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2018
Ono, H, Koop D, Holland LZ.  2018.  Nodal and Hedgehog synergize in gill slit formation during development of the cephalochordate Branchiostoma floridae. Development. 145   10.1242/dev.162586   AbstractWebsite

The larval pharynx of the cephalochordate Branchiostoma (amphioxus) is asymmetrical. The mouth is on the left, and endostyle and gill slits are on the right. At the neurula, Nodal and Hedgehog (Hh) expression becomes restricted to the left. To dissect their respective roles in gill slit formation, we inhibited each pathway separately for 20 min at intervals during the neurula stage, before gill slits penetrate, and monitored the effects on morphology and expression of pharyngeal markers. The results pinpoint the short interval spanning the gastrula/neurula transition as the critical period for specification and positioning of future gill slits. Thus, reduced Nodal signaling shifts the gill slits ventrally, skews the pharyngeal domains of Hh, Pax1/9, Pax2/5/8, Six1/2 and IrxC towards the left, and reduces Hh and Tbx1/10 expression in endoderm and mesoderm, respectively. Nodal auto-regulates. Decreased Hh signaling does not affect gill slit positions or Hh or Nodal expression, but it does reduce the domain of Gli, the Hh target, in the pharyngeal endoderm. Thus, during the neurula stage, Nodal and Hh cooperate in gill slit development - Hh mediates gill slit formation and Nodal establishes their left-right position.

2015
Holland, ND, Holland LZ, Holland PWH.  2015.  Scenarios for the making of vertebrates. Nature. 520:450-455.   10.1038/nature14433   AbstractWebsite

Over the past 200 years, almost every invertebrate phylum has been proposed as a starting point for evolving vertebrates. Most of these scenarios are outdated, but several are still seriously considered. The short-range transition from ancestral invertebrate chordates (similar to amphioxus and tunicates) to vertebrates is well accepted. However, longer-range transitions leading up to the invertebrate chordates themselves are more controversial. Opinion is divided between the annelid and the enteropneust scenarios, predicting, respectively, a complex or a simple ancestor for bilaterian animals. Deciding between these ideas will be facilitated by further comparative studies of multicellular animals, including enigmatic taxa such as xenacoelomorphs.

2010
Holland, LZ, Short S.  2010.  Alternative Splicing in Development and Function of Chordate Endocrine Systems: A Focus on Pax Genes. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 50:22-34.   10.1093/icb/icq048   AbstractWebsite

Genome sequencing has facilitated an understanding of gene networks but has also shown that they are only a small part of the answer to the question of how genes translate into a functional organism. Much of the answer lies in epigenetics-heritable traits not directly encoded by the genome. One such phenomenon is alternative splicing, which affects over 75% of protein coding genes and greatly amplifies the number of proteins. Although it was postulated that alternative splicing and gene duplication are inversely proportional and, therefore, have similar effects on the size of the proteome, for ancient duplications such as occurred in the Pax family of transcription factors, that is not necessarily so. The importance of alternative splicing in development and physiology is only just coming to light. However, several techniques for studying isoform functions both in vitro and in vivo have been recently developed. As examples of what is known and what is yet to be discovered, this review focuses on the evolution and roles of the Pax family of transcription factors in development and on alternative splicing of endocrine genes and the factors that regulate them.

2008
Putnam, NH, Butts T, Ferrier DEK, Furlong RF, Hellsten U, Kawashima T, Robinson-Rechavi M, Shoguchi E, Terry A, Yu JK, Benito-Gutierrez E, Dubchak I, Garcia-Fernandez J, Gibson-Brown JJ, Grigoriev IV, Horton AC, de Jong PJ, Jurka J, Kapitonov VV, Kohara Y, Kuroki Y, Lindquist E, Lucas S, Osoegawa K, Pennacchio LA, Salamov AA, Satou Y, Sauka-Spengler T, Schmutz J, Shin-I T, Toyoda A, Bronner-Fraser M, Fujiyama A, Holland LZ, Holland PWH, Satoh N, Rokhsar DS.  2008.  The amphioxus genome and the evolution of the chordate karyotype. Nature. 453:1064-U3.   10.1038/nature06967   AbstractWebsite

Lancelets ('amphioxus') are the modern survivors of an ancient chordate lineage, with a fossil record dating back to the Cambrian period. Here we describe the structure and gene content of the highly polymorphic similar to 520-megabase genome of the Florida lancelet Branchiostoma floridae, and analyse it in the context of chordate evolution. Whole-genome comparisons illuminate the murky relationships among the three chordate groups (tunicates, lancelets and vertebrates), and allow not only reconstruction of the gene complement of the last common chordate ancestor but also partial reconstruction of its genomic organization, as well as a description of two genome-wide duplications and subsequent reorganizations in the vertebrate lineage. These genome-scale events shaped the vertebrate genome and provided additional genetic variation for exploitation during vertebrate evolution.

