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Integr Comp Biol 2018 Oct 01;584:640-653. doi: 10.1093/icb/icy061.
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Inference of Developmental Gene Regulatory Networks Beyond Classical Model Systems: New Approaches in the Post-genomic Era.

Fernandez-Valverde SL , Aguilera F , Ramos-Díaz RA .

The advent of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies has revolutionized the way we understand the transformation of genetic information into morphological traits. Elucidating the network of interactions between genes that govern cell differentiation through development is one of the core challenges in genome research. These networks are known as developmental gene regulatory networks (dGRNs) and consist largely of the functional linkage between developmental control genes, cis-regulatory modules, and differentiation genes, which generate spatially and temporally refined patterns of gene expression. Over the last 20 years, great advances have been made in determining these gene interactions mainly in classical model systems, including human, mouse, sea urchin, fruit fly, and worm. This has brought about a radical transformation in the fields of developmental biology and evolutionary biology, allowing the generation of high-resolution gene regulatory maps to analyze cell differentiation during animal development. Such maps have enabled the identification of gene regulatory circuits and have led to the development of network inference methods that can recapitulate the differentiation of specific cell-types or developmental stages. In contrast, dGRN research in non-classical model systems has been limited to the identification of developmental control genes via the candidate gene approach and the characterization of their spatiotemporal expression patterns, as well as to the discovery of cis-regulatory modules via patterns of sequence conservation and/or predicted transcription-factor binding sites. However, thanks to the continuous advances in HTS technologies, this scenario is rapidly changing. Here, we give a historical overview on the architecture and elucidation of the dGRNs. Subsequently, we summarize the approaches available to unravel these regulatory networks, highlighting the vast range of possibilities of integrating multiple technical advances and theoretical approaches to expand our understanding on the global gene regulation during animal development in non-classical model systems. Such new knowledge will not only lead to greater insights into the evolution of molecular mechanisms underlying cell identity and animal body plans, but also into the evolution of morphological key innovations in animals.

PubMed ID: 29917089
Article link: Integr Comp Biol

Genes referenced: LOC100887844 LOC115919910 LOC576114