Characterization of an amphioxus paired box gene, AmphiPax2/5/8: developmental expression patterns in optic support cells, nephridium, thyroid-like structures and pharyngeal gill slits, but not in the midbrain-hindbrain boundary region.
On the basis of developmental gene expression, the vertebrate central nervous system comprises: a forebrain plus anterior midbrain, a midbrain-hindbrain boundary region (MHB) having organizer properties, and a rhombospinal domain. The vertebrate MHB is characterized by position, by organizer properties and by being the early site of action of Wnt1 and engrailed genes, and of genes of the Pax2/5/8 subfamily. Wada and others (Wada, H., Saiga, H., Satoh, N. and Holland, P. W. H. (1998) Development 125, 1113-1122) suggested that ascidian tunicates have a vertebrate-like MHB on the basis of ascidian Pax258 expression there. In another invertebrate chordate, amphioxus, comparable gene expression evidence for a vertebrate-like MHB is lacking. We, therefore, isolated and characterized AmphiPax2/5/8, the sole member of this subfamily in amphioxus. AmphiPax2/5/8 is initially expressed well back in the rhombospinal domain and not where a MHB would be expected. In contrast, most of the other expression domains of AmphiPax2/5/8 correspond to expression domains of vertebrate Pax2, Pax5 and Pax8 in structures that are probably homologous - support cells of the eye, nephridium, thyroid-like structures and pharyngeal gill slits; although AmphiPax2/5/8 is not transcribed in any structures that could be interpreted as homologues of vertebrate otic placodes or otic vesicles. In sum, the developmental expression of AmphiPax2/5/8 indicates that the amphioxus central nervous system lacks a MHB resembling the vertebrate isthmic region. Additional gene expression data for the developing ascidian and amphioxus nervous systems would help determine whether a MHB is a basal chordate character secondarily lost in amphioxus. The alternative is that the MHB is a vertebrate innovation. (+info)
Molecular chaperones: small heat shock proteins in the limelight.
Small heat shock proteins have been the Cinderellas of the molecular chaperone world, but now the crystal structure of a small heat shock protein has been solved and mutation of two human homologues implicated in genetic disease. Intermediate filaments appear to be one of the key targets of their chaperone activity. (+info)
Insect evolution: Redesigning the fruitfly.
Homeotic mutations in Drosophila can result in dramatic phenotypes that suggest the possibility for rapid morphological evolution, but dissection of the genetic pathway downstream of Ultrabithorax is beginning to reveal how wing morphology may have evolved by more gradual transformations. (+info)
Ultrabithorax function in butterfly wings and the evolution of insect wing patterns.
BACKGROUND: . The morphological and functional evolution of appendages has played a critical role in animal evolution, but the developmental genetic mechanisms underlying appendage diversity are not understood. Given that homologous appendage development is controlled by the same Hox gene in different organisms, and that Hox genes are transcription factors, diversity may evolve from changes in the regulation of Hox target genes. Two impediments to understanding the role of Hox genes in morphological evolution have been the limited number of organisms in which Hox gene function can be studied and the paucity of known Hox-regulated target genes. We have therefore analyzed a butterfly homeotic mutant 'Hindsight', in which portions of the ventral hindwing pattern are transformed to ventral forewing identity, and we have compared the regulation of target genes by the Ultrabithorax (Ubx) gene product in Lepidopteran and Dipteran hindwings. RESULTS: . We show that Ubx gene expression is lost from patches of cells in developing Hindsight hindwings, correlating with changes in wing pigmentation, color pattern elements, and scale morphology. We use this mutant to study how regulation of target genes by Ubx protein differs between species. We find that several Ubx-regulated genes in the Drosophila haltere are not repressed by Ubx in butterfly hindwings, but that Distal-less (Dll) expression is regulated by Ubx in a unique manner in butterflies. CONCLUSIONS: . The morphological diversification of insect hindwings has involved the acquisition of different sets of target genes by Ubx in different lineages. Changes in Hox-regulated target gene sets are, in general, likely to underlie the morphological divergence of homologous structures between animals. (+info)
Molecular phylogeny of the ETS gene family.
