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Dev Genes Evol 2009 Feb 01;2192:79-87. doi: 10.1007/s00427-009-0271-2.
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Conserved and novel gene expression between regeneration and asexual fission in Nematostella vectensis.

Burton PM , Finnerty JR .

Due to work in model systems (e.g., flies and mice), the molecular mechanisms of embryogenesis are known in exquisite detail. However, these organisms are incapable of asexual reproduction and possess limited regenerative abilities. Thus, the mechanisms of alternate developmental trajectories and their relation to embryonic mechanisms remain understudied. Because these developmental trajectories are present in a diverse group of animal phyla spanning the metazoan phylogeny, including cnidarians, annelids, and echinoderms, they are likely to have played a major role in animal evolution. The starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, an emerging model system, undergoes larval development, asexual fission, and complete bi-directional regeneration in the field and laboratory. In order to investigate to what extent embryonic patterning mechanisms are utilized during alternate developmental trajectories, we examined expression of developmental regulatory genes during regeneration and fission. When compared to previously reported embryonic expression patterns, we found that all genes displayed some level of expression consistent with embryogenesis. However, five of seven genes investigated also displayed striking differences in gene expression between one or more developmental trajectory. These results demonstrate that alternate developmental trajectories utilize distinct molecular mechanisms upstream of major developmental regulatory genes such as fox, otx, and Hox-like.

PubMed ID: 19184098
Article link: Dev Genes Evol