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Open Access Research article

There is more than one way to turn a spherical cellular monolayer inside out: type B embryo inversion in Volvox globator

Stephanie Höhn and Armin Hallmann*

Author affiliations

Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology of Plants, University of Bielefeld, Universitätsstrasse 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2011, 9:89  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-9-89

Published: 29 December 2011

Abstract

Background

Epithelial folding is a common morphogenetic process during the development of multicellular organisms. In metazoans, the biological and biomechanical processes that underlie such three-dimensional (3D) developmental events are usually complex and difficult to investigate. Spheroidal green algae of the genus Volvox are uniquely suited as model systems for studying the basic principles of epithelial folding. Volvox embryos begin life inside out and then must turn their spherical cell monolayer outside in to achieve their adult configuration; this process is called 'inversion.' There are two fundamentally different sequences of inversion processes in Volvocaceae: type A and type B. Type A inversion is well studied, but not much is known about type B inversion. How does the embryo of a typical type B inverter, V. globator, turn itself inside out?

Results

In this study, we investigated the type B inversion of V. globator embryos and focused on the major movement patterns of the cellular monolayer, cell shape changes and changes in the localization of cytoplasmic bridges (CBs) connecting the cells. Isolated intact, sectioned and fragmented embryos were analyzed throughout the inversion process using light microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy techniques. We generated 3D models of the identified cell shapes, including the localizations of CBs. We show how concerted cell-shape changes and concerted changes in the position of cells relative to the CB system cause cell layer movements and turn the spherical cell monolayer inside out. The type B inversion of V. globator is compared to the type A inversion in V. carteri.

Conclusions

Concerted, spatially and temporally coordinated changes in cellular shapes in conjunction with concerted migration of cells relative to the CB system are the causes of type B inversion in V. globator. Despite significant similarities between type A and type B inverters, differences exist in almost all details of the inversion process, suggesting analogous inversion processes that arose through parallel evolution. Based on our results and due to the cellular biomechanical implications of the involved tensile and compressive forces, we developed a global mechanistic scenario that predicts epithelial folding during embryonic inversion in V. globator.