Hedgehog signaling is required for endomesodermal patterning and germ cell development in Nematostella vectensis

Two distinct mechanisms for primordial germ cell (PGC) specification are observed within Bilatera: early determination by maternal factors or late induction by zygotic cues. Here we investigate the molecular basis for PGC specification in Nematostella, a representative pre-bilaterian animal where PGCs arise as paired endomesodermal cell clusters during early development. We first present evidence that the putative PGCs delaminate from the endomesoderm upon feeding, migrate into the gonad primordia, and mature into germ cells.  We then show that the PGC clusters arise at the interface between hedgehog1 and patched domains in the developing mesenteries and use gene knockdown, knockout and inhibitor experiments to demonstrate that Hh signaling is required for both PGC specification and general endomesodermal patterning.  These results provide evidence that the Nematostella germline is specified by inductive signals rather than maternal factors and support the existence of zygotically-induced PGCs in the eumetazoan common ancestor

From: Chen, C.-Y., McKinney, S.A., Ellington, L., Gibson, M.C. (2020) Hedgehog signaling is required for endomesodermal patterning and germ cell development in Nematostella vectensis. eLife (in press)