Acetabularia acetabulum is the organism that provided the first compelling experimental evidence both for the role of an organelle whose function was unknown, the nucleus, and for the existence of "morphogenetic substances," the behavior of which presaged the discovery of mRNA in other organisms. This giant unicell holds special appeal as a model system, because the contribution of its diploid nucleus to cellular processes can be assessed using simple amputation and grafting experiments and because it lends itself to a wide range of methods in cell, molecular, and developmental biology. It remains an excellent model system for understanding how body regions are functionally and structurally distinguished from each other without cellular compartmentation. Advances in genetics (that is, mutant selection and analysis, large-scale transformation) will greatly increase the power of this system to address fundamental questions in development and morphogenesis. We discuss strengths and weaknesses of the system and outline the body of knowledge that would make the system more powerful and broadly appealing.
- Nuclear behavior