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Dev Genes Evol. 2007 Feb;217(2):137-48. Epub 2007 Jan 20.

FGF signaling in gastrulation and neural development in Nematostella vectensis, an anthozoan cnidarian.

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Kewalo Marine Lab, Pacific Bioscience Research Centre, University of Hawai'i, 41 Ahui Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


The fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signal transduction pathway serves as one of the key regulators of early metazoan development, displaying conserved roles in the specification of endodermal, mesodermal, and neural fates during vertebrate development. FGF signals also regulate gastrulation, in part, by triggering epithelial to mesenchymal transitions in embryos of both vertebrates and invertebrates. Thus, FGF signals coordinate gastrulation movements across many different phyla. To help understand the breadth of FGF signaling deployment across the animal kingdom, we have examined the presence and expression of genes encoding FGF pathway components in the anthozoan cnidarian Nematostella vectensis. We isolated three FGF ligands (NvFGF8A, NvFGF8B, and NvFGF1A), two FGF receptors (NvFGFRa and NvFGFRb), and two orthologs of vertebrate FGF responsive genes, Sprouty (NvSprouty), an inhibitor of FGF signaling, and Churchill (NvChurchill), a Zn finger transcription factor. We found these FGF ligands, receptors, and response gene expressed asymmetrically along the oral/aboral axis during gastrulation and in a developing chemosensory structure of planula stages known as the apical tuft. These results suggest a conserved role for FGF signaling molecules in coordinating both gastrulation and neural induction that predates the Cambrian explosion and the origins of the Bilateria.

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