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Dev Biol. 2013 Jan 1;373(1):205-15. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.10.004. Epub 2012 Oct 12.

NF-κB is required for cnidocyte development in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis.

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Boston University, Department of Biology, 5 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The sea anemone Nematostella vectensis (Nv) is a leading model organism for the phylum Cnidaria, which includes anemones, corals, jellyfishes and hydras. A defining trait across this phylum is the cnidocyte, an ectodermal cell type with a variety of functions including defense, prey capture and environmental sensing. Herein, we show that the Nv-NF-κB transcription factor and its inhibitor Nv-IκB are expressed in a subset of cnidocytes in the body column of juvenile and adult anemones. The size and distribution of the Nv-NF-κB-positive cnidocytes suggest that they are in a subtype known as basitrichous haplonema cnidocytes. Nv-NF-κB is primarily cytoplasmic in cnidocytes in juvenile and adult animals, but is nuclear when first detected in the 30-h post-fertilization embryo. Morpholino-mediated knockdown of Nv-NF-κB expression results in greatly reduced cnidocyte formation in the 5 day-old animal. Taken together, these results indicate that NF-κB plays a key role in the development of the phylum-specific cnidocyte cell type in Nematostella, likely by nuclear Nv-NF-κB-dependent activation of genes required for cnidocyte development.

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