Holland, LZ, Albalat R, Azumi K, Benito-Gutierrez E, Blow MJ, Bronner-Fraser M, Brunet F, Butts T, Candiani S, Dishaw LJ, Ferrier DEK, Garcia-Fernandez J, Gibson-Brown JJ, Gissi C, Godzik A, Hallbook F, Hirose D, Hosomichi K, Ikuta T, Inoko H, Kasahara M, Kasamatsu J, Kawashima T, Kimura A, Kobayashi M, Kozmik Z, Kubokawa K, Laudet V, Litman GW, McHardy AC, Meulemans D, Nonaka M, Olinski RP, Pancer Z, Pennacchio LA, Pestarino M, Rast JP, Rigoutsos I, Robinson-Rechavi M, Roch G, Saiga H, Sasakura Y, Satake M, Satou Y, Schubert M, Sherwood N, Shiina T, Takatori N, Tello J, Vopalensky P, Wada S, Xu AL, Ye YZ, Yoshida K, Yoshizaki F, Yu JK, Zhang Q, Zmasek CM, de Jong PJ, Osoegawa K, Putnam NH, Rokhsar DS, Satoh N, Holland PWH.  2008.  The amphioxus genome illuminates vertebrate origins and cephalochordate biology. Genome Research. 18:1100-1111.   10.1101/gr.073676.107   AbstractWebsite

Cephalochordates, urochordates, and vertebrates evolved from a common ancestor over 520 million years ago. To improve our understanding of chordate evolution and the origin of vertebrates, we intensively searched for particular genes, gene families, and conserved noncoding elements in the sequenced genome of the cephalochordate Branchiostoma floridae, commonly called amphioxus or lancelets. Special attention was given to homeobox genes, opsin genes, genes involved in neural crest development, nuclear receptor genes, genes encoding components of the endocrine and immune systems, and conserved cis-regulatory enhancers. The amphioxus genome contains a basic set of chordate genes involved in development and cell signaling, including a fifteenth Hox gene. This set includes many genes that were co-opted in vertebrates for new roles in neural crest development and adaptive immunity. However, where amphioxus has a single gene, vertebrates often have two, three, or four paralogs derived from two whole-genome duplication events. In addition, several transcriptional enhancers are conserved between amphioxus and vertebrates-a very wide phylogenetic distance. In contrast, urochordate genomes have lost many genes, including a diversity of homeobox families and genes involved in steroid hormone function. The amphioxus genome also exhibits derived features, including duplications of opsins and genes proposed to function in innate immunity and endocrine systems. Our results indicate that the amphioxus genome is elemental to an understanding of the biology and evolution of nonchordate deuterostomes, invertebrate chordates, and vertebrates.

2007
Rasmussen, SLK, Holland LZ, Schubert M, Beaster-Jones L, Holland ND.  2007.  Amphioxus AmphiDelta: Evolution of delta protein structure, segmentation, and neurogenesis. Genesis. 45:113-122.   10.1002/dvg.20278   AbstractWebsite

The amphioxus genome has a single Delta gene (AmphiDelta) encoding a protein 766 amino acids long. Comparison of Delta proteins of amphioxus and other animals indicates that AmphiDelta retains features of a basal bilaterian Delta protein-in having nine epidermal growth factor (EGF) repeats and also in having char acteristic numbers of amino acids separating successive cysteines between and within EGF repeats. During development, AmphiDelta is expressed in the forming somites, in some regions of pharyngeal endoderm, and in cells (presumably differentiating neurons) scattered in both the neural plate and ectoderm. Expression is strongly associated with cells initiating movements to separate themselves from parent epithelia, either en masse by evagination (endoderm and mesoderm) or by delamination as isolated cells (ectoderm). The AmphiDelta-expressing cells delaminating from the ectoderm apparently migrate beneath it as they begin differentiating into probable sensory neurons, suggesting a scenario for the evolutionary origin of the placode-derived neurons of vertebrate cranial ganglia. genesis 45:113-122, 2007. Published 2007 Wiley-Liss, lnc.(dagger)

Beaster-Jones, L, Schubert M, Holland LZ.  2007.  Cis-regulation of the amphioxus engrailed gene: Insights into evolution of a muscle-specific enhancer. Mechanisms of Development. 124:532-542.   10.1016/j.mod.2007.06.002   AbstractWebsite

