Contact area-dependent cell communication and the morphological invariance of ascidian embryogenesis


  • Guignard Léo
  • Fiuza Ulla-Maj
  • Leggio Bruno
  • Laussu Julien
  • Faure Emmanuel
  • Michelin Gaël
  • Biasuz Kilian
  • Hufnagel Lars
  • Malandain Grégoire
  • Godin Christophe
  • Lemaire Patrick

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Marine invertebrate ascidians display embryonic reproducibility: Their early embryonic cell lineages are considered invariant and are conserved between distantly related species, despite rapid genomic divergence. Here, we address the drivers of this reproducibility. We used light-sheet imaging and automated cell segmentation and tracking procedures to systematically quantify the behavior of individual cells every 2 minutes during Phallusia mammillata embryogenesis. Interindividual reproducibility was observed down to the area of individual cell contacts. We found tight links between the reproducibility of embryonic geometries and asymmetric cell divisions, controlled by differential sister cell inductions. We combined modeling and experimental manipulations to show that the area of contact between signaling and responding cells is a key determinant of cell communication. Our work establishes the geometric control of embryonic inductions as an alternative to classical morphogen gradients and suggests that the range of cell signaling sets the scale at which embryonic reproducibility is observed.

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