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Development. 2003 Oct;130(19):4587-96.

Isolation of pigment cell specific genes in the sea urchin embryo by differential macroarray screening.

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  • 1Division of Biology 156-29, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


New secondary mesenchyme specific genes, expressed exclusively in pigment cells, were isolated from sea urchin embryos using a differential screening of a macroarray cDNA library. The comparison was performed between mRNA populations of embryos having an expansion of the endo-mesodermal territory and embryos blocked in secondary mesenchyme specification. To be able to isolate transcripts with a prevalence down to five copies per cell, a subtractive hybridization procedure was employed. About 400 putative positive clones were identified and sequenced from the 5' end. Gene expression analysis was carried out on a subset of 66 clones with real time quantitative PCR and 40 clones were positive. This group of clones contained sequences highly similar to: the transcription factor glial cells missing (gcm); the polyketide synthase gene cluster (pks-gc); three different members of the flavin-containing monooxygenase gene family (fmo); and a sulfotransferase gene (sult). Using whole mount in situ hybridization, it was shown that these genes are specifically expressed in pigment cells. A functional analysis of the S. purpuratus pks and of one S. purpuratus fmo was carried out using antisense technology and it was shown that their expression is necessary for the biosynthesis of the sea urchin pigment echinochrome. The results suggest that S. purpuratus pks, fmo and sult could belong to a differentiation gene battery of pigment cells.

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