Ultrastructure of the lamprey head mesoderm reveals evolution of the vertebrate head

Takayuki Onai, Noritaka Adachi, Hidetoshi Urakubo, Fumiaki Sugahara, Toshihiro Aramaki, Mami Matsumoto, Nobuhiko Ohno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cranial muscle is a critical component in the vertebrate head for a predatory lifestyle. However, its evolutionary origin and possible segmental nature during embryogenesis have been controversial. In jawed vertebrates, the presence of pre-otic segments similar to trunk somites has been claimed based on developmental observations. However, evaluating such arguments has been hampered by the paucity of research on jawless vertebrates. Here, we discovered different cellular arrangements in the head mesoderm in lamprey embryos (Lethenteron camtschaticum) using serial block-face scanning electron and laser scanning microscopies. These cell populations were morphologically and molecularly different from somites. Furthermore, genetic comparison among deuterostomes revealed that mesodermal gene expression domains were segregated antero-posteriorly in vertebrates, whereas such segregation was not recognized in invertebrate deuterostome embryos. These findings indicate that the vertebrate head mesoderm evolved from the anteroposterior repatterning of an ancient mesoderm and developmentally diversified before the split of jawless and jawed vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108338
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15-12-2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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