The endomesoderm gene regulatory network (GRN) of C. elegans is a rich resource for studying the properties of cell-fate-specification pathways. This GRN contains both cell-autonomous and cell non-autonomous mechanisms, includes network motifs found in other GRNs, and ties maternal factors to terminal differentiation genes through a regulatory cascade. In most cases, upstream regulators and their direct downstream targets are known. With the availability of resources to study close and distant relatives of C. elegans, the molecular evolution of this network can now be examined. Within Caenorhabditis, components of the endomesoderm GRN are well conserved. A cursory examination of the preliminary genome sequences of two parasitic nematodes, Haemonchus contortus and Brugia malayi, suggests that evolution in this GRN is occurring most rapidly for the zygotic genes that specify blastomere identity.
(c) 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.