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Dev Cell. 2003 Nov;5(5):773-85.

Role of Pax genes in eye evolution: a cnidarian PaxB gene uniting Pax2 and Pax6 functions.

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Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


PaxB from Tripedalia cystophora, a cubomedusan jellyfish possessing complex eyes (ocelli), was characterized. PaxB, the only Pax gene found in this cnidarian, is expressed in the larva, retina, lens, and statocyst. PaxB contains a Pax2/5/8-type paired domain and octapeptide, but a Pax6 prd-type homeodomain. Pax2/5/8-like properties of PaxB include a DNA binding specificity of the paired domain, activation and inhibitory domains, and the ability to rescue spa(pol), a Drosophila Pax2 eye mutant. Like Pax6, PaxB activates jellyfish crystallin and Drosophila rhodopsin rh6 promoters and induces small ectopic eyes in Drosophila. Pax6 has been considered a "master" control gene for eye development. Our data suggest that the ancestor of jellyfish PaxB, a PaxB-like protein, was the primordial Pax protein in eye evolution and that Pax6-like genes evolved in triploblasts after separation from Cnidaria, raising the possibility that cnidarian and sophisticated triploblastic eyes arose independently.

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