Calcium-vesicles perform active diffusion in the sea urchin embryo during larval biomineralization

Mark R. Winter, Miri Morgulis, Tsvia Gildor, Andrew R. Cohen, Smadar Ben Tabou de-Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biomineralization is the process by which organisms use minerals to harden their tissues and provide them with physical support. Biomineralizing cells concentrate the mineral in vesicles that they secret into a dedicated compartment where crystallization occurs. The dynamics of vesicle motion and the molecular mechanisms that control it, are not well understood. Sea urchin larval skeletogenesis provides an excellent platform for investigating the kinetics of mineral-bearing vesicles. Here we used lattice light-sheet microscopy to study the three-dimensional (3D) dynamics of calcium-bearing vesicles in the cells of normal sea urchin embryos and of embryos where skeletogenesis is blocked through the inhibition of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (VEGFR). We developed computational tools for displaying 3D-volumetric movies and for automatically quantifying vesicle dynamics. Our findings imply that calcium vesicles perform an active diffusion motion in both, calcifying (skeletogenic) and non-calcifying (ectodermal) cells of the embryo. The diffusion coefficient and vesicle speed are larger in the mesenchymal skeletogenic cells compared to the epithelial ectodermal cells. These differences are possibly due to the distinct mechanical properties of the two tissues, demonstrated by the enhanced f-actin accumulation and myosinII activity in the ectodermal cells compared to the skeletogenic cells. Vesicle motion is not directed toward the biomineralization compartment, but the vesicles slow down when they approach it, and probably bind for mineral deposition. VEGFR inhibition leads to an increase of vesicle volume but hardly changes vesicle kinetics and doesn’t affect f-actin accumulation and myosinII activity. Thus, calcium vesicles perform an active diffusion motion in the cells of the sea urchin embryo, with diffusion length and speed that inversely correlate with the strength of the actomyosin network. Overall, our studies provide an unprecedented view of calcium vesicle 3D-dynamics and point toward cytoskeleton remodeling as an important effector of the motion of mineral-bearing vesicles.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008780
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 22 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by Israel Science Foundation grant number 41/14 and 211/ 20 (to S.B.D.); Zuckerman post-doctoral fellowship (to M.R.W.) and ISEF doctoral fellowship (to M. M.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Public Library of Science. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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