Citation: Thompson, J.R., Erkenbrack, E. M. Hinman, V.F., McCauley, B., Petsios, E., and Bottjer, D.J. (2017). Paleogenomics of echinoids reveals an ancient origin for the double-negative specification of micromeres in sea urchins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A, in press.
Divergence of ectodermal and mesodermal gene regulatory network linkages in early development of sea urchins
Developmental gene regulatory networks (GRNs) are assemblages of gene regulatory interactions that direct ontogeny of animal body plans. Studies of GRNs operating in the early development of euechinoid sea urchins have revealed that little appreciable change has occurred since their divergence ∼90 million years ago (mya). These observations suggest that strong conservation of GRN architecture was maintained in early development of the sea urchin lineage. Testing whether this holds for all sea urchins necessitates comparative analyses of echinoid taxa that diverged deeper in geological time. Recent studies highlighted extensive divergence of skeletogenic mesoderm specification in the sister clade of euechinoids, the cidaroids, suggesting that comparative analyses of cidaroid GRN architecture may confer a greater understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of developmental GRNs. Here I report spatiotemporal patterning of 55 regulatory genes and perturbation analyses of key regulatory genes involved in euechinoid oral–aboral patterning of nonskeletogenic mesodermal and ectodermal domains in early development of the cidaroid Eucidaris tribuloides. These results indicate that developmental GRNs directing mesodermal and ectodermal specification have undergone marked alterations since the divergence of cidaroids and euechinoids. Notably, statistical and clustering analyses of echinoid temporal gene expression datasets indicate that regulation of mesodermal genes has diverged more markedly than regulation of ectodermal genes. Although research on indirect-developing euechinoid sea urchins suggests strong conservation of GRN circuitry during early embryogenesis, this study indicates that since the divergence of cidaroids and euechinoids, developmental GRNs have undergone significant, cell type–biased alterations.
A Conserved Role for VEGF Signaling in Specification of Homologous Mesenchymal Cell Types Positioned at Spatially Distinct Developmental Addresses in Early Development of Sea Urchins
Comparative studies of early development in echinoderms are revealing the tempo and mode of alterations to developmental gene regulatory networks and to the cell types they specify. In euechinoid sea urchins, skeletogenic mesenchyme (SM) ingresses prior to gastrulation at the vegetal pole and aligns into a ring-like array with two bilateral pockets of cells, the sites where spiculogenesis will later occur. In cidaroid sea urchins, the anciently diverged sister clade to euechinoid sea urchins, a homologous SM cell type ingresses later in development, after gastrulation has commenced, and consequently at a distinct developmental address. Thus, a heterochronic shift of ingression of the SM cell type occurred in one of the echinoid lineages. In euechinoids, speci cation and migration of SM are facilitated by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling. We describe spatiotemporal expression of vegf and vegfr and experimental manipulations target- ing VEGF signaling in the cidaroid Eucidaris tribuloides.