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Dev Biol. 1999 Dec 15;216(2):582-94.

The homeobox gene Otx of the jellyfish Podocoryne carnea: role of a head gene in striated muscle and evolution.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Basel, Switzerland.


In many bilaterian animals members of the Otx gene family are expressed in head or brain structures. Cnidarians, however, have no clearly homologous head and no distinct brain; but an Otx homolog from the jellyfish Podocoryne carnea is highly conserved in sequence and domain structure. Sequence similarities extend well beyond the homeodomain and Podocoryne Otx can be aligned over its entire length to human OTX1, OTX2, and CRX. The overall structure of Otx is better conserved from Podocoryne to deuterostomes while protostomes appear to be more derived. In contrast, functions seem to be conserved from protostomes to vertebrates but not in Podocoryne or echinoderms. Podocoryne Otx is expressed only during medusa bud formation and becomes restricted to the striated muscle of medusae. Cnidaria are the most basal animals with striated muscle. Podocoryne polyps have no striated muscle and no Otx expression; both appear only during the asexual medusa budding process. The common ancestor of all animals that gave rise to cnidarians, protostomes, and deuterostomes already had an Otx gene more similar to today's Podocoryne and human homologs than to Drosophila otd, while the head-specific function appears to have evolved only later.

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