Conservation of notochord gene expression across chordates: insights from the Leprecan gene family

Genesis. 2008 Nov;46(11):683-96. doi: 10.1002/dvg.20406.


The notochord is a defining character of the chordates, and the T-box transcription factor Brachyury has been shown to be required for notochord development in all chordates examined. In the ascidian Ciona intestinalis, at least 44 notochord genes have been identified as bona fide transcriptional targets of Brachyury. We examined the embryonic expression of a subset of murine orthologs of Ciona Brachyury target genes in the notochord to assess its conservation throughout chordate evolution. We focused on analyzing the Leprecan gene family, which in mouse is composed of three genes, as opposed to the single-copy Ciona gene. We found that all three mouse Leprecan genes are expressed in the notochord. Additionally, while Leprecan expression in C. intestinalis is confined to the notochord, expression of its mouse orthologs includes dorsal root ganglia, limb buds, branchial arches, and developing kidneys. These results have interesting implications for the evolution and development of chordates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciona intestinalis / embryology
  • Ciona intestinalis / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Mice / embryology*
  • Mice / genetics
  • Notochord / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Procollagen-Proline Dioxygenase / genetics*
  • Proteoglycans / genetics*


  • Lepre1 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • Procollagen-Proline Dioxygenase
  • proline, 2-oxoglutarate 3-dioxygenase