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Dev Biol. 2007 Dec 15;312(2):631-43. Epub 2007 Oct 11.

Dynamic change in the expression of developmental genes in the ascidian central nervous system: revisit to the tripartite model and the origin of the midbrain-hindbrain boundary region.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachiohji, Tokyo 192-0397, Japan.


Comparative studies on expression patterns of developmental genes along the anterior-posterior axis of the embryonic central nervous system (CNS) between vertebrates and ascidians led to the notion of "tripartite organization," a common ground plan of the CNS, consisting of the anterior, central and posterior regions expressing Otx, Pax2/5/8 and Hox genes, respectively. In ascidians, however, descriptions and interpretations about expression of the developmental genes regarded as region specific have become not necessarily consistent. To address this issue, we examined detailed expression of key developmental genes for the ascidian CNS, including Otx, Pax2/5/8a, En, Fgf8/17/18, Dmbx, Lhx3 and Hox genes, in the CNS around the junction of the trunk and tail of three different tailbud-stage embryos of Ciona intestinalis, employing double-fluorescence in situ hybridization, followed by staining with DAPI to precisely locate expressing cells for each gene. Based on these observations, we have constructed detailed gene expression maps of the region at the tailbud stages. Our analysis shows that expression of several genes regarded as markers for specific domains in the ascidian CNS changes dynamically within a relatively short period. This motivates us to revisit to the tripartite ground plan and the origin of the midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB) region.

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