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Dev Biol. 2010 Mar 1;339(1):212-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.12.019. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

Highly conserved functions of the Brachyury gene on morphogenetic movements: insight from the early-diverging phylum Ctenophora.

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Department of Natural History Sciences, Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, N10 W8, Kita-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan.


Brachyury, a member of the T-box transcription family identified in a diverse array of metazoans, was initially recognized for its function in mesoderm formation and notochord differentiation in vertebrates; however, its ancestral role has been suggested to be in control of morphogenetic movements. Here, we show that morpholino oligonucleotide knockdown of Brachyury (MlBra) in embryos of a ctenophore, one of the most ancient groups of animals, prevents the invagination of MlBra expressing stomodeal cells and is rescued with corresponding RNA injections. Injection of RNA encoding a dominant-interfering construct of MlBra causes identical phenotypes to that of RNA encoding a dominant-interfering form of Xenopus Brachyury (Xbra) in Xenopus embryos. Both injected embryos down-regulate Xbra downstream genes, Xbra itself and Xwnt11 but not axial mesodermal markers, resulting in failure to complete gastrulation due to loss of convergent extension movements. Moreover, animal cap assay reveals that MlBra induces Xwnt11 like Xbra. Overall results using Xenopus embryos show that these two genes are functionally interchangeable. These functional experiments demonstrate for the first time in a basal metazoan that the primitive role of Brachyury is to regulate morphogenetic movements, rather than to specify endomesodermal fates, and the role is conserved between non-bilaterian metazoans and vertebrates.

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