To gain insights into the relation between evolution of cis-regulatory DNA and evolution of gene function, we identified tissue-specific enhancers of the engrailed gene of the basal chordate amphioxus (Branch iostoma floridae) and compared their ability to direct expression in both amphioxus and its nearest chordate relative, the tunicate Ciona intestinalis. In amphioxus embryos, the native engrailed gene is expressed in three domains - the eight most anterior somites, a few cells in the central nervous system (CNS) and a few ectodermal cells. In contrast, in C. intestinalis, in which muscle development is highly divergent, engrailed expression is limited to the CNS. To characterize the tissue-specific enhancers of amphioxus engrailed, we first showed that 7.8 kb of upstream DNA of amphioxus engrailed directs expression to all three domains in amphioxus that express the native gene. We then identified the amphioxus engrailed muscle-specific enhancer as the 1.2 kb region of upstream DNA with the highest sequence identity to the mouse en-2 jaw muscle enhancer. This amphioxus enhancer directed expression to both the somites in amphioxus and to the larval muscles in C intestinalis. These results show that even though expression of the native engrailed has apparently been lost in developing C intestinalis muscles, they express the transcription factors necessary to activate transcription from the amphioxus engrailed enhancer, suggesting that gene networks may not be completely disrupted if an individual component is lost. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

2005
Bardet, PL, Schubert M, Horard B, Holland LZ, Laudet V, Holland ND, Vanacker JM.  2005.  Expression of estrogen-receptor related receptors in amphioxus and zebrafish: implications for the evolution of posterior brain segmentation at the invertebrate-to-vertebrate transition. Evolution & Development. 7:223-233.   10.1111/j.1525-142X.2005.05025.x   AbstractWebsite

The evolutionary origin of vertebrate hindbrain segmentation is unclear since the amphioxus, the closest living invertebrate relative to the vertebrates, possesses a hindbrain homolog that displays no gross morphological segmentation. Three of the estrogen-receptor related (ERR) receptors are segmentally expressed in the zebrafish hindbrain, suggesting that their common ancestor was expressed in a similar, reiterated manner. We have also cloned and determined the developmental expression of the single homolog of the vertebrate ERR genes in the amphioxus (AmphiERR). This gene is also expressed in a segmented manner in a region considered homologous to the vertebrate hindbrain. In contrast to the expression of amphioxus islet (a LIM-homeobox gene that also labels motoneurons), AmphiERR expression persists longer in the hindbrain homolog and does not later extend to additional posterior cells. In addition, AmphiERR and one of its vertebrate homologs (ERR alpha) are expressed in the developing somitic musculature of amphioxus and zebrafish, respectively. Altogether, our results are consistent with fine structural evidence suggesting that the amphioxus hindbrain is segmented, and indicate that chordate ERR gene expression is a marker for both hindbrain and muscle segmentation. Furthermore, our data support an evolution model of chordate brain segmentation: originally, the program for anterior segmentation in the protochordate ancestors of the vertebrates resided in the developing axial mesoderm which imposed reiterated patterning on the adjacent neural tube; during early vertebrate evolution, this segmentation program was transferred to and controlled by the neural tube.

2001
Holland, LZ, Holland ND.  2001.  Evolution of neural crest and placodes: amphioxus as a model for the ancestral vertebrate? Journal of Anatomy. 199:85-98.   10.1046/j.1469-7580.199.parts1-2.8.x   AbstractWebsite

Recent studies of protochordates (ascidian tunicates and amphioxus) have given insights into possible ancestors of 2 of the characteristic features of the vertebrate head: neural crest and placodes. The neural crest probably evolved from cells on either side of the neural plate-epidermis boundary in a protochordate ancestral to the vertebrates. In amphioxus, homologues of several vertebrate neural crest marker genes (BMP2/4, Pax3/7, Msx, Dll and Snail) are expressed at the edges of the neural plate and/or adjacent nonneural ectoderm. Some of these markers are also similarly expressed in tunicates. In protochordates, however, these cells, unlike vertebrate neural crest, neither migrate as individuals through embryonic tissues nor differentiate into a wide spectrum of cell types. Therefore, while the protochordate ancestor of the vertebrates probably had the beginnings of a genetic programme for neural crest formation, this programme was augmented in the earliest vertebrates to attain definitive neural crest. Clear homologues of vertebrate placodes are lacking in protochordates. However, both amphioxus and tunicates have ectodermal sensory cells. In tunicates these are all primary neurons, sending axons to the central nervous system, while in amphioxus, the ectodermal sensory cells include both primary neurons and secondary neurons lacking axons. Comparisons of developmental gene expression suggest that the anterior ectoderm in amphioxus may be homologous to the vertebrate olfactory placode, the only vertebrate placode with primary, not secondary, neurons. Similarly, biochemical, morphological and gene expression data suggest that amphioxus and tunicates also have homologues of the adenohypophysis, one of the few vertebrate structures derived from nonneurogenic placodes. In contrast, the origin of the other vertebrate placodes is very uncertain.

