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Homologous gene regulatory networks control development of apical organs and brains in Bilateria

Feuda R, Peter IS
Sci Adv. 2022 Nov 4;8(44):eabo2416. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abo2416. Epub 2022 Nov 2
Apical organs are relatively simple larval nervous systems. The extent to which apical organs are evolutionarily related to the more complex nervous systems of other animals remains unclear. To identify common developmental mechanisms, we analyzed the gene regulatory network (GRN) controlling the development of the apical organ in sea urchins. We characterized the developmental expression of 30 transcription factors and identified key regulatory functions for FoxQ2, Hbn, Delta/Notch signaling, and SoxC in the patterning of the apical organ and the specification of neurons. Almost the entire set of apical transcription factors is expressed in the nervous system of worms, flies, zebrafish, frogs, and mice. Furthermore, a regulatory module controlling the axial patterning of the vertebrate brain is expressed in the ectoderm of sea urchin embryos. We conclude that GRNs controlling the formation of bilaterian nervous systems share a common origin and that the apical GRN likely resembles an ancestral regulatory program.
Not Epub
Organism or Cell Type: 
Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (sea urchin)
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