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Dev Biol. 2000 Jul 15;223(2):399-410.

Pax1/Pax9-Related genes in an agnathan vertebrate, Lampetra japonica: expression pattern of LjPax9 implies sequential evolutionary events toward the gnathostome body plan.

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Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Oiwake-cho, Kitashirakawa, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8502, Japan.


Among the transcription factor gene families, Pax genes play important and unique roles in morphological patterning of animal body plans. Of these, Group I Pax genes (Pax1 and Pax9) are expressed in the endodermal pharyngeal pouches in many groups of deuterostomes, and vertebrates seem to have acquired more extensive expression domains in embryos. To understand the evolution of Pax1/Pax9-related genes in basal groups of vertebrates, their cognates were isolated from the Japanese marine lamprey, Lampetra japonica. RT-PCR of larval lamprey cDNA yielded two different fragments containing vertebrate Pax1- and Pax9-like paired domains. The Pax9 orthologue was isolated and named LjPax9. Whole-mount in situ hybridization revealed that this gene was expressed in endodermal pharyngeal pouches, mesenchyme of the velum (the oral pumping apparatus) and the hyoid arch, and the nasohypophysial plate, but not in the somitic mesoderm of the lamprey embryo. These expression patterns could be regarded as a link between the basal chordates and the gnathostomes and are consistent with the phylogenetic position of the lamprey. Especially, the appearance of neural crest seemed to be the basis of velar expression. Homology of the velum and the jaw is also discussed based on the LjPax9 expression in the first pharyngeal pouch and in the velar mesenchyme. We conclude that Pax9 genes have sequentially expanded into new expression domains through evolution as more complicated body plans emerged.

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