Genome-wide transcriptional changes in development provide important insight into mechanisms underlying growth, differentiation, and patterning. However, such large-scale developmental studies have been limited to a few representatives of Ecdysozoans and Chordates. Here, we characterize transcriptomes of embryonic, larval, and metamorphic development in the marine mollusc Aplysia californica and reveal novel molecular components associated with life history transitions. Specifically, we identify more than 20 signal peptides, putative hormones, and transcription factors in association with early development and metamorphic stages-many of which seem to be evolutionarily conserved elements of signal transduction pathways. We also characterize genes related to biomineralization-a critical process of molluscan development. In summary, our experiment provides the first large-scale survey of gene expression in mollusc development, and complements previous studies on the regulatory mechanisms underlying body plan patterning and the formation of larval and juvenile structures. This study serves as a resource for further functional annotation of transcripts and genes in Aplysia, specifically and molluscs in general. A comparison of the Aplysia developmental transcriptome with similar studies in the zebra fish Danio rerio, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and other studies on molluscs suggests an overall highly divergent pattern of gene regulatory mechanisms that are likely a consequence of the different developmental modes of these organisms.
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