The Specification of Myocardial Progenitor Cells in the Ciona Tadpole

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This chapter discusses recent advances in the specification of myocardial progenitor cells in the Ciona tadpole. The directed migration of myocardial progenitor cells in the developing Ciona tadpole is evocative of comparable processes in complex vertebrate systems. The heart progenitors located on either side of the ventral midline migrate to "thoracic" regions of the tadpole, and subsequently fuse at the ventral midline. In Ciona this process appears to depend on asymmetric divisions of myocardial "mother" cells, similar to the asymmetric divisions of CNS neurons in the Drosophila embryo. Ciona possesses a small and compact genome. At about 150 Mb and with approximately 16,000 genes, it contains the same complexity as the Drosophila genome, yet it is chordate and thereby presents an opportunity for studying developmental processes directly applicable to vertebrates. The definitive swimming tadpole is composed of only around 2,500 cells, and a complete lineage map is available. It is possible to trace even complex processes. The transgenic DNAs can be introduced rapidly into large, synchronous populations of developing embryos via electroporation. This procedure permits the rapid characterization of cis-regulatory DNAs, as well as the assessment of gene function through the expression and misexpression of dominant-negative and constitutively-active transcription factors and cell signaling components. The combination of a simple genome, detailed cell lineage information, and the facility of transgenic manipulation places Ciona in a unique position as a model for exploring how gene regulatory networks control cellular morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHeart Development and Regeneration
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780123813329
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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