Citation: Thompson, J. R., Petsios, E., Davidson, E. H., Erkenbrack, E. M., Gao, F., & Bottjer, D. J. (2015). Reorganization of sea urchin gene regulatory networks at least 268 million years ago as revealed by oldest fossil cidaroid echinoid.Scientific reports, 5.
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.
Animals consist of a wide variety of cells that serve different functions depending on their location in the body. Cells with similar functions, or cell types, in different animal species are related both by an evolutionary line of descentÐsimilar to the relatedness of species themselvesÐand by a developmental line of descent in the embryo. Networks of interacting genes, or gene regulatory networks, control gene expression in the cell, thereby specifying cell type identity. Understanding how new cell types arise by changing gene regulatory networks is critical both to comprehending fundamental aspects of human biology and to manipulating cell types in the laboratory. We approached this question by studying endometrial stromal fibroblast (ESF) cells from the uterus of humans and opossums, two distantly related mammals. We showed that the distantly related cell type in opossum expresses a similar set of regulatory genes as the human cell, but in response to pregnancy-related signals, the opossum cells induce a stress response. In the human cells, these signals induce differentiation into decidual cells, a specialized cell type present in humans and closely related mammals. These results suggest that a gene regulatory network that modulated an ancestral, pregnancy-related stress response was hijacked and repurposed to function in differentiation and specification of the decidual cell type.
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