Gene Expression Changes Associated With the Developmental Plasticity of Sea Urchin Larvae in Response to Food Availability

Biol Bull. 2015 Jun;228(3):171-80. doi: 10.1086/BBLv228n3p171.


Planktotrophic sea urchin larvae are developmentally plastic: in response to food scarcity, development of the juvenile rudiment is suspended and larvae instead develop elongated arms, thus increasing feeding capacity and extending larval life. Here, data are presented on the effect of different feeding regimes on gene expression in larvae of the green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. These data indicate that during periods of starvation, larvae down-regulate genes involved in growth and metabolic activity while up-regulating genes involved in lipid transport, environmental sensing, and defense. Additionally, we show that starvation increases FoxO activity and that in well-fed larvae rapamycin treatment impedes rudiment growth, indicating that the latter requires TOR activity. These results suggest that the developmental plasticity of echinoplutei is regulated by genes known to control aging and longevity in other animals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes / genetics
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / physiology
  • Microalgae / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Strongylocentrotus / genetics
  • Strongylocentrotus / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Transcription Factors