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Dev Biol. 2001 Oct 15;238(2):260-73.

Diverse genes expressed in distinct regions of the trunk epithelium define a monolayer cellular template for construction of the oikopleurid house.

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Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology, Bergen High Technology Centre, Thormøhlensgt. 55, Bergen, N-5008, Norway.


The filter-feeding house secreted by urochordate Appendicularians is among the most complex extracellular structures constructed by any organism. This structure allows the Appendicularia to exploit a wide range of food particle sizes, including nanoplankton and submicrometer colloids, establishing them as an important and abundant component of marine zooplankton communities throughout the world. The oikoplastic epithelium, a monolayer of cells covering the trunk of the animal, is responsible for secretion of the house. The epithelium has a fixed number of cells, organized in distinct fields, characterized by defined cell shapes and nuclear morphologies. Certain structures in the house appear to be spatially linked to these different fields of cells. Using cDNA representation difference analysis (cDNA RDA) on whole animals at two different developmental stages separated by the metamorphic tailshift event, we isolated four families of genes (oikosins) that are expressed only from specific subregions of the oikoplastic epithelium. The molecular patterns defined by oikosin gene expression establish the epithelium as an ideal and easily accessible monolayer cellular template for exploring coordinate regulation of gene expression, cell-cell interactions involved in pattern formation, gene/genome amplification, and the role of temporal changes in nuclear architecture in regulating gene expression.

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