Ephrin signaling establishes asymmetric cell fates in an endomesoderm lineage of the Ciona embryo

Weiyang Shi, Mike Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Mesodermal tissues arise from diverse cell lineages and molecular strategies in the Ciona embryo. For example, the notochord and mesenchyme are induced by FGF/MAPK signaling, whereas the tail muscles are specified autonomously by the localized determinant, Macho-1. A unique mesoderm lineage, the trunk lateral cells, develop from a single pair of endomesoderm cells, the A6.3 blastomeres, which form part of the anterior endoderm, hematopoietic mesoderm and muscle derivatives. MAPK signaling is active in the endoderm descendants of A6.3, but is absent from the mesoderm lineage. Inhibition of MAPK signaling results in expanded expression of mesoderm marker genes and loss of endoderm markers, whereas ectopic MAPK activation produces the opposite phenotype: the transformation of mesoderm into endoderm. Evidence is presented that a specific Ephrin signaling molecule, Ci-ephrin-Ad, is required to establish asymmetric MAPK signaling in the endomesoderm. Reducing Ci-ephrin-Ad activity via morpholino injection results in ectopic MAPK signaling and conversion of the mesoderm lineage into endoderm. Conversely, misexpression of Ci-ephrin-Ad in the endoderm induces ectopic activation of mesodermal marker genes. These results extend recent observations regarding the role of Ephrin signaling in the establishment of asymmetric cell fates in the Ciona notochord and neural tube.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-940
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Ciona
  • Endomesoderm
  • Ephrin
  • MAPK


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