, Volume 327, Issue 2, pp 371-384
Date: 26 Sep 2006

Derivation of muscles of the Aristotle’s lantern from coelomic epithelia

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Transmission electron microscopy was employed to study structural changes in the lantern muscles occurring during the transition from young to adult in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus nudus. A comparative examination of four major lantern muscles (compass depressors, compass elevators, protractors and retractors) suggests that myogenesis involves four consecutive stages. At the initial stage, the muscles show the organization of a mesentery delimited by pseudostratified coelomic epithelia, which are composed of peritoneal cells spanning the whole height of each epithelium, and myoepithelial cells, which are clustered together to fill the interstices between the basal processes of the peritoneal cells. During the next stage, the clusters of myoepithelial cells partly “sink” into the underlying connective tissue. At the third stage of muscularization, the myoepithelial cells increase in size and further invade the underlying connective tissue so that the myoepithelium splits into an apical peritoneal layer and a deeper mass of myoepithelial cells immersed in the connective tissue. However, these two layers are connected by a continuous basal lamina. This is thus the first description of an intermediate developmental stage between pseudostratified myoepithelim and genuine echinoderm muscles. For such a myoepithelium, we propose the term “immersed myoepithelium”. At the most advanced stage of myogenesis, the myocytes detach completely from the epithelium to form subepithelial muscle bundles. Myogenesis in the sea urchin takes a long time during which continuous myogenic differentiation occurs in the coelomic epithelium and the newly formed myocytes and associated neurons penetrate into the underlying connective tissue.