1999
Holland, LZ, Schubert M, Kozmik Z, Holland ND.  1999.  AmphiPax3/7, an amphioxus paired box gene: insights into chordate myogenesis, neurogenesis, and the possible evolutionary precursor of definitive vertebrate neural crest. Evolution & Development. 1:153-165.   10.1046/j.1525-142x.1999.99019.x   AbstractWebsite

Amphioxus probably has only a single gene (AmphiPax3/7 ) in the Pax3/7 subfamily. Like its vertebrate homologs (Pax3 and Pax7 ), amphioxus AmphiPax3/7 is probably involved in specifying the axial musculature and muscularized notochord. During nervous system development, AmphiPax3/7 is first expressed in bilateral anteroposterior stripes along the edges of the neural plate. This early neural expression may be comparable to the transcription of Pax3 and Pax7 in some of the anterior neural crest cells of vertebrates. Previous studies by others and ourselves have demonstrated that several genes homologous to genetic markers for vertebrate neural crest are expressed along the neural plate-epidermis boundary in embryos of tunicates and amphioxus. Taken together, the early neural expression patterns of AmphiPax3/7 and other neural crest markers of amphioxus and tunicates suggest that cell populations that eventually gave rise to definitive vertebrate neural crest may have been present in ancestral invertebrate chordates. During later neurogenesis in amphioxus, AmphiPax3/7, like its vertebrate homologs, is expressed dorsally and dorsolaterally in the neural tube and may be involved in dorsoventral patterning. However, unlike its vertebrate homologs, AmphiPax3/7 is expressed only at the anterior end of the central nervous system instead of along much of the neuraxis; this amphioxus pattern may represent the loss of a primitive chordate character.

1998
Panopoulou, GD, Clark MD, Holland LZ, Lehrach H, Holland ND.  1998.  AmphiBMP2/4, an amphioxus bone morphogenetic protein closely related to Drosophila decapentaplegic and vertebrate BMP2 and BMP4: Insights into evolution of dorsoventral axis specification. Developmental Dynamics. 213:130-139.   10.1002/(sici)1097-0177(199809)213:1<130::aid-aja13>3.3.co;2-z   AbstractWebsite

Amphioxus AmphiBMP2/4 appears to be a single gene closely related to vertebrate BMP2 and BMP4. In amphioxus embryos, the expression patterns of AmphiBMP2/4 suggest patterning roles in the ectodermal dorsoventral axis (comparable to dorsoventral axis establishment in the ectoderm by Drosophila decapentaplegic and vertebrate BMP4). In addition AmphiBMP2/4 may be involved in somite evagination, tail bud growth, pharyngeal differentiation (resulting in club-shaped gland morphogenesis), hindgut regionalization, differentiation of olfactory epithelium, patterning of the anterior central nervous system, and establishment of the heart primordium, One difference between the developmental role of amphioxus AmphiBMP2/4 and vertebrate BMP4 is that the former does not appear to be involved in the initial establishment of the dorsoventral polarity of the mesoderm, Dev. Dyn. 1998;213:130-139. (C) 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Glardon, S, Holland LZ, Gehring WJ, Holland ND.  1998.  Isolation and developmental expression of the amphioxus Pax-6 gene (AmphiPax-6): insights into eye and photoreceptor evolution. Development. 125:2701-2710. AbstractWebsite

Pax-6 genes have been identified from a broad range of invertebrate and vertebrate animals and shown to be always involved in early eye development. Therefore, it has been proposed that the various types of eyes evolved from a single eye prototype, by a Pax-6-dependent mechanism. Here we describe the characterization of a cephalochordate Pax-6 gene. The single amphioxus Pax-6 gene (AmphiPax-6) can produce several alternatively spliced transcripts, resulting in proteins with markedly different amino and carboxy termini, The amphioxus Pax-6 proteins are 92% identical to mammalian Pax-6 proteins in the paired domain and 100% identical in the homeodomain. Expression of AmphiPax-6 in the anterior epidermis of embryos may be related to development of an olfactory epithelium. Expression is also detectable in Hatschek's left diverticulum as it forms the preoral ciliated pit, part of which gives rise to the homolog of the vertebrate anterior pituitary, A zone of expression in the anterior neural plate of early embryos is carried into the cerebral vesicle (a probable diencephalic homolog) during neurulation, This zone includes cells that will differentiate into the lamellar body, a presumed homolog of the vertebrate pineal eye, In neurulae, AmphiPax-6 is also expressed in ventral cells at the anterior tip of the nerve cord; these cells are precursors of the photoreceptive neurons of the frontal eye, the presumed homolog of the vertebrate paired eyes. However, AmphiPax-6 expression was not detected in two additional types of photoreceptors, the Joseph cells or the organs of Hesse, which are evidently relatively recent adaptations (ganglionic photoreceptors) and appear to be rare exceptions to the general rule that animal photoreceptors develop from a genetic program triggered by Pax-6.