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Dev Genes Evol. 2001 May;211(5):219-31.

Brachyury (T) gene expression and notochord development in Oikopleura longicauda (Appendicularia, Urochordata).

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


Appendicularia (Larvacea) is a subgroup of Urochordata (Tunicata) comprised of holoplanktonic organisms that retain their tailed architecture throughout their life history, while other tunicates, including ascidians and doliolids, resorb the tail after metamorphosis. In order to investigate the characteristics of the appendicularian unresorbed notochord, we isolated a partial genomic clone and a full-length cDNA sequence homologous to the mouse Brachyury (T) gene from the appendicularian Oikopleura longicauda. Brachyury is known to be predominantly expressed in the notochord cells and plays an important role in their differentiation in other chordates. While phylogenetic analysis robustly supports the orthology of the isolated Brachyury gene, the exon-intron organization found in the genomic clone was distinct from that well-conserved among other T-box genes. In addition to a detailed observation of notochord development in living specimens, whole-mount double in situ hybridization was carried out using a Brachyury probe along with a muscle actin probe. The Brachyury transcripts were found in the notochord of the tailbud embryos and persisted into later stages. The present study highlights characteristics of notochord development in the appendicularian. Furthermore, these results provide basic knowledge for comprehensive understanding of the cellular- and molecular-based mechanisms needed to build the characteristic cytoarchitecture of notochord that varies among tunicate species.

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