51.1 Thursday, Jan. 5 Cnidocyte development in Nematostella vectensis: a model for terminal cell differentiation BABONIS, L.S.*; MARTINDALE, M.Q.; Univ of Hawaii/Kewalo Marine Laboratory; Univ of Hawaii/Kewalo Marine Laboratory email@example.com
Cnidocytes, the stinging cells and nominal synapomorphy of Cnidarians, are an emerging model for understanding the genetic events that control the terminal differentiation of cells across animal taxa. Because they are replaced throughout the lifetime of the animal, these cells provide a highly tractable system in which to examine the signals responsible for directing the acquisition of a specific fate from an unspecified precursor. We induced cnidocyte firing in the model sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, and then used morphological and molecular techniques to describe the genetic events regulating their replacement. Specifically, we examine the timing and distribution of cnidocyte development using markers of cell proliferation and capsule formation at various intervals after firing was triggered. Further, we compare the abundance and distribution of specific markers of cnidocyte identity in both control individuals (undergoing normal cnidocyte replacement) as well as individuals treated with DAPT, a &gamma-secretase inhibitor known to specifically inhibit the terminal differentiation of this cell type. Together, we used the combined results of these studies to begin characterizing the regulatory network underlying cnidocyte differentiation in N. vectensis and to make comparisons with terminal differentiation in other metazoan taxa.