The chordate amphioxus: an emerging model organism for developmental biology

Holland, LZ, Laudet V, Schubert M.  2004.  The chordate amphioxus: an emerging model organism for developmental biology. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 61:2290-2308.

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acid signaling, cephalochordate, early, endoderm, genome duplications, genome evolution, hox gene-cluster, neural crest, neural crest evolution, paired box gene, pathway, pharyngeal, pharyngeal patterning, retinoic acid, tail bud, transcription factor foxd3, vertebrate evolution, xenopus tail bud


The cephalochordate amphioxus is the closest living invertebrate relative of the vertebrates. It is vertebrate-like in having a dorsal, hollow nerve cord, notochord, segmental muscles, pharyngeal gill slits and a post-anal tail that develops from a tail bud. However, amphioxus is less complex than vertebrates, lacking neural crest and having little or no mesenchyme. The genetic programs patterning the amphioxus embryo are also similar to those patterning vertebrate embryos, although the amphioxus genome lacks the extensive gene duplications characteristic of vertebrates. This relative structural and genomic simplicity in a vertebrate-like organism makes amphioxus ideal as a model organism for understanding mechanisms of vertebrate development.