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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Jul 28;11230:E4075-84. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1509845112.
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Evolutionary rewiring of gene regulatory network linkages at divergence of the echinoid subclasses.

Erkenbrack EM , Davidson EH .

Evolution of animal body plans occurs with changes in the encoded genomic programs that direct development, by alterations in the structure of encoded developmental gene-regulatory networks (GRNs). However, study of this most fundamental of evolutionary processes requires experimentally tractable, phylogenetically divergent organisms that differ morphologically while belonging to the same monophyletic clade, plus knowledge of the relevant GRNs operating in at least one of the species. These conditions are met in the divergent embryogenesis of the two extant, morphologically distinct, echinoid (sea urchin) subclasses, Euechinoidea and Cidaroidea, which diverged from a common late Paleozoic ancestor. Here we focus on striking differences in the mode of embryonic skeletogenesis in a euechinoid, the well-known model Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (Sp), vs. the cidaroid Eucidaris tribuloides (Et). At the level of descriptive embryology, skeletogenesis in Sp and Et has long been known to occur by distinct means. The complete GRN controlling this process is known for Sp. We carried out targeted functional analyses on Et skeletogenesis to identify the presence, or demonstrate the absence, of specific regulatory linkages and subcircuits key to the operation of the Sp skeletogenic GRN. Remarkably, most of the canonical design features of the Sp skeletogenic GRN that we examined are either missing or operate differently in Et. This work directly implies a dramatic reorganization of genomic regulatory circuitry concomitant with the divergence of the euechinoids, which began before the end-Permian extinction.

PubMed ID: 26170318
PMC ID: PMC4522742
Article link: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Genes referenced: LOC100887844 LOC575170

References [+] :
Armstrong, Skeletal pattern is specified autonomously by the primary mesenchyme cells in sea urchin embryos. 1994, Pubmed, Echinobase