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Dev Biol. 2011 Feb 1;350(1):208-16. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.10.024. Epub 2010 Oct 27.

Insect Tc-six4 marks a unit with similarity to vertebrate placodes.

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  • 1Center of Molecular Brain Physiology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Cranial placodes are specialized ectodermal regions in the developing vertebrate head that give rise to both neural and non-neural cell types of the neuroendocrine system and the sense organs of the visual, olfactory and acoustic systems. The cranial placodes develop from a panplacodal region which is specifically marked by genes of the eyes absent/eya and two "six homeobox" family members (sine oculis/six1 and six4). It had been believed that cranial placodes are evolutionary novelties of vertebrates. However, data from non-vertebrate chordates suggest that placode-like structures evolved in the chordate ancestor already. Here, we identify a morphological structure in the embryonic head of the beetle Tribolium castaneum with placode-like features. It is marked by the orthologs of the panplacodal markers Tc-six4, Tc-eya and Tc-sine oculis/six1 (Tc-six1) and expresses several genes known to be involved in adenohypophyseal placode development in vertebrates. Moreover, it contributes to both epidermal and neural tissues. We identify Tc-six4 as a specific marker for this structure that we term the insect head placode. Finally, we reveal the regulatory gene network of the panplacodal genes Tc-six4, Tc-eya and Tc-six1 and identify them as head epidermis patterning genes. Our finding of a placode-like structure in an insect suggests that a placode precursor was already present in the last common ancestor of bilaterian animals.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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