Inversion is a dominant aspect of morphogenesis in Volvox. In this process, the hollow, spheroidal Volvox embryo turns inside-out through a small opening called the phialopore to bring flagella from its inner to its outer surface. Analyses of intact, sectioned, and fragmented embryos by light, scanning electron, and transmission electron microscopy, suggest that shape changes preprogrammed into the cells cause inversion. First, cells throughout the embryo change from pear to spindle shape, which causes the embryo to contract and the phialopore to open. Then cells adjacent to the phialopore become flask-shaped, with long, thin stalks at their outer ends. Simultaneously, the cytoplasmic bridges joining all adjacent cells migrate from the midpoint of the cells to the stalk tips. Together, these changes cause the lips of cells at the phialopore margin to curl outward. Now cells progressively more distal to the phialopore become flask-shaped while the more proximal cells become columnar, causing the lips to curl progressively further over the surface of the embryo until the latter has turned completely inside-out. Fine structural analysis reveals a peripheral cytoskeleton of microtubules that is apparently involved in cellular elongation. Cell clusters isolated before inversion undergo a similar program of shape changes; this suggests that the changes in cellular shape are the cause rather than an effect of the inversion process.

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