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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.

Short, S, Holland LZ.  2008.  The evolution of alternative splicing in the Pax family: The view from the basal chordate amphioxus. Journal of Molecular Evolution. 66:605-620.   10.1007/s00239-008-9113-5   AbstractWebsite

Pax genes encode transcription factors critical for metazoan development. Large-scale gene duplication with subsequent gene losses during vertebrate evolution has resulted in two human genes for each of the Pax1/9, Pax3/7, and Pax4/6 subfamilies and three for the Pax2/5/8 subfamily, compared to one each in the cephalochordate amphioxus. In addition, alternative splicing occurs in vertebrate Pax transcripts from all four subfamilies, and many splice forms are known to have functional importance. To better understand the evolution of alternative splicing within the Pax family, we systematically surveyed transcripts of the four amphioxus Pax genes. We have found alternative splicing in every gene. Comparisons with vertebrates suggest that the number of alternative splicing events per gene has not decreased following duplication; there are comparable levels in the four amphioxus Pax genes as in each gene of the equivalent vertebrate families. Thus, the total number of isoforms for the nine vertebrate genes is considerably higher than for the four amphioxus genes. Most alternative splicing events appear to have arisen since the divergence of amphioxus and vertebrate lineages, suggesting that differences in alternative splicing could account for divergent functions of the highly conserved Pax genes in both lineages. However, several events predicted to dramatically alter known functional domains are conserved between amphioxus and vertebrates, suggestive of a common chordate function. Our results, together with previous studies of vertebrate Pax genes, support the theory that alternative splicing impacts functional motifs more than gene duplication followed by divergence.

Kreslova, J, Holland LZ, Schubert M, Burgtorf C, Benes V, Kozmik Z.  2002.  Functional equivalency of amphioxus and vertebrate Pax258 transcription factors suggests that the activation of mid-hindbrain specific genes in vertebrates occurs via the recruitment of Pax regulatory elements. Gene. 282:143-150.   10.1016/s0378-1119(01)00840-x   AbstractWebsite

Pax genes encode transcription factors that control key developmental decisions in various animal phyla. The Pax2/5/8 subfamily plays a key role in specification and/or maintenance of vertebrate mid-hindbrain boundary (MHB) region by directly regulating expression of other genes, most notably En2. In the invertebrate chordate amphioxus, expression of AmphiPax2/5/8 is found in many sites that are homologous to the regions of the vertebrate embryo expressing orthologous genes Pax2, Pax5 or Pax8. However, no co-expression of AmphiPax2/5/8 and AmphiEn is detected in the region of the neural tube that might correspond to the vertebrate MHB. Based on this observation and the absence of AmphiWnt expression in this region it appears that amphioxus does not have a MHB. Here we investigated the possibility that the AmphiPax2/5/8, as a key component of MHB development, has lost some of the properties of its vertebrate counterparts. We have analyzed both the DNA-binding and transactivation properties of AmphiPax2/5/8 as well as its ability to interact with the groucho co-repressor. In all these assays AmphiPax2/5/8 is indistinguishable from the human Pax5. In addition, we found two alternatively spliced AmphiPax2/5/8 isoforms that function similarly to the alternatively spliced isoforms of human Pax8. Analysis of the AmphiEn regulatory region provided no evidence for AmphiPax2/5/8 binding and transactivation. Therefore, in amphioxus, AmphiPax2/5/8, although capable of performing all the necessary functions has not been recruited for a developmental mechanism which usually sets up MHB development in vertebrates. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Mazet, F, Yu JK, Liberles DA, Holland LZ, Shimeld SM.  2003.  Phylogenetic relationships of the Fox (Forkhead) gene family in the Bilateria. Gene. 316:79-89.   10.1016/s0378-1119(03)00741-8   AbstractWebsite

The Forkhead or Fox gene family encodes putative transcription factors. There are at least four Fox genes in yeast, 16 in Drosophila melanogaster (Dm) and 42 in humans. Recently, vertebrate Fox genes have been classified into 17 groups named FoxA to FoxQ [Genes Dev. 14 (2000) 142]. Here, we extend this analysis to invertebrates, using available sequences from D. melanogaster, Anopheles gambiae (Ag), Caenorhabditis elegans (Ce), the sea squirt Ciona intestinalis (Ci) and amphioxus Branchiostoma floridae (Bf), from which we also cloned several Fox genes. Phylogenetic analyses lend support to the previous overall subclassification of vertebrate genes, but suggest that four subclasses (FoxJ, L, N and Q) could be further subdivided to reflect their relationships to invertebrate genes. We were unable to identify orthologs of Fox subclasses E, H, I, J, M and Q1 in D. melanogaster, A. gambiae or C. elegans, suggesting either considerable loss in ecdysozoans or the evolution of these subclasses in the deuterostome lineage. Our analyses suggest that the common ancestor of protostomes and deuterostomes had a minimum complement of 14 Fox genes. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.