The role of Brachyury and other T-box genes in the differentiation of mesoderm and endoderm of vertebrates is well established. Recently, homologues of Brachyury have been isolated from an increasing number of diverse organisms ranging from Cnidaria to vertebrates and insects. Comparative expression and function analysis allows the origin of the mesoderm and the evolution of the developmental role of Brachyury gene family in metazoans to be traced. The data suggest that an ancestral function of Brachyury was to designate a blastoporal region that had distinct properties in induction and axis elongation. A subset of blastoporal cells expressing Brachyury and other genes that convey specific mesodermal functions may have segregated as a distinct cell population from this region in the course of mesoderm evolution.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.