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Evol Dev 2007 Jan 01;91:10-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2006.00134.x.
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Molecular paleoecology: using gene regulatory analysis to address the origins of complex life cycles in the late Precambrian.

Dunn EF , Moy VN , Angerer LM , Angerer RC , Morris RL , Peterson KJ .

Molecular paleoecology is the application of molecular data to test hypotheses made by paleoecological scenarios. Here, we use gene regulatory analysis to test between two competing paleoecological scenarios put forth to explain the evolution of complex life cycles. The first posits that early bilaterians were holobenthic, and the evolution of macrophagous grazing drove the exploitation of the pelagos by metazoan eggs and embryos, and eventually larvae. The alternative hypothesis predicts that early bilaterians were holopelagic, and new adult stages were added on when these holopelagic forms began to feed on the benthos. The former hypothesis predicts that the larvae of protostomes and deuterostomes are not homologous, with the implication that larval-specific structures, including the apical organ, are the products of convergent evolution, whereas the latter hypothesis predicts homology of larvae, specifically homology of the apical organ. We show that in the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, the transcription factors NK2.1 and HNF6 are necessary for the correct spatial expression profiles of five different cilia genes. All of these genes are expressed exclusively in the apical plate after the mesenchyme-blastula stage in cells that also express NK2.1 and HNF6. In addition, abrogation of SpNK2.1 results in embryos that lack the apical tuft. However, in the red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, NK2.1 and HNF6 are not expressed in any cells that also express these same five cilia genes. Nonetheless, like the sea urchin, the gastropod expresses both NK2.1 and FoxA around the stomodeum and foregut, and FoxA around the proctodeum. As we detected no similarity in the development of the apical tuft between the sea urchin and the abalone, these molecular data are consistent with the hypothesis that the evolution of mobile, macrophagous metazoans drove the evolution of complex life cycles multiple times independently in the late Precambrian.

PubMed ID: 17227363
Article link: Evol Dev
Grant support: [+]

Genes referenced: foxa1 hnf6 LOC100887844 nkx2-1 onecut2