Mechanisms that regulate the number of cells constituting the body have remained largely elusive. We approached this issue in the ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi, which develops into a tadpole larva with a small number of cells. The embryonic cells divide 11 times on average from fertilization to hatching. The number of cell division rounds varies among tissue types. For example, notochord cells divide 9 times and give rise to large postmitotic cells in the tadpole. The number of cell division rounds in partial embryos derived from tissue-precursor blastomeres isolated at the 64-cell stage also varied between tissues and coincided with their counterparts in the intact whole embryos to some extent, suggesting tissue-autonomous regulation of cell division. Manipulation of cell fates in notochord, nerve cord, muscle, and mesenchyme lineage cells by inhibition or ectopic activation of the inductive FGF signal changed the number of cell divisions according to the altered fate. Knockdown and missexpression of Brachyury (Bra), an FGF-induced notochord-specific key transcription factor for notochord differentiation, indicated that Bra is also responsible for regulation of the number of cell division rounds, suggesting that Bra activates a putative mechanism to halt cell division at a specific stage. The outcome of precocious expression of Bra suggests that the mechanism involves a putative developmental clock that is likely shared in blastomeres other than those of notochord and functions to terminate cell division at three rounds after the 64-cell stage. Precocious expression of Bra has no effect on progression of the developmental clock itself. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
Fujikawa, T., Takatori, N., Kuwajima, M., Kim, G. J., & Nishida, H. (2011). Tissue-specific regulation of the number of cell division rounds by inductive cell interaction and transcription factors during ascidian embryogenesis. Developmental Biology, 355(2), 313–323. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.04.033