The sea urchin embryo follows a relatively simple cell behavioral sequence in its gastrulation movements. To form the mesoderm, primary mesenchyme cells ingress from the vegetal plate and then migrate along the basal lamina lining the blastocoel. The presumptive secondary mesenchyme and endoderm then invaginate from the vegetal pole of the embryo. The archenteron elongates and extends across the blastocoel until the tip of the archenteron touches and attaches to the opposite side of the blastocoel. Secondary mesenchyme cells, originally at the tip of the archenteron, differentiate to form a variety of structures including coelomic pouches, esophageai muscles, pigment cells and other cell types. After migration of the secondary mesenchyme cells from their original position at the tip of the archenteron, the endoderm fuses with an invagination of the ventral ectoderm (the stomodaem), to form the mouth and complete the process of gastrulation. A larval skeleton is made by primary mesenchyme cells during the time of archenteron and mouth formation.

A number of experiments have established that these morphogenetic movements involve a number of cell autonomous behaviors plus a series of cell interactions that provide spatial, temporal and scalar information to cells of the mesoderm and endoderm. The cell autonomous behaviors can be demonstrated by the ability of micromeres or endoderm to perform their morphogenetic functions if either is isolated and grown in culture. The requirement for cell interactions has been demonstrated by manipulative experiments where it has been shown that axial information, temporal information, spatial information and scalar information is obtained by mesoderm and endoderm from other embryonic cells. This information governs the cell autonomous behavior and places the cells in the correct embryonic context.

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