June 30, 2014

Which came first, the primordial germ cell or the gamete? Unlike the old chicken or egg philosophical dilemma, we know for certain that the primordial germ cell came first. And, thanks to a recent paper about primordial germ cells in sea urchins, we now know that they can migrate across the urchin embryo.

During development, germ cells produce gametes (eggs or sperm). In many organisms, including mammals, primordial germ cells (PGCs) are born far from the eventual location of gametes and must migrate across the embryo while dividing. In sea urchins, small cells called micromeres are PGCs and precisely segregate along the left-right axis of the embryo. A recent paper by Campanale and colleagues describes the use of live-cell imaging of small micromeres in urchin embryos to test whether the precise segregation of these eight micromeres is due to passive translocation or active migration. Images show that the micromeres are, in fact, motile cells with features such as cortical blebs and filopodia that direct migration across the sea urchin embryo, towards the coelomic pouches. In the images above, sea urchin embryos express micromere (red) and apical membrane (green) markers before (left) and during (middle, right) gastrulation.

Campanale, J., Gökirmak, T., Espinoza, J., Oulhen, N., Wessel, G., & Hamdoun, A. (2014). Migration of sea urchin primordial germ cells Developmental Dynamics, 243 (7), 917-927 DOI: 10.1002/dvdy.24133

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