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Genome Res. 2003 Dec;13(12):2736-46.

Generation, annotation, evolutionary analysis, and database integration of 20,000 unique sea urchin EST clusters.

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  • 1Evolution and Development Group, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Department of Vertebrate Genomics, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


Together with the hemichordates, sea urchins represent basal groups of nonchordate invertebrate deuterostomes that occupy a key position in bilaterian evolution. Because sea urchin embryos are also amenable to functional studies, the sea urchin system has emerged as one of the leading models for the analysis of the function of genomic regulatory networks that control development. We have analyzed a total of 107,283 cDNA clones of libraries that span the development of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Normalization by oligonucleotide fingerprinting, EST sequencing and sequence clustering resulted in an EST catalog comprised of 20,000 unique genes or gene fragments. Around 7000 of the unique EST consensus sequences were associated with molecular and developmental functions. Phylogenetic comparison of the identified genes to the genome of the urochordate Ciona intestinalis indicate that at least one quarter of the genes thought to be chordate specific were already present at the base of deuterostome evolution. Comparison of the number of gene copies in sea urchins to those in chordates and vertebrates indicates that the sea urchin genome has not undergone extensive gene or complete genome duplications. The established unique gene set represents an essential tool for the annotation and assembly of the forthcoming sea urchin genome sequence. All cDNA clones and filters of all analyzed libraries are available from the resource center of the German genome project at

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