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Dev Genes Evol. 2001 Jan;211(1):49-53.

Isolation of an early neural maker gene abundantly expressed in the nervous system of the ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi.

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Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Japan.


Ascidian tadpole larvae possess a primitive nervous system, which is a prospective prototype of the chordate nervous system. It is composed of relatively few cells but sufficient for complex larval behavior. Here we report on HrETR-1, a gene zygotically expressed in a large proportion of the developing neural cells of the ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi. HrETR-1 is an early neural marker which can be used for analyzing neural differentiation. HrETR-1 expression intensified in most neural cells of genes isolated to date, in both central and peripheral nervous systems including palps as early as the 110-cell stage. Using this gene as a probe, we characterized neural cells in the nervous system as well as confirming their origins. Also, we recognized three types of peripheral epidermal neurons which presumably correlate to the larval neurons previously reported for another ascidian. Among these, five bilateral neurons located in the anterior region of the trunk appeared to be derived from a8.26 blastomeres.

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