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Holland, LZ, Holland ND.  1992.  Early Development in the Lancelet (= Amphioxus) Branchiostoma-Floridae from Sperm Entry through Pronuclear Fusion - Presence of Vegetal Pole Plasm and Lack of Conspicuous Ooplasmic Segregation. Biological Bulletin. 182:77-96.   10.2307/1542182   AbstractWebsite

Lancelet eggs are described from serial fine sections before fertilization and at frequent intervals thereafter until the male and female pronuclei meet at 16 min after insemination. In the unfertilized egg, although mitochondria, as well as yolk granules, are evenly distributed (both are absent only from the egg cortex and meiotic spindle), the mitochondria in the animal third have a more electron-lucent matrix than those elsewhere. The cortex of the unfertilized egg is occupied chiefly by cortical granules, and the subcortical cytoplasm in the vegetal third includes sheets of dense granules interleaved with cisternae of endoplasmic reticulum. By 45 s after insemination, (1) the fertilizing sperm enters (in the animal hemisphere in three out of three observations), (2) yolk granules become patchily distributed around the newly entered sperm, (3) cortical granule exocytosis occurs, and (4) the sheets of dense granules and associated endoplasmic reticulum aggregate with numerous mitochondria into whorls in a yolk-free zone near the vegetal pole. These whorls are the vegetal pole plasm, which is segregated into a single blastomere at each cleavage and might play a role in germ line determination. By 2 min after insemination, the zone of cytoplasm near the animal pole with patchily distributed yolk has enlarged, and the male pronucleus has migrated to the vicinity of the vegetal pole and formed an aster, at the center of which a few mitochondria are aggregated. In lancelets, unlike ascidians, there is no obvious widespread ooplasmic segregation or translocation of cytoplasm from animal to vegetal pole accompanying the movement of the sperm. Between 6 and 16 min, (1) the zone of cytoplasm with patchily distributed yolk enlarges to occupy about the animal third of the egg, (2) the female pronucleus forms by fusion of chromosome-containing vesicles and migrates vegetally, leaving a track of yolk-poor cytoplasm, and (3) the male pronucleus, surrounded by increasing numbers of mitochondria, migrates to meet the female pronucleus just above the equator. In contrast to current opinion, lancelets differ from ascidians both in having a vegetal pole plasm and in lacking marked ooplasmic segregation.

Holland, LZ, Onai T.  2012.  Early development of cephalochordates (amphioxus). Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology. 1:167-183.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.   10.1002/wdev.11   AbstractWebsite

The Phylum Chordata includes three groups—Vertebrata, Tunicata, and Cephalochordata. In cephalochordates, commonly called amphioxus or lancelets, which are basal in the Chordata, the eggs are small and relatively non-yolky. As in vertebrates, cleavage is indeterminate with cell fates determined gradually as development proceeds. The oocytes are attached to the ovarian follicle at the animal pole, where the oocyte nucleus is located. The cytoplasm at the opposite side of the egg, the vegetal pole, contains the future germ plasm or pole plasm, which includes determinants of the germline. After fertilization, additional asymmetries are established by movements of the egg and sperm nuclei, resulting in a concentration of mitochondria at one side of the animal hemisphere. This may be related to establishment of the dorsal/ventral axis. Patterning along the embryonic axes is mediated by secreted signaling proteins. Dorsal identity is specified by Nodal/Vg1 signaling, while during the gastrula stage, opposition between Nodal/Vg1 and BMP signaling establishes dorsal/anterior (i.e., head) and ventral/posterior (i.e., trunk/tail) identities, respectively. Wnt/β-catenin signaling specifies posterior identity while retinoic acid signaling specifies positions along the anterior/posterior axis. These signals are further modulated by a number of secreted antagonists. This fundamental patterning mechanism is conserved, with some modifications, in vertebrates. WIREs Dev Biol 2012, 1:167–183. doi: 10.1002/wdev.11 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Gould-Somero, M, Jaffe LA, Holland LZ.  1979.  Electrically Mediated Fast Polyspermy Block in Eggs of the Marine Worm, Urechis-Caupo. Journal of Cell Biology. 82:426-440.   10.1083/jcb.82.2.426   Website
Holland, LZ, Gould-Somero M.  1981.  Electro-physiological response to insemination in oocytes of Urechis caupo. Developmental Biology. 83(1):90-100.   10.1016/S0012  
Holland, ND, Holland LZ.  1993.  Embryos and larvae of invertebrate deuterostomes. Essential developmental biology : a practical approach. ( Stern CD, Holland PWH, Eds.).:21-32., Oxford ; New York: IRL Press at Oxford University Press Abstract
Onai, T, Takai A, Setiamarga DHE, Holland LZ.  2012.  Essential role of Dkk3 for head formation by inhibiting Wnt/beta-catenin and Nodal/Vg1 signaling pathways in the basal chordate amphioxus. Evolution & Development. 14:338-350.   10.1111/j.1525-142X.2012.00552.x   AbstractWebsite

To dissect the molecular mechanism of head specification in the basal chordate amphioxus, we investigated the function of Dkk3, a secreted protein in the Dickkopf family, which is expressed anteriorly in early embryos. Amphioxus Dkk3 has three domains characteristic of Dkk3 proteinsan N-terminal serine rich domain and two C-terminal cysteine-rich domains (CRDs). In addition, amphioxus Dkk3 has a TGF beta-receptor 2 domain, which is not present in Dkk3 proteins of other species. As vertebrate Dkk3 proteins have been reported to regulate either Nodal signaling or Wnt/beta-catenin signaling but not both in the same species, we tested the effects of Dkk3 on signaling by these two pathways in amphioxus embryos. Loss of function experiments with an anti-sense morpholino oligonucleotide (MO) against amphioxus Dkk3 resulted in larvae with truncated heads and concomitant loss of expression of anterior gene markers. The resemblance of the headless phenotype to that from upregulation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling with BIO, a GSK3 beta inhibitor, suggested that Dkk3 might inhibit Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. In addition, the Dkk3 MO rescued dorsal structures in amphioxus embryos treated with SB505124, an inhibitor of Nodal signaling, indicating that amphioxus Dkk3 can also inhibit Nodal signaling. In vitro assays in Xenopus animal caps showