocalization studies revealed that this protein is enriched in a punctate pattern in a novel vegetal cortical domain (VCD) in the egg. Vegetal blastomeres inherit this VCD during embryogenesis, and at the 60-cell stage Dsh puncta are seen in all cells that display nuclear β-catenin. Analysis of Dsh post-translational modification using two-dimensional Western blot analysis revealed that compared to Dsh pools in the bulk cytoplasm, this protein is differentially modified in the VCD and in the 16-cell stage micromeres that partially inherit this domain. Dsh localization to the VCD is not directly affected by disruption of microfilaments and microtubules, but unexpectedly, microfilament disruption led to degradation of all the Dsh pools in unfertilized eggs over a period of incubation suggesting that microfilament integrity is required for maintaining Dsh stability. These results demonstrate that a pool of differentially modified Dsh in the VCD is selectively inherited by the vegetal blastomeres that activate cWnt signaling in early embryos, and suggests that this domain functions as a scaffold for localized Dsh activation. Localized cWnt activation regulates AV axis patterning in many metazoan embryos. Hence, it is possible that the VCD is an evolutionarily conserved cytoarchitectural domain that specifies the AV axis in metazoan ova.

Kumburegama, S.*, Wijesena, N.*, Xu, R., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2011). Strabismus-mediated primary archenteron invagination is uncoupled from Wnt/β-catenin-dependent endoderm cell fate specification in Nematostella vectensis (Anthozoa, Cnidaria): Implications for the evolution of gastrulation. EvoDevo. 2:2.

*Denotes equal contribution by these authors (highly accessed).

Gastrulation is a uniquely metazoan character, and its genesis was arguably the key step that enabled the remarkable diversification within this clade. The process of gastrulation involves two tightly coupled events during embryogenesis of most metazoans. Morphogenesis produces a distinct internal epithelial layer in the embryo, and this epithelium becomes segregated as an endoderm/endomesodermal germ layer through the activation of a specific gene regulatory program. The developmental mechanisms that induced archenteron formation and led to the segregation of germ layers during metazoan evolution are unknown. But an increased understanding of development in early diverging taxa at the base of the metazoan tree may provide insights into the origins of these developmental mechanisms.

Byrum, C. A., Xu, R., Bince, J., McClat, D. R., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2009). Blocking Dishevelled signaling in the noncanonical Wnt pathway in sea urchins disrupts endoderm formation and spiculogenesis, but not secondary mesoderm formation. Developmental Dynamics. 238, 1649-1665.

Dishevelled (Dsh) is a phosphoprotein key to beta-catenin dependent (canonical) and beta-catenin independent (noncanonical) Wnt signaling. Whereas canonical Wnt signaling has been intensively studied in sea urchin development, little is known about other Wnt pathways. To examine roles of these beta-catenin independent pathways in embryogenesis, we used Dsh-DEP, a deletion construct blocking planar cell polarity (PCP) and Wnt/Ca(2+) signaling. Embryos overexpressing Dsh-DEP failed to gastrulate or undergo skeletogenesis, but produced pigment cells. Although early mesodermal gene expression was largely unperturbed, embryos exhibited reduced expression of genes regulating endoderm specification and differentiation. Overexpressing activated beta-catenin failed to rescue Dsh-DEP embryos, indicating that Dsh-DEP blocks endoderm formation downstream of initial canonical Wnt signaling. Because Dsh-DEP-like constructs block PCP signaling in other metazoans, and disrupting RhoA or Fz 5/8 in echinoids blocks subsets of the Dsh-DEP phenotypes, our data suggest that noncanonical Wnt signaling is crucial for sea urchin endoderm formation and skeletogenesis.

Bince, J. M., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2008). Functional analysis of Wnt signaling in the early sea urchin embryo using mRNA microinjection. Wnt Signaling. Ed. Elizabeth Vincan. Vols. 2 of 2. New York: Humana Press, 2008. 213-225. Print. 2 vols.

The Wnt pathway is a highly conserved signal transduction pathway that plays many critical roles in early animal development. Recent studies have shown that this pathway plays a conserved role in the specification and patterning of the animal-vegetal (A-V) axis in sea urchins and sea anemones. These observations have suggested that the common ancestor to cnidarians and bilaterians used the Wnt signaling pathway for specifying and patterning this maternally established axis. Because the A-V axis plays a critical role in germ layer segregation, a better understanding of how the Wnt pathway is regulated along the A-V axis will provide key insight into the molecular mechanisms regulating germ layer segregation and germ layer evolution in animal embryos. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for using mRNA microinjection that can be used to analyze Wnt signaling in early sea urchin embryos. This protocol can also be adapted to introduce morpholino anti-sense oligonucleotides into sea urchin embryos.

Kumburegama, S., Wijesena, N., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2008). Detecting expression patterns of Wnt pathway components in Nematostella vectensis embryos. Wnt Signaling. Ed. Elizabeth Vincan. Vols. 2 of 2. New York: Humana Press, 2008. 187-201. Print. 2 vols.

The anthozoan cnidarian Nematostella vectensis has emerged as a key model system for evolutionary developmental biology studies, and this animal’ usefulness will grow with the recent sequencing of its genome. In particular, work done in Nematostella is providing insight into the role of the Wnt pathway in the evolution of pattern formation. This chapter describes methods to maintain and spawn these animals, and detailed protocols to detect expression patterns of Wnt pathway components in Nematostella eggs and embryos.

Lee, P., Kumburegama, S., Marlowe, H., Martindale, M. Q., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2007). Asymmetric developmental potential along the animal–vegetal axis in the anthozoan cnidarian, Nematostella vectensis, is mediated by Dishevelled. Dev. Biol. 310, 169-186.

The relationship between egg polarity and the adult body plan is well understood in many bilaterians. However, the evolutionary origins of embryonic polarity are not known. Insight into the evolution of polarity will come from understanding the ontogeny of polarity in non-bilaterian forms, such as cnidarians. We examined how the axial properties of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis (Anthozoa, Cnidaria), are established during embryogenesis. Egg-cutting experiments and sperm localization show that Nematostella eggs are only fertilized at the animal pole. Vital marking experiments demonstrate that the egg animal pole corresponds to the sites of first cleavage and gastrulation, and the oral pole of the adult. Embryo separation experiments demonstrate an asymmetric segregation of developmental potential along the animal–vegetal axis prior to the 8-cell stage. We demonstrate that Dishevelled (Dsh) plays an important role in mediating this asymmetric segregation of developmental fate. Although NvDsh mRNA is ubiquitously expressed during embryogenesis, the protein is associated with the female pronucleus at the animal pole in the unfertilized egg, becomes associated with the unipolar first cleavage furrow, and remains enriched in animal pole blastomeres. Our results suggest that at least one mechanism for Dsh enrichment at the animal pole is through its degradation at the vegetal pole. Functional studies reveal that NvDsh is required for specifying embryonic polarity and endoderm by stabilizing β-catenin in the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. The localization of Dsh to the animal pole in Nematostella and two other anthozoan cnidarians (scleractinian corals) provides a possible explanation for how the site of gastrulation has changed in bilaterian evolution while other axial components of development have remained the same and demonstrates that modifications of the Wnt signaling pathway have been used to pattern a wide variety of metazoan embryos.

Kumburegama, S., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (2007). Specification and patterning of the animal-vegetal axis in sea urchins by the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. Signal Transduction 7, 164-173.

Pattern formation along the sea urchin A-V axis is initiated by the selective activation of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in vegetal blastomeres. Activation of this pathway is essential for deployment of the endomesoderm gene regulatory network (EGRN), and for pattern formation along the entire A-V axis. During early embryogenesis the canonical Wnt signaling pathway is selectively activated by Dishevelled (Dsh), a critical activator of the Wnt pathway. Dsh is highly enriched in vesicular structures at the vegetal pole in eggs and early embryos, and selective activation of this protein leads to the nuclearization of β-catenin in the endomesoderm. Following activation of canonical Wnt signaling by Dsh, signaling by β-catenin and the Lef/Tcf transcription factors regulates endomesoderm specification by activating the EGRN. One critical early target of nuclear β-catenin is Wnt8, which is selectively expressed in the micromeres at the 16-cell stage and in the macromeres one cleavage division later. Wnt8 signaling is not required for the endomesoderm-inducing activity of the micromeres, but this protein regulates primary mesenchyme cell differentiation. Within the endomesodermal domain Wnt8 regulates the later specification of endoderm and mesoderm. These results have highlighted the important role of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in patterning the A-V axis in the sea urchin embryo, and have strongly suggested that this axis is initially specified by a cytoplasmic/cytoarchitectural mechanism to activate Dsh in vegetal blastomeres. Additionally, this work along with work in vertebrates and cnidarians has shown that the canonical Wnt pathway plays a conserved role in early pattern formation in metazoan embryos.

Weinstock, G., and The Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Consortium. (2006). The genome of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Science, 314, 941-952.

We report the sequence and analysis of the 814-megabase genome of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, a model for developmental and systems biology. The sequencing strategy combined whole-genome shotgun and bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) sequences. This use of BAC clones, aided by a pooling strategy, overcame difficulties associated with high heterozygosity of the genome. The genome encodes about 23,300 genes, including many previously thought to be vertebrate innovations or known only outside the deuterostomes. This echinoderm genome provides an evolutionary outgroup for the chordates and yields insights into the evolution of deuterostomes.

Croce, J. C., Wu, S., Byrum, C., Xu, R., Duloqqin, L., Wikramanayake, A. H., Gache, C., and McClay, D. R. (2006). A genome-wide survey of the evolutionarily conserved Wnt pathways in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Dev. Biol. 300, 121-131.

The Wnt pathways are evolutionarily well-conserved signal transduction pathways that are known to play important roles in all Metazoans investigated to date. Here, we examine the Wnt pathway genes and target genes present in the genome of the echinoderm Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Analysis of the Wnt genes revealed that eleven of the thirteen reported Wnt subfamilies are represented in sea urchin, with the intriguing identification of a Wnt-A ortholog thought to be absent in deuterostomes. A phylogenetic study of the Frizzled proteins, the Wnt receptors, performed throughout the animal kingdom showed that not all Frizzled subfamilies were present in the metazoan common ancestor, e.g. Fz3/6 emerged later during evolution. Using sequence analysis, orthologs of the vast majority of the cellular machinery involved in transducing the three types of Wnt pathways were found in the sea urchin genome. Further, of about one hundred target genes identified in other organisms, more than half have clear echinoderm orthologs. Thus, these analyses produce new inputs in the evolutionary history of the Wnt genes in an animal occupying a position that offers great insights into the basal properties of deuterostomes.

Minokawa, T., Wikramanayake, A. H., and Davidson, E. H. (2005). cis-Regulatory inputs of the wnt8 gene in the sea urchin endomesoderm network. Dev. Biol. 288, 545-558.

Expression of the wnt8 gene is the key transcriptional motivator of an intercellular signaling loop which drives endomesoderm specification forward early in sea urchin embryogenesis. This gene was predicted by network perturbation analysis to be activated by inputs from the blimp1/krox gene, itself expressed zygotically in the endomesoderm during cleavage; and by a Tcf1/β-catenin input. The implication is that zygotic expression of wnt8 is stimulated in neighboring cells by its own gene product, since reception of the Wnt8 ligand causes β-catenin nuclearization. Here, the modular cis-regulatory system of the wnt8 gene of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus was characterized functionally, and shown to respond to blockade of both Blimp1/Krox and Tcf1/β-catenin inputs just as does the endogenous gene. The genomic target sites for these factors were demonstrated by mutation in one of the cis-regulatory modules. The Tcf1/β-catenin and Blimp1/Krox inputs are both necessary for normal endomesodermal expression mediated by this cis-regulatory module; thus, the genomic regulatory code underlying the predicted signaling loop thus resides in the wnt8 cis-regulatory sequence. In a second regulatory region, which initiates expression in micromere and macromere descendant cells early in cleavage, Tcf1 sites act to repress ectopic transcription in prospective ectoderm cells.

Wikramanayake, A. H., Peterson, R., Huang, L., Chen, J., Bince, J. M., McClay, D. R., and Klein, W. H. (2004). Nuclear beta-catenin-dependent Wnt8 signaling in vegetal cells of the early sea urchin embryo regulates gastrulation and differentiation of endoderm and mesodermal cell lineages. Genesis 39, 194-205.

The entry of beta-catenin into vegetal cell nuclei beginning at the 16-cell stage is one of the earliest known molecular asymmetries seen along the animal-vegetal axis in the sea urchin embryo. Nuclear beta-catenin activates a vegetal signaling cascade that mediates micromere specification and specification of the endomesoderm in the remaining cells of the vegetal half of the embryo. Only a few potential target genes of nuclear beta-catenin have been functionally analyzed in the sea urchin embryo. Here, we show that SpWnt8, a Wnt8 homolog from Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, is zygotically activated specifically in 16-cell-stage micromeres in a nuclear beta-catenin-dependent manner, and its expression remains restricted to the micromeres until the 60-cell stage. At the late 60-cell stage nuclear beta-catenin-dependent SpWnt8 expression expands to the veg2 cell tier. SpWnt8 is the only signaling molecule thus far identified with expression localized to the 16-60-cell stage micromeres and the veg2 tier. Overexpression of SpWnt8 by mRNA microinjection produced embryos with multiple invagination sites and showed that, consistent with its localization, SpWnt8 is a strong inducer of endoderm. Blocking SpWnt8 function using SpWnt8 morpholino antisense oligonucleotides produced embryos that formed micromeres that could transmit the early endomesoderm-inducing signal, but these cells failed to differentiate as primary mesenchyme cells. SpWnt8-morpholino embryos also did not form endoderm, or secondary mesenchyme-derived pigment and muscle cells, indicating a role for SpWnt8 in gastrulation and in the differentiation of endomesodermal lineages. These results establish SpWnt8 as a critical component of the endomesoderm regulatory network in the sea urchin embryo.

Weitzel, H. E., Illies, M. R., Byrum, C. A., Xu, R., Wikramanayake, A. H., and Ettensohn, C. A. (2004). Differential stability of β-catenin along the animal-vegetal axis of the sea urchin embryo mediated by dishevelled. Development 131, 2947-2956.

β-Catenin has a central role in the early axial patterning of metazoan embryos. In the sea urchin, β-catenin accumulates in the nuclei of vegetal blastomeres and controls endomesoderm specification. Here, we use in-vivo measurements of the half-life of fluorescently tagged β-catenin in specific blastomeres to demonstrate a gradient in β-catenin stability along the animal-vegetal axis during early cleavage. This gradient is dependent on GSK3β-mediated phosphorylation of β-catenin. Calculations show that the difference in β-catenin half-life at the animal and vegetal poles of the early embryo is sufficient to produce a difference of more than 100-fold in levels of the protein in less than 2 hours. We show that dishevelled (Dsh), a key signaling protein, is required for the stabilization of β-catenin in vegetal cells and provide evidence that Dsh undergoes a local activation in the vegetal region of the embryo. Finally, we report that GFP-tagged Dsh is targeted specifically to the vegetal cortex of the fertilized egg. During cleavage, Dsh-GFP is partitioned predominantly into vegetal blastomeres. An extensive mutational analysis of Dsh identifies several regions of the protein that are required for vegetal cortical targeting, including a phospholipid-binding motif near the N-terminus.

Wikramanayake, A. H., Hong, M., Lee, P. N., Pang, K., Byrum, C. A., Bince, J. M., Xu, R., and Martindale, M. Q. (2003). An ancient role for nuclear bold beta-catenin in the evolution of axial polarity and germ layer segregation. Nature 426, 446-450.

The human oncogene beta-catenin is a bifunctional protein with critical roles in both cell adhesion and transcriptional regulation in the Wnt pathway. Wnt/beta-catenin signalling has been implicated in developmental processes as diverse as elaboration of embryonic polarity, formation of germ layers, neural patterning, spindle orientation and gap junction communication, but the ancestral function of beta-catenin remains unclear. In many animal embryos, activation of beta-catenin signalling occurs in blastomeres that mark the site of gastrulation and endomesoderm formation, raising the possibility that asymmetric activation of beta-catenin signalling specified embryonic polarity and segregated germ layers in the common ancestor of bilaterally symmetrical animals. To test whether nuclear translocation of beta-catenin is involved in axial identity and/or germ layer formation in ‘pre-bilaterians’, we examined the in vivo distribution, stability and function of beta-catenin protein in embryos of the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis (Cnidaria, Anthozoa). Here we show that N. vectensis beta-catenin is differentially stabilized along the oral–aboral axis, translocated into nuclei in cells at the site of gastrulation and used to specify entoderm, indicating an evolutionarily ancient role for this protein in early pattern formation.

Wessel, G. M., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (1999). How to grow a gut: Ontogeny of the endoderm in the sea urchin embryo. BioEssays, 21, 459-471.

Gastrulation is the process of early development that reorganizes cells into the three fundamental tissue types of ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. It is a coordinated series of morphogenetic and molecular changes that exemplify many developmental phenomena. In this review, we explore one of the classic developmental systems, the sea urchin embryo, where investigators from different backgrounds have converged on a common interest to study the origin, morphogenesis, and developmental regulation of the endoderm. The sea urchin embryo is remarkably plastic in its developmental potential, and the endoderm is especially instructive for its morphological and molecular responsiveness to inductive cell interactions. We start by examining and integrating the several models for the morphogenetic mechanisms of invagination and tissue elongation, the basic processes of endoderm morphogenesis in this embryo. We next critique the proposed mechanisms of inductive gene regulation in the endoderm that exemplifies a concept of modular transcriptional regulation. Finally, we end with an examination of the current molecular models to explain cell fate determination of the endoderm. Recent progress at the molecular level should soon allow us to explain the seminal experimental observations made in this embryo over a hundred years ago.

Li, X., Wikramanayake, A. H., and Klien, W. H. (1999). Requirement of SpOtx in Cell Fate Decisions in the Sea Urchin Embryo and Possible Role as a Mediator of β-Catenin Signaling. Dev. Biol. 212, 425-439.

We show here that the homeodomain transcription factor SpOtx is required for endoderm and aboral ectoderm formation during sea urchin embryogenesis. SpOtx target genes were repressed by fusing the SpOtx homeodomain to an active repression domain of Drosophila Engrailed. The Engrailed–SpOtx fusion protein reduced the expression of endoderm- and aboral ectoderm-specific genes and inhibited the formation of endoderm and aboral ectoderm cell types. Coexpressing activated β-catenin with Engrailed–SpOtx did not overcome the inhibition of endoderm and aboral ectoderm formation, suggesting that SpOtx functioned either downstream of or parallel to nuclear β-catenin. Embryos expressing C-cadherin, which blocks nuclear translocation of β-catenin, have defects in endoderm and aboral ectoderm formation. Coexpressing SpOtx with C-cadherin restored aboral ectoderm-specific gene expression and aboral ectoderm morphology, but with C-cadherin present, SpOtx was not sufficient for endoderm formation. Our results show that SpOtx plays a key role in the activation of aboral ectoderm- and endoderm-specific gene expression and, in addition, suggest that SpOtx mediates some of β-catenin’s functions in endoderm and aboral ectoderm formation.

Wikramanayake, A. H., Huang, L., and Klein, W. H. (1998). β-Catenin is essential for patterning the maternally specified animal-vegetal axis in the sea urchin embryo. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95, 9343-9348.

In sea urchin embryos, the animal-vegetal axis is specified during oogenesis. After fertilization, this axis is patterned to produce five distinct territories by the 60-cell stage. Territorial specification is thought to occur by a signal transduction cascade that is initiated by the large micromeres located at the vegetal pole. The molecular mechanisms that mediate the specification events along the animal–vegetal axis in sea urchin embryos are largely unknown. Nuclear β-catenin is seen in vegetal cells of the early embryo, suggesting that this protein plays a role in specifying vegetal cell fates. Here, we test this hypothesis and show that β-catenin is necessary for vegetal plate specification and is also sufficient for endoderm formation. In addition, we show that β-catenin has pronounced effects on animal blastomeres and is critical for specification of aboral ectoderm and for ectoderm patterning, presumably via a noncell-autonomous mechanism. These results support a model in which a Wnt-like signal released by vegetal cells patterns the early embryo along the animal–vegetal axis. Our results also reveal similarities between the sea urchin animal–vegetal axis and the vertebrate dorsal–ventral axis, suggesting that these axes share a common evolutionary origin.

Wikramanayake, A. H., and Klein, W. H. (1997). Multiple signaling events pattern ectoderm and polarize the oral-arboral axis in the sea urchin embryo. Development 124, 13-20.

In the sea urchin embryo, the animal-vegetal axis is established during oogenesis and the oral-aboral axis is specified sometime after fertilization. The mechanisms by which either of these axes are specified and patterned during embryogenesis are poorly understood. Here, we investigated the role of cellular interactions in the specification of the ectoderm territories and polarization of the ectoderm along the oral-aboral axis. Isolated animal halves (mesomeres), which are fated to give rise to oral and aboral ectoderm, developed into polarized embryoids that expressed an oral ectoderm-specific marker uniformly. These embryoids also produced neuron-like cells and serotonergic neurons, suggesting that mesomeres are autonomously specified as oral ectoderm. Mesomere-derived embryoids did not express any aboral ectoderm-specific markers, although we previously showed that aboral ectoderm-specific genes can be induced by 25 mM lithium chloride, which also induced endoderm formation (Wikramanayake, A. H., Brandhorst, B. P. and Klein, W. H.(1995). Development 121, 1497–1505). To ascertain if endoderm formation is a prerequisite for induction of aboral ectoderm by lithium and for normal ectoderm patterning in animal halves, we modulated the lithium treatment to ensure that no endoderm formed. Remarkably, treating animal halves with 10 mM LiCl at approximately 7 hours postfertilization resulted in embryoids that displayed oral-aboral axis patterning in the absence of endoderm. Application of 25 mM LiCl to animal halves at approximately 16 hours postfertilization, which also did not induce endoderm, resulted in polarized expression of the aboral ectoderm-specific LpS1 protein, but global expression of the Ecto V antigen and no induction of the stomodeum or ciliary band. These results suggest that at least two signals, a positive inductive signal to specify the aboral ectoderm and a negative suppressive signal to inactivate oral ectoderm-specific genes in the prospective aboral ectoderm territory, are needed for correct spatial expression of oral and aboral ectoderm-specific genes. Transmission of both these signals may be prerequisite for induction of secondary ectodermal structures such as the ciliary band and stomodeum. Thus, differentiation of ectoderm and polarization of the oral-aboral axis in Lytechinus pictus depends on cellular interactions with vegetal blastomeres as well as interactions along the oral-aboral axis.

Mao, C. A.*, Wikramanayake, A. H.*, Gan, L., Chuang, C. K., Summers, R. G., and Klein, W. H. (1996). Altering cell fates in sea urchin embryos by overexpressing SpOtx, an orthodenticle-related protein. Development 122, 1489-1498.

*Denotes equal contribution by these authors.

While many general features of cell fate specification in the sea urchin embryo are understood, specific factors associated with these events remain unidentified. SpOtx, an orthodenticle-related protein, has been implicated as a transcriptional activator of the aboral ectoderm-specific Spec2a gene. Here, we present evidence that SpOtx has the potential to alter cell fates. SpOtx was found in the cytoplasm of early cleavage stage embryos and was translocated into nuclei between the 60- and 120-cell stage, coincident with Spec gene activation. Eggs injected with SpOtx mRNA developed into epithelial balls of aboral ectoderm suggesting that SpOtx redirected nonaboral ectoderm cells to an aboral ectoderm fate. At least three distinct domains on SpOtx, the homeobox and regions in the N-terminal and C-terminal halves of the protein, were required for the morphological alterations. These same N-terminal and C-terminal regions were shown to be transactivation domains in a yeast transactivation assay, indicating that the biological effects of overexpressing SpOtx were due to its action as a transcription factor. Our results suggest that SpOtx is involved in aboral ectoderm differentiation by activating aboral ectoderm-specific genes and that modulating its expression can lead to changes in cell fate.

Wikramanayake, A. H., Brandhorst, B., and Klein, W. H. (1995). Autonomous and non-autonomous differentiation of ectoderm in different sea urchin species. Developmenta 121, 1497-1505.

During early embryogenesis, the highly regulative sea urchin embryo relies extensively on cell-cell interactions for cellular specification. Here, the role of cellular interactions in the temporal and spatial expression of markers for oral and aboral ectoderm in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Lytechinus pictus was investigated. When pairs of mesomeres or animal caps, which are fated to give rise to ectoderm, were isolated and cultured they developed into ciliated embryoids that were morphologically polarized. In animal explants from S. purpuratus, the aboral ectoderm-specific Spec1 gene was activated at the same time as in control embryos and at relatively high levels. The Spec1 protein was restricted to the squamous epithelial cells in the embryoids suggesting that an oral-aboral axis formed and aboral ectoderm differentiation occurred correctly. However, the Ecto V protein, a marker for oral ectoderm differentiation, was detected throughout the embryoid and no stomodeum or ciliary band formed. These results indicated that animal explants from S. purpuratus were autonomous in their ability to form an oral-aboral axis and to differentiate aboral ectoderm, but other aspects of ectoderm differentiation require interaction with vegetal blastomeres. In contrast to S. purpuratus, aboral ectoderm-specific genes were not expressed in animal explants from L. pictus even though the resulting embryoids were morphologically very similar to those of S. purpuratus. Recombination of the explants with vegetal blastomeres or exposure to the vegetalizing agent LiCl restored activity of aboral ectoderm-specific genes, suggesting the requirement of a vegetal induction for differentiation of aboral ectoderm cells.

Clark, W. H., Jr., Griffin, F. J., and Wikramanayake, A. H. (1994). Pre-fusion events of sperm oocyte interaction in the marine shrimp, Sicyonia ingentis. Sem. Dev. Biol. 5, 225-231.

The non-motile sperm of Sicyonia ingentis, mixed with eggs by a spawning female, undergo a primary binding to the vitelline envelope (VE) of the oocyte. Once bound to the VE, sperm undergo exocytosis of the acrosomal vesicle, penetrate the VE, and secondarily bind to a surface coat that is closely associated with the oolemma. Unreacted sperm preincubated with solubilized VE components exhibit diminished binding to VEs in a concentration dependent manner. The ligand responsible for this binding is a carbohydrate moiety in the VE. The ligand preferentially binds to the anterior tip of unreacted sperm, as demonstrated with anti-VE polyclonal antibodies. Acrosome intact sperm will not bind to surface coats; however, acrosome reacted sperm do bind to surface coats via an externalized acrosomal granule.

Wikramanayake, A. H., and Clark, W. H., Jr. (1994). Two extracellular matrices from oocytes of the marine shrimp Sicyonia ingentis that independently mediate primary or secondary sperm binding. Dev. Growth Differ. 36, 86-101.

During spawning, female Sicyonia ingentis simultaneously release ova and stored nonmotile sperm and mix them externally to initiate gamete interaction. Sperm bind to a thin vitelline envelope (VE) via their anterior appendage and within seconds are induced to undergo acrosomal exocytosis. The sperm penetrate the VE and become secondarily bound to the surface coat (SC), a glycocalyx on the oocyte surface. In this study, both extracellular matrices were isolated from S. ingentis oocytes. Isolated VEs mediated only primary sperm binding (i.e., before the acrosome reaction), while the isolated SCs mediated only secondary sperm binding (i.e., after acrosomal exocytosis). Isolated S. ingentis VEs were used to characterize primary sperm binding activity. The two extracellular matrices differ morphologically and possess different polypeptide profiles. Soluble fractions of isolated VEs inhibited primary sperm binding in a concentration dependent manner, and immunolocalization of VE components demonstrated highly localized VE binding sites at the tip of the sperm anterior appendage by which sperm bind eggs. Extensive Pronase digestion of VE components did not affect sperm binding activity of solubilized VE components, while complete deglycosylation with trifluoromethanesulfonic acid destroyed sperm binding activity. However, neither alkaline treatment nor enzyme digestion using glycosidases specific for asparagine and serine/ threonine linked oligosaccharides affected sperm binding activity.

Wikramanayake, A. H., Uhlinger, K. R., Griffin, F. J., and Clark, W. H., Jr. (1992). Sperm of the shrimp Sicyonia ingentis undergo a bi-phasic capacitation accompanied by morphological changes. Dev. Growth Differ. 34, 347-355.

Sperm removed from seminal receptacles of female Sicyonia ingentis can be induced to undergo a bi-phasic acrosome reaction (AR), acrosomal exocytosis followed by filament formation, using egg water (EW). Sperm removed from males will not undergo any phase of the AR when incubated with EW, indicating that these sperm undergo a capacitation process after insemination. Freshly molted females (functional virgins) were placed in aquaria with males and monitored for copulation. Mated females were isolated and allowed to carry sperm for specific periods of time. At these time points, sperm were removed and assayed for the ability to undergo the AR using EW. The results indicate that sperm are competent to undergo acrosomal exocytosis after approximately 25 hr, while competency to form acrosomal filaments is not achieved until around 145 hr post-insemination. Morphological examination of sperm removed from males and sperm removed from females revealed dramatic differences. Microscopic evidence indicates that some of the morphological changes seen during capacitation are necessary for the successful completion of the AR..

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