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Dev Genes Evol. 2003 Sep;213(9):421-34. Epub 2003 Jul 24.

Isolation and characterization of two T-box genes from sponges, the phylogenetically oldest metazoan taxon.

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  • 1Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Abteilung Angewandte Molekularbiologie, Universität Mainz, Duesbergweg 6, 55099 Mainz, Germany.


It is now well established that all metazoan phyla derived from one common ancestor, the hypothetical Urmetazoa. Due to the basal position of Porifera (Demospongiae) in the phylogenetic tree of Metazoa, studies on the mechanisms controlling the development of these animals can provide clues on the understanding of the origin of multicellular animals and on how the first organization of the body plan evolved. In this report we describe the isolation and genomic characterization of two T-box genes from the siliceous sponge Suberites domuncula. The phylogenetic analysis classifies one into the subfamily of Brachyury, Sd-Bra, and the second into the Tbx2 subfamily, Sd-Tbx2. Analyses of the Sd-Bra and Sd-Tbx2 sequences and their intron-exon structures demonstrate their basal position in the phylogeny of the T-box family, and allows us to hypothesize a model of the phylogenetic evolution of all T-box genes. Furthermore, we report the presence of two different products of alternative splicing of Sd-Bra, and demonstrate that they exist in different phosphorylation and glycosylation states in the sponge tissue. Sd-Bra expression in tissue and 3D-cell aggregates (primmorphs) is analyzed, suggesting that Sd-Bra might also have a role in Porifera morphogenesis.

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