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Genesis. 2001 Apr;29(4):172-9.

Characterization of Amphioxus AmphiVent, an evolutionarily conserved marker for chordate ventral mesoderm.

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Institute for Molecular Genetics, Academy of Science of the Czech Republic, Prague.


Structure and developmental expression are described for amphioxus AmphiVent, a homolog of vertebrate Vent genes. In amphioxus, AmphiVent-expressing ventral mesoderm arises at midneurula by outgrowth from the paraxial mesoderm, but in vertebrates, Vent-expressing ventral mesoderm originates earlier, at the gastrula stage. In other embryonic tissues (nascent paraxial mesoderm, neural plate, endoderm, and tailbud), AmphiVent and its vertebrate homologs are expressed in similar spatiotemporal domains, indicating conservation of many Vent gene functions during chordate evolution. The ventral mesoderm evidently develops precociously in vertebrates because their relatively large embryos probably require an early and extensive deployment of the mesoderm-derived circulatory system. The vertebrate ventral mesoderm, in spite of its strikingly early advent, still resembles the nascent ventral mesoderm of amphioxus in expressing Vent homologs. This coincidence may indicate that Vent homologs in vertebrates and amphioxus play comparable roles in ventral mesoderm specification.

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