Citation: Erkenbrack, E. M., Ako-Asare, K., Miller, E., Tekelenburg, S., Thompson, J. R., & Romano, L. (2016). Ancestral state reconstruction by comparative analysis of a GRN kernel operating in echinoderms. Development Genes and Evolution, 226(1), 37-45.
Notch-mediated lateral inhibition is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism patterning the ectoderm of echinoids
Notch signaling is a crucial cog in early development of euechinoid sea urchins, specifying both non-skeletogenic mesodermal lineages and serotonergic neurons in the apical neuroectoderm. Here, the spatial distributions and function of delta, gcm, and hesc, three genes critical to these processes in euechinoids, are examined in the distantly related cidaroid sea urchin Eucidaris tribuloides. Spatial distribution and experimental perturbation of delta and hesc suggest that the function of Notch signaling in ectodermal patterning in early development of E. tribuloides is consistent with canonical lateral inhibition. Delta transcripts were observed in the archenteron, apical ectoderm, and lateral ectoderm in gastrulating embryos of E. tribuloides. Perturbation of Notch signaling by either delta morpholino or treatment of DAPT downregulated hesc and upregulated delta and gcm, resulting in ectopic expression of delta and gcm. Similarly, hesc perturbation mirrored the effects of delta perturbation. Interestingly, perturbation of delta or hesc resulted in more cells expressing gcm and supernumerary pigment cells, suggesting that pigment cell proliferation is regulated by Notch in E. tribuloides. These results are consistent with an evolutionary scenario whereby, in the echinoid ancestor, Notch signaling was deployed in the ectoderm to specify neurogenic progenitors and controlled pigment cell proliferation in the dorsal ectoderm.
This work provides direct evidence of evolutionary rewiring of gene-regulatory circuitry accompanying divergence of two subclasses of echinoderm, the cidaroid and euechinoid sea urchins. These forms descend from a known common Paleo- zoic ancestor, and their embryos develop differently, offering an opportunity to probe the basic evolutionary process by which clade divergence occurs at the gene-regulatory net- work (GRN) level. We carried out a systematic analysis of the use of particular genes participating in embryonic skeleto- genic cell specification, building on an established euechinoid developmental GRN. This study revealed that the well-known and elegantly configured regulatory circuitry that underlies skeletogenic specification in modern sea urchins is largely a novel evolutionary invention. The results dramatically dis- play extensive regulatory changes in a specific developmental GRN, underlying an incidence of cladistic divergence at the subclass level.
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