We have constructed a molecular phylogeny of the ETS gene family. By distance and parsimony analysis of the ETS conserved domains we show that the family containing so far 29 different genes in vertebrates can be divided into 13 groups of genes namely ETS, ER71, GABP, PEA3, ERG, ERF, ELK, DETS4, ELF, ESE, TEL, YAN, SPI. Since the three dimensional structure of the ETS domain has revealed a similarity with the winged-helix-turn-helix proteins, we used two of them (CAP and HSF) to root the tree. This allowed us to show that the family can be divided into five subfamilies: ETS, DETS4, ELF, TEL and SPI. The ETS subfamily comprises the ETS, ER71, GABP, PEA3, ERG, ERF and the ELK groups which appear more related to each other than to any other ETS family members. The fact that some members of these subfamilies were identified in early metazoans such as diploblasts and sponges suggests that the diversification of ETS family genes predates the diversification of metazoans. By the combined analysis of both the ETS and the PNT domains, which are conserved in some members of the family, we showed that the GABP group, and not the ERG group, is the one most closely related to the ETS group. We also observed that the speed of accumulation of mutations in the various genes of the family is highly variable. Noticeably, paralogous members of the ELK group exhibit strikingly different evolutionary speed suggesting that the evolutionary pressure they support is very different. (+info)
Anopheles gambiae Ag-STAT, a new insect member of the STAT family, is activated in response to bacterial infection.
A new insect member of the STAT family of transcription factors (Ag-STAT) has been cloned from the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae. The domain involved in DNA interaction and the SH2 domain are well conserved. Ag-STAT is most similar to Drosophila D-STAT and to vertebrate STATs 5 and 6, constituting a proposed ancient class A of the STAT family. The mRNA is expressed at all developmental stages, and the protein is present in hemocytes, pericardial cells, midgut, skeletal muscle and fat body cells. There is no evidence of transcriptional activation following bacterial challenge. However, bacterial challenge results in nuclear translocation of Ag-STAT protein in fat body cells and induction of DNA-binding activity that recognizes a STAT target site. In vitro treatment with pervanadate (vanadate and H2O2) translocates Ag-STAT to the nucleus in midgut epithelial cells. This is the first evidence of direct participation of the STAT pathway in immune responses in insects. (+info)
Analysis of a ubiquitous promoter element in a primitive eukaryote: early evolution of the initiator element.
Typical metazoan core promoter elements, such as TATA boxes and Inr motifs, have yet to be identified in early-evolving eukaryotes, underscoring the extensive divergence of these organisms. Towards the identification of core promoters in protists, we have studied transcription of protein-encoding genes in one of the earliest-diverging lineages of Eukaryota, that represented by the parasitic protist Trichomonas vaginalis. A highly conserved element, comprised of a motif similar to a metazoan initiator (Inr) element, surrounds the start site of transcription in all examined T. vaginalis genes. In contrast, a metazoan-like TATA element appears to be absent in trichomonad promoters. We demonstrate that the conserved motif found in T. vaginalis protein-encoding genes is an Inr promoter element. This trichomonad Inr is essential for transcription, responsible for accurate start site selection, and interchangeable between genes, demonstrating its role as a core promoter element. The sequence requirements of the trichomonad Inr are similar to metazoan Inrs and can be replaced by a mammalian Inr. These studies show that the Inr is a ubiquitous, core promoter element for protein-encoding genes in an early-evolving eukaryote. Functional and structural similarities between this protist Inr and the metazoan Inr strongly indicate that the Inr promoter element evolved early in eukaryotic evolution. (+info)
The nuclear receptor superfamily has undergone extensive proliferation and diversification in nematodes.
The nuclear receptor (NR) superfamily is the most abundant class of transcriptional regulators encoded in the Caenorhabditis elegans genome, with >200 predicted genes revealed by the screens and analysis of genomic sequence reported here. This is the largest number of NR genes yet described from a single species, although our analysis of available genomic sequence from the related nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae indicates that it also has a large number. Existing data demonstrate expression for 25% of the C. elegans NR sequences. Sequence conservation and statistical arguments suggest that the majority represent functional genes. An analysis of these genes based on the DNA-binding domain motif revealed that several NR classes conserved in both vertebrates and insects are also represented among the nematode genes, consistent with the existence of ancient NR classes shared among most, and perhaps all, metazoans. Most of the nematode NR sequences, however, are distinct from those currently known in other phyla, and reveal a previously unobserved diversity within the NR superfamily. In C. elegans, extensive proliferation and diversification of NR sequences have occurred on chromosome V, accounting for > 50% of the predicted NR genes. (+info)