The shape of a Paramecium is determined by the organization of its cortex which constitutes most of the cell cytoskeleton. These structures and networks are organized in relation to the approx. 4000 ciliary basal bodies present at the surface. Each basal body is the centre of a polarized and asymmetrical cortical unit. At the whole-cell level, all units are tandemly arranged in parallel rows and form a defined asymmetrical pattern with dorsoventral and anteroposterior polarities. During division, the cortex is the site of the major morphogenetic processes. In order to analyse how the surface pattern and the shape of the cell are reconstructed at each division, we have used specific immunological and cytological probes to map, in space and time, the reorganization of each of the major cytoskeletal cortical components: basal bodies and microtubules, kinetodesmal fibres, epiplasm and outer lattice. This cytological dissection demonstrates that the surface of the dividing cell is progressively invaded by morphogenetic waves which successively and individually trigger the duplication, assembly or reorganization of each structure and which all spread from the same epicentre (oral apparatus and fission furrow) with the same shape. Furthermore, the response of units to the morphogenetic waves depends on their position on the cell. It thus appears that despite the structural local constraints within units, the development of surface pattern is controlled in an integrated manner by transcellular signals.

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