Orthologs of key vertebrate neural genes are expressed during neurogenesis in the annelid Platynereis dumerilii

Evol Dev. 2009 Sep-Oct;11(5):513-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2009.00359.x.


The molecular mechanisms underlying the formation and patterning of the nervous system are relatively poorly understood for lophotrochozoans (like annelids) as compared with ecdysozoans (especially Drosophila) and deuterostomes (especially vertebrates). Therefore, we have undertaken a candidate gene approach to study aspects of neurogenesis in a polychaete annelid Platynereis dumerilii. We determined the spatiotemporal expression for Platynereis orthologs of four genes (SoxB, Churchill, prospero/Prox, and SoxC) known to play key roles in vertebrate neurogenesis. During Platynereis development, SoxB is expressed in the neuroectoderm and its expression switches off when committed neural precursors are formed. Subsequently, Prox is expressed in all differentiating neural precursors in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Finally, SoxC and Churchill are transcribed in patterns consistent with their involvement in neural differentiation. The expression patterns of Platynereis SoxB and Prox closely resemble those in Drosophila and vertebrates--this suggests that orthologs of these genes play similar neurogenic roles in all bilaterians. Whereas Platynereis SoxC, like its vertebrate orthologs, plays a role in neural cell differentiation, related genes in Drosophila do not appear to be involved in neurogenesis. Finally, conversely to Churchill in Platynereis, vertebrate orthologs of this gene are expressed during neuroectoderm formation, but not later during nerve cell differentiation; in the insect lineage, homologs of these genes have been secondarily lost. In spite of such instances of functional divergence or loss, the present study shows conspicuous similarities in the genetic control of neurogenesis among bilaterians. These commonalities suggest that key features of the genetic program for neurogenesis are ancestral to bilaterians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Annelida / embryology*
  • Annelida / genetics
  • Annelida / metabolism*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Vertebrates / genetics