A transcriptional blueprint for a spiral-cleaving embryo

BMC Genomics. 2016 Aug 5;17:552. doi: 10.1186/s12864-016-2860-6.


Background: The spiral cleavage mode of early development is utilized in over one-third of all animal phyla and generates embryonic cells of different size, position, and fate through a conserved set of stereotypic and invariant asymmetric cell divisions. Despite the widespread use of spiral cleavage, regulatory and molecular features for any spiral-cleaving embryo are largely uncharted. To address this gap we use RNA-sequencing on the spiralian model Platynereis dumerilii to capture and quantify the first complete genome-wide transcriptional landscape of early spiral cleavage.

Results: RNA-sequencing datasets from seven stages in early Platynereis development, from the zygote to the protrochophore, are described here including the de novo assembly and annotation of ~17,200 Platynereis genes. Depth and quality of the RNA-sequencing datasets allow the identification of the temporal onset and level of transcription for each annotated gene, even if the expression is restricted to a single cell. Over 4000 transcripts are maternally contributed and cleared by the end of the early spiral cleavage phase. Small early waves of zygotic expression are followed by major waves of thousands of genes, demarcating the maternal to zygotic transition shortly after the completion of spiral cleavages in this annelid species.

Conclusions: Our comprehensive stage-specific transcriptional analysis of early embryonic stages in Platynereis elucidates the regulatory genome during early spiral embryogenesis and defines the maternal to zygotic transition in Platynereis embryos. This transcriptome assembly provides the first systems-level view of the transcriptional and regulatory landscape for a spiral-cleaving embryo.

Keywords: Annelid; Lophotrochozoan; Maternal contribution; Spiral cleavage; Transcriptome; Zygotic transcription.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Ontology
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Phylogeny
  • Polychaeta / genetics*
  • Transcriptome*