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Divergence of ectodermal and mesodermal gene regulatory network linkages in early development of sea urchins
Citation: Erkenbrack, E. M. (2017). Divergence of ectodermal and mesodermal gene regulatory network linkages in early development of sea urchins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(46), E7202-E7211.
Sea urchins (echinoids) consist of two subclasses, cidaroids and euechinoids. Research on gene regulatory networks (GRNs) in the early development of three euechinoids indicates that little appreciable change has occurred to their linkages since they diverged ∼90 million years ago (mya). I asked whether this conservation extends to all echinoids. I systematically analyzed the spatiotemporal expression and function of regulatory genes segregating euechinoid ectoderm and mesoderm in a cidaroid. I report marked divergence of GRN architecture in early embryonic specification of the oral–aboral axis in echinoids. Although I found evidence for diverged regulation of both mesodermal and ectodermal genes, comparative analyses indicated that, since these two clades diverged 268 mya, mesodermal GRNs have undergone significantly more alterations than ectodermal GRNs.

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Paleogenomics of echinoids reveals an ancient origin for the double-negative specification of micromeres in sea urchins

Establishing a timeline for the evolution of novelties is a common, unifying goal at the intersection of evolutionary and developmental biology. Analyses of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) provides the ability to understand the underlying genetic and developmental mechanisms responsible for the origin of morphological structures both in the development of an individual and across entire evolutionary lineages. Accurately dating GRN novelties, thereby establishing a timeline for GRN evolution, is necessary to answer questions about the rate at which GRNs and their subcircuits evolve, and to tie their evolution to paleoenvironmental and paleoecological changes. Paleogenomics unites the fossil record and all aspects of deep time, with modern genomics and developmental biology to understand the evolution of genomes in evolutionary time. Recent work on the regulatory genomic basis of development in cidaroid echinoids, sand dollars, heart urchins, and other nonmodel echinoderms provides an ideal dataset with which to explore GRN evolution in a comparative framework. Using divergence time estimation and ancestral state reconstructions, we have determined the age of the double-negative gate (DNG), the subcircuit which specifies micromeres and skeletogenic cells in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. We have determined that the DNG has likely been used for euechinoid echinoid micromere specification since at least the Late Triassic. The innovation of the DNG thus predates the burst of post-Paleozoic echinoid morphological diversification that began in the Early Jurassic. Paleogenomics has wide applicability for the integration of deep time and molecular developmental data, and has wide utility in rigorously establishing timelines for GRN evolution.

Reorganization of sea urchin gene regulatory networks at least 268 million years ago as revealed by oldest fossil cidaroid echinoid

Echinoids, or sea urchins, are rare in the Palaeozoic fossil record, and thus the details regarding the early diversification of crown group echinoids are unclear. Here we report on the earliest probable crown group echinoid from the fossil record, recovered from Permian (Roadian-Capitanian) rocks of west Texas, which has important implications for the timing of the divergence of crown group echinoids. The presence of apophyses and rigidly sutured interambulacral areas with two columns of plates indicates this species is a cidaroid echinoid. The species, Eotiaris guadalupensis, n. sp. is therefore the earliest stem group cidaroid. The occurrence of this species in Roadian strata pushes back the divergence of cidaroids and euechinoids, the clades that comprise all living echinoids, to at least 268.8 Ma, ten million years older than the previously oldest known cidaroid.
© 2016 Eric M Erkenbrack and SpringerNature. All rights reserved.