Functional and morphological planar cell polarity (PCP) oriented along the oral-aboral body axis is clearly evident in the ectoderm of torpedo-shaped planula larvae of hydrozoan cnidarians such as Clytia hemisphaerica. Ectodermal epithelial cells bear a single motile cilium the beating of which is coordinated between cells, causing directional swimming towards the blunt, aboral pole. We have characterised PCP during Clytia larval development and addressed its molecular basis. PCP is first detectable in ectodermal cells during gastrulation as coordinated basal body positioning, the ciliary root becoming consistently positioned on the oral side of the apical surface of the cell. At later stages, more pronounced structural polarity develops around the base of each cilium in relation to the cilia beating direction, including a characteristic asymmetric cortical actin organisation. Morpholino antisense oligonucleotide and mRNA injection studies showed that PCP development requires the Clytia orthologues of the core Fz-PCP pathway components Strabismus (CheStbm), Frizzled (CheFz1) and Dishevelled (CheDsh). Morpholinos targeting any of these components prevented ectodermal PCP, disrupted ciliogenesis and inhibited embryo elongation during gastrulation, which involves cell intercalation. We show that YFP-tagged CheStbm adopts a polarised intracellular distribution, localising preferentially to the aboral boundary of each cell, as has been demonstrated in Drosophila and some vertebrate PCP studies. Our findings in a cnidarian strongly suggest that the Fz-PCP pathway is a highly conserved and evolutionary ancient metazoan feature that is probably widely responsible for oriented swimming and/or feeding in relation to body axis in the many ciliated larval types found throughout the animal kingdom.
- Accepted August 30, 2012.