Embryogenesis of ascidians

We use the ascidian Ciona intestinalis.  The photo on the right side shows adult individuals.  Ascidians are invertebrate chordates.
They are the closest relatives of vertebrates.  Although their adult morphology does not look like us, their tadpole-type larvae represent a simplified mode of the chordate body plan (look at the photo below).


ホヤの尾芽胚The ascidian larva contains only about 2500 cells.  
Fertilized eggs develop into swimming larvae within a single day.
In their small body, they have the notochord in the center of the tail.  They have the neural tube on the dorsal side (arrows in the photo on the left side).   These features are characteristic to the chordates.

We are interested in how the ascidian larval body develops.
In particular, the control of cell type-specific gene expression is one of our main subjects.
We also want to compare the developmental mechanisms between ascidians and vertebrates
to elucidate the molecular background of the evolution of chordates.
Some of our projects (under construction)