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CODE 65535
SEMESTER 1° Semester
Propedeuticità in uscita
Questo insegnamento è propedeutico per gli insegnamenti:


The course aims to present the fundamental principles and molecular mechanisms that control and regulate the main aspects of animal development: formation of body axes, cell differentiation, morphogenesis and organogenesis. During the course the experimental approaches, both classic and modern, that have been used in the study of development processes will be illustrated.



Developmental Biology aims to provide a basic knowledge on reproductive biology and the main processes of embryology. Topics such as such the interaction between gametes, formation of early body plane, communication between cells, cell differentiation, regulation of gene expression during development, morphogenetic movements and organogenesis will be covered. We provide the students with the theoretical and practical skills that allow the recognition of the developmental stages of some model organisms in order to interpret the cellular, molecular and genetic mechanisms that lead to their development, and to correlate the organization of the main body structures to adaptive and evolutionary aspects.


Attendance and participation in the planned training activities (lectures and laboratory activities) will allow the student to acquire the most important aspects of Developmental Biology, from fertilization to morphogenesis and the use of various model organisms.

Specifically, the course aims to provide basic knowledge on the different stages of embryonic development of different model organisms and the morphogenetic mechanisms for the construction of organs and systems.

The expected results are:

1. Knowledge and understanding.

A. knowledge of developmental biology terminology

B. knowledge of the processes of gametogenesis and fertilization, segmentation, gastrulation and neurulation in both invertebrate and vertebrate organisms.

C. knowledge of the mechanisms that control the processes of morphogenesis, organogenesis and cell differentiation.

D. knowledge of the mechanisms underlying regenerative processes and post-embryonic development.

2. Ability to apply knowledge and understanding.
A. Knowing how to recognize and appropriately describe the embryonic development of invertebrates and vertebrates

B. Integrate the knowledge relating to the mechanisms underlying stem cell growth and differentiation

3. Soft skills.
The acquired knowledge is an indispensable cultural baggage for the full understanding of the anatomy of organs and tissues and of the development of cells and tissues in different animal models


General knowledge of Citology and Histology and Comparative Anatomy is needed to effectively address the teaching content.


The course consists of frontal teaching and practical exercises in the laboratory at the stereomicroscope.
Lectures are carried out with the help of powerpoint presentations.

The laboratory exercises will take place in laboratory equipped with stereomicroscopes.
In particular, the exercises will be carried out individually with a stereomicroscope for the observation of several model embryos at different developmental stages provided by the teacher or prepared by the students themselves.


Introduction to the course. Development of unicellular and colonial eukaryotes. Evolution of differentiation. Protostomes and Deuterostomes. Primordial Germ cell formation. Meiosis. Spermatogenesis. Oogenesis. Sperm and egg structure. Recognition between sperm and oocyte: attraction of the sperm, acrosome reaction, gamete fusion and the prevention of polyspermy. Early and late activation of oocyte metabolism. Fertilization in mammals: sperm capacitation, acrosome reaction. Fusion of genetic material. Presumptive territories. Determination of cell fate. Mechanisms of cell differentiation. Mosaic and regulative development. Potential and gradients in the oocyte. Progressive determination of embryonic cells. Nieuwkoop Center and Speeman Organizer. Primary embryonic induction. Molecules involved in inductive interactions. Control of regional specificity.

Types of segmentation in Protostomes and Deuterostomes. Mechanisms of segmentation. Karyokinesis and cytokinesis. Types of gastrulation in Protostomes and Deuterostomes. Morphogenetic movements in gastrulation. Implantation processes of blastocysts in mammals including humans. Formation of extra-embryonic membranes in Vertebrates. Embryonic annexes. Types of placenta in mammals including humans. Molecular control of embryonic sheets migration. Neurulation in Vertebrates. Morphogenesis of the central nervous system. Neural crests and their derivatives. Dorsal mesoderm and somites differentiation. Lateral plate mesoderm: myogenesis, angiogenesis and hematopoiesis. Endoderm and its derivatives.

Development of the vertebrate eye.

Primary and secondary sex determination in mammals. Environmental determination of sex. Post-embryonic development in Vertebrates. Metamorphosis and aging.

Embryonic and adult stem cells. Examples of tissue regeneration.

In vivo models for the study of human diseases.


All the Power Point presentations of the course and other teaching materials will be available on AulaWeb.

The indicated book is suggested as a supporting text, but students can also use other university level texts. The recommended text is available and can be consulted at the M.F.N. School of Science Library and at the teacher office.

S.FGILBERT e MJF Barresi, Biologia dello Sviluppo. V ed. Zanichelli.




For timetables of the lectures and laboratories please consult the following link:



Details on how to prepare for the exam and the degree of detail required for each topic will be provided during the lectures.

The exam consists of a oral part. The oral exam is related to the topics covered during the course. It is always conducted by the teachers of course for at least 30 minutes (typically 45 minutes).

In case of certification of specific learning disability, disability or other special educational needs, the University legislation and regulations on disability and SLD are applied ( A0-normative).

See also the "Other information" section of this syllabus.


The exam is aimed at assessing the knowledge of the fundamental elements of the subject and the ability to link the various topics.

In particular oral examination will focus on the topics covered during the lectures and will have the purpose of evaluating both the correct understanding of the topics, and the ability of the student to apply what has been acquired. The student must be able to connect and integrate the knowledge learned during the theoretical course and the laboratory exercises.

The commission will also evaluate the ability to present the arguments clearly and with correct terminology.
In this way the commission will be able to verify with high accuracy the knowledge of the fundamental elements of the cell and tissues organization  and  the ability to link the various topics. When these are not achieved, the student is invited to deepen the study and to make use of further explanations by the professors.


Attendance at lessons is strongly recommended while that at laboratories in the measure of 70%.

In case of certification of specific learning disability, disability or other special educational needs, please contact both the Department contact person, Prof. Nicola Girtler, and the lecturer at the beginning of the lectures to agree on teaching and exam methods which, in compliance of the teaching objectives, take into account individual learning methods and provide suitable compensatory/dispensatory tools recognized by the University SLD Student Service.