Investigating divergent mechanisms of mesoderm development in arthropods: the expression of Ph-twist and Ph-mef2 in Parhyale hawaiensis

J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2008 Jan 15;310(1):24-40. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.21135.


The evolution of mesoderm was important for the development of complex body plans as well as key organ systems. Genetic and molecular studies in the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, have provided the majority of information concerning mesoderm development in arthropods. In Drosophila, twist is necessary for the specification and correct morphogenesis of mesoderm and myocyte enhancing factor 2 (mef2) is involved downstream of twist to activate muscle differentiation. In Drosophila, mesoderm is defined by positional cues in the blastoderm embryo, while in another arthropod group, the amphipod crustaceans, cell lineage plays a greater role in defining the mesoderm. It is not known how different mechanistic strategies such as positional information vs. cell-lineage-dependent development affect the timing and use of gene networks. Here we describe the development of the mesoderm in a malacostracan crustacean, Parhyale hawaiensis, and characterize the expression of Parhyale twist and mef2 orthologues. In Parhyale, the mesoderm of the post-mandibular segments arises mainly through the asymmetric division of mesoteloblasts as the germband elongates. Ph-twist expression is seen in a subset of segmental mesoderm during germband development, but not during early cleavages when the specific mesodermal cell lineages first arise. ph-mef2 expression starts after the segmental mesoderm begins to proliferate and persists in developing musculature. While the association of these genes with mesoderm differentiation appears to be conserved across the animal kingdom, the timing of expression and relationship with different mechanisms of mesoderm development may give us greater insight into the ancestral use of these genes during mesoderm differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Amphipoda* / embryology
  • Amphipoda* / genetics
  • Amphipoda* / growth & development
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Male
  • Mesoderm / embryology*
  • Mesoderm / growth & development
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Myogenic Regulatory Factors / genetics*
  • Myogenic Regulatory Factors / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Twist-Related Protein 1 / genetics*
  • Twist-Related Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Myogenic Regulatory Factors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Twist-Related Protein 1