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The early embryonic development of the satellite organism Pristionchus pacificus: differences and similarities with Caenorhabditis elegans

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As a comparative counterpart for the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, the nematode Pristionchus pacificus was established as a satellite organism to study developmental processes. However, these studies mainly focused on post-embryonic development and little is known about the early embryonic development. Using 4D microscopy we reconstructed the early embryonic cell lineage of 12 individuals of P. pacificus. By analysing several parameters of early development, including the division sequence, the spatial arrangement of blastomeres, the cell cycle patterns of the AB lineage and cell-cell contacts in different cell stages of the embryo, it was shown that the early embryonic development is nearly identical to C. elegans. Known cell-cell contacts necessary for induction of blastomere fates in C. elegans are also present in P. pacificus. Thus, the spatio-temporal conditions that would allow possible homologous inductions are present. However, at least one model for blastomere specification seems not to apply to P. pacificus since the third division in the AB lineage differs from that of C. elegans. Furthermore, naturally occurring variability of early development was demonstrated, which is clearly permitted since there seems to be no influence on further development into an adult worm.

Affiliations: 1: Nematology section, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium; 2: Nematology section, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium;, Email:


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