Article

Applications of mRNA injections for analyzing cell lineage and asymmetric cell divisions during segmentation in the leech Helobdella robusta

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology , University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, United States
Development (Impact Factor: 6.27). 06/2005; 132(9):2103-13. DOI: 10.1242/dev.01802
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Synthetic mRNAs can be injected to achieve transient gene expression even for 'non-model' organisms in which genetic approaches are not feasible. Here, we have used this technique to express proteins that can serve as lineage tracers or reporters of cellular events in embryos of the glossiphoniid leech Helobdella robusta (phylum Annelida). As representatives of the proposed super-phylum Lophotrochozoa, glossiphoniid leeches are of interest for developmental and evolutionary comparisons. Their embryos are suitable for microinjection, but no genetic approaches are currently available. We have injected segmentation stem cells (teloblasts) with mRNAs encoding nuclear localized green fluorescent protein (nGFP) and its spectral variants, and have used tandem injections of nGFP mRNA followed by antisense morpholino oligomer (AS MO), to label single blast cell clones. These techniques permit high resolution cell lineage tracing in living embryos. We have applied them to the primary neurogenic (N) lineage, in which alternate segmental founder cells (nf and ns blast cells) contribute distinct sets of progeny to the segmental ganglia. The nf and ns blast cell clones exhibit strikingly different cell division patterns: the increase in cell number within the nf clone is roughly linear, while that in the ns clone is almost exponential. To analyze spindle dynamics in the asymmetric divisions of individual blast cells, we have injected teloblasts with mRNA encoding a tau::GFP fusion protein. Our results show that the asymmetric divisions of n blast cells result from a posterior shift of both the spindle within the cell and the midbody within the mitotic spindle, with differential regulation of these processes between nf and ns.

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