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, 382 (1), 224-34

Deciphering the Onychophoran 'Segmentation Gene Cascade': Gene Expression Reveals Limited Involvement of Pair Rule Gene Orthologs in Segmentation, but a Highly Conserved Segment Polarity Gene Network

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Deciphering the Onychophoran 'Segmentation Gene Cascade': Gene Expression Reveals Limited Involvement of Pair Rule Gene Orthologs in Segmentation, but a Highly Conserved Segment Polarity Gene Network

Ralf Janssen et al. Dev Biol.

Abstract

The hallmark of the arthropods is their segmented body, although origin of segmentation, however, is unresolved. In order to shed light on the origin of segmentation we investigated orthologs of pair rule genes (PRGs) and segment polarity genes (SPGs) in a member of the closest related sister-group to the arthropods, the onychophorans. Our gene expression data analysis suggests that most of the onychophoran PRGs do not play a role in segmentation. One possible exception is the even-skipped (eve) gene that is expressed in the posterior end of the onychophoran where new segments are likely patterned, and is also expressed in segmentation-gene typical transverse stripes in at least a number of newly formed segments. Other onychophoran PRGs such as runt (run), hairy/Hes (h/Hes) and odd-skipped (odd) do not appear to have a function in segmentation at all. Onychophoran PRGs that act low in the segmentation gene cascade in insects, however, are potentially involved in segment-patterning. Most obvious is that from the expression of the pairberry (pby) gene ortholog that is expressed in a typical SPG-pattern. Since this result suggested possible conservation of the SPG-network we further investigated SPGs (and associated factors) such as Notum in the onychophoran. We find that the expression patterns of SPGs in arthropods and the onychophoran are highly conserved, suggesting a conserved SPG-network in these two clades, and indeed also in an annelid. This may suggest that the common ancestor of lophotrochozoans and ecdysozoans was already segmented utilising the same SPG-network, or that the SPG-network was recruited independently in annelids and onychophorans/arthropods.

Keywords: Cubitus-interruptus; Development; Even-skipped; Hairy; Hedgehog; Notum; Odd-paired; Odd-skipped; Onychophora; Pairberry; Paired; Patched; Runt; Sloppy-paired.

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