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Dev Biol. 2000 Oct 1;226(1):18-33.

Evolutionary conservation of the presumptive neural plate markers AmphiSox1/2/3 and AmphiNeurogenin in the invertebrate chordate amphioxus.

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  • 1Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California 92093-0202, USA.

Abstract

Amphioxus, as the closest living invertebrate relative of the vertebrates, can give insights into the evolutionary origin of the vertebrate body plan. Therefore, to investigate the evolution of genetic mechanisms for establishing and patterning the neuroectoderm, we cloned and determined the embryonic expression of two amphioxus transcription factors, AmphiSox1/2/3 and AmphiNeurogenin. These genes are the earliest known markers for presumptive neuroectoderm in amphioxus. By the early neurula stage, AmphiNeurogenin expression becomes restricted to two bilateral columns of segmentally arranged neural plate cells, which probably include precursors of motor neurons. This is the earliest indication of segmentation in the amphioxus nerve cord. Later, expression extends to dorsal cells in the nerve cord, which may include precursors of sensory neurons. By the midneurula, AmphiSox1/2/3 expression becomes limited to the dorsal part of the forming neural tube. These patterns resemble those of their vertebrate and Drosophila homologs. Taken together with the evolutionarily conserved expression of the dorsoventral patterning genes, BMP2/4 and chordin, in nonneural and neural ectoderm, respectively, of chordates and Drosophila, our results are consistent with the evolution of the chordate dorsal nerve cord and the insect ventral nerve cord from a longitudinal nerve cord in a common bilaterian ancestor. However, AmphiSox1/2/3 differs from its vertebrate homologs in not being expressed outside the CNS, suggesting that additional roles for this gene have evolved in connection with gene duplication in the vertebrate lineage. In contrast, expression in the midgut of AmphiNeurogenin together with the gene encoding the insulin-like peptide suggests that amphioxus may have homologs of vertebrate pancreatic islet cells, which express neurogenin3. In addition, AmphiNeurogenin, like its vertebrate and Drosophila homologs, is expressed in apparent precursors of epidermal chemosensory and possibly mechanosensory cells, suggesting a common origin for protostome and deuterostome epidermal sensory cells in the ancestral bilaterian.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

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