Asymmetries in Cell Division, Cell Size, and Furrowing in the Xenopus laevis Embryo.
Asymmetric cell divisions produce two daughter cells with distinct fate. During embryogenesis, this mechanism is fundamental to build tissues and organs because it generates cell diversity. In adults, it remains crucial to maintain stem cells. The enthusiasm for asymmetric cell division is not only motivated by the beauty of the mechanism and the fundamental questions it raises, but has also very pragmatic reasons. Indeed, misregulation of asymmetric cell divisions is believed to have dramatic consequences potentially leading to pathogenesis such as cancers. In diverse model organisms, asymmetric cell divisions result in two daughter cells, which differ not only by their fate but also in size. This is the case for the early Xenopus laevis embryo, in which the two first embryonic divisions are perpendicular to each other and generate two pairs of blastomeres, which usually differ in size: one pair of blastomeres is smaller than the other. Small blastomeres will produce embryonic dorsal structures, whereas the larger pair will evolve into ventral structures. Here, we present a speculative model on the origin of the asymmetry of this cell division in the Xenopus embryo. We also discuss the apparently coincident asymmetric distribution of cell fate determinants and cell-size asymmetry of the 4-cell stage embryo. Finally, we discuss the asymmetric furrowing during epithelial cell cytokinesis occurring later during Xenopus laevis embryo development.