Volvox: A simple algal model for embryogenesis, morphogenesis and cellular differentiation

Gavriel Matt, James Umen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Patterning of a multicellular body plan involves a coordinated set of developmental processes that includes cell division, morphogenesis, and cellular differentiation. These processes have been most intensively studied in animals and land plants; however, deep insight can also be gained by studying development in simpler multicellular organisms. The multicellular green alga Volvox carteri (Volvox) is an excellent model for the investigation of developmental mechanisms and their evolutionary origins. Volvox has a streamlined body plan that contains only a few thousand cells and two distinct cell types: reproductive germ cells and terminally differentiated somatic cells. Patterning of the Volvox body plan is achieved through a stereotyped developmental program that includes embryonic cleavage with asymmetric cell division, morphogenesis, and cell-type differentiation. In this review we provide an overview of how these three developmental processes give rise to the adult form in Volvox and how developmental mutants have provided insights into the mechanisms behind these events. We highlight the accessibility and tractability of Volvox and its relatives that provide a unique opportunity for studying development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-113
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


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