The early lineages of the zebrafish are indeterminate and a single cell labeled before the late blastula period will contribute progeny to a variety of tissues. Therefore, early cell lineages in the zebrafish do not establish future cell fates and early blastomeres must necessarily remain pluripotent. Eventually, after a period of random cell mixing, individual cells do become tissue restricted according to their later position within the blastoderm. The elucidation of a fate map for the zebrafish gastrula (Kimmel et al., 1990), has made it possible to study the processes by which cellular identity is conferred and maintained in the zebrafish. In this chapter, I describe single cell transplantation experiments designed to test for the irreversible restriction or ‘commitment’ of embryonic blastomeres in the zebrafish embryo. These experiments support the hypothesis that cell fate in the vertebrate embryo is determined by cell position. Work on the spadetail mutation will also be reviewed; this mutation causes a subset of mesodermal precursors to mismigrate during gastrulation thereby leading to a change in their eventual cell identity.

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