Cleavage modification did not alter blastomere fates during bryozoan evolution
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Background: Stereotypic cleavage patterns play a crucial role in cell fate determination by precisely positioning early embryonic blastomeres. Although misplaced cell divisions can alter blastomere fates and cause embryonic defects, cleavage patterns have been modified several times during animal evolution. However, it remains unclear how evolutionary changes in cleavage impact the specification of blastomere fates. Here, we analyze the transition from spiral cleavage – a stereotypic pattern remarkably conserved in many protostomes – to a biradial cleavage pattern, which occurred during the evolution of bryozoans.
Results: Using 3D-live imaging time-lapse microscopy (4D-microscopy), we characterize the cell lineage, MAPK signaling, and the expression of 16 developmental genes in the bryozoan Membranipora membranacea. We found that the molecular identity and the fates of early bryozoan blastomeres are similar to the putative homologous blastomeres in spiral-cleaving embryos.
Conclusions: Our work suggests that bryozoans have retained traits of spiral development, such as the early embryonic fate map, despite the evolution of a novel cleavage geometry. These findings provide additional support that stereotypic cleavage patterns can be modified during evolution without major changes to the molecular identity and fate of embryonic blastomeres.