Citation: Erkenbrack E. M. (2017). Notch-mediated lateral inhibition is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism patterning the ectoderm of echinoids. Development Genes and Evolution, Online First.
Conserved regulatory state expression controlled by divergent developmental gene regulatory networks in echinoids
Evolution of the animal body plan is driven by changes in developmental gene regulatory networks (GRNs), but how networks change to control novel developmental phenotypes remains in most cases unresolved. Here we address GRN evolution by comparing the endomesoderm GRN in two echinoid sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Eucidaris tribuloides, with at least 268 million years of independent evolution. We first analyzed the expression of twelve transcription factors and signaling molecules of the S. purpuratus GRN in E. tribuloides embryos, showing that orthologous regulatory genes are expressed in corresponding endomesodermal cell fates in the two species. However, perturbation of regulatory genes revealed that important regulatory circuits of the S. purpuratus GRN are significantly different in E. tribuloides. Thus for instance mesodermal Delta/Notch signaling controls exclusion of alternative cell fates in E. tribuloides but controls mesoderm induction and activation of a positive feedback circuit in S. purpuratus. These results indicate that the architecture of the sea urchin endomesoderm GRN evolved by extensive gain and loss of regulatory interactions between a conserved set of regulatory factors that control endomesodermal cell fate specification.
Mechanistic understanding of evolutionary divergence in animal body plans devolves from analysis of those developmental processes that, in forms descendant from a common ancestor, are responsible for their morphological differences. The last common ancestor of the two extant subclasses of sea urchins, i.e., euechinoids and cidaroids, existed well before the Permian/Triassic extinction (252 mya). Subsequent evolutionary divergence of these clades offers in principle a rare opportunity to solve the developmental regulatory events underlying a defined evolutionary divergence process.
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