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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2004 Sep;61(18):2290-308.

The chordate amphioxus: an emerging model organism for developmental biology.

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Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 8750 Biological Grade, La Jolla, California 92093-0202, USA.


The cephalochordate amphioxus is the closest living invertebrate relative of the vertebrates. It is vertebrate-like in having a dorsal, hollow nerve cord, notochord, segmental muscles, pharyngeal gill slits and a post-anal tail that develops from a tail bud. However, amphioxus is less complex than vertebrates, lacking neural crest and having little or no mesenchyme. The genetic programs patterning the amphioxus embryo are also similar to those patterning vertebrate embryos, although the amphioxus genome lacks the extensive gene duplications characteristic of vertebrates. This relative structural and genomic simplicity in a vertebrate-like organism makes amphioxus ideal as a model organism for understanding mechanisms of vertebrate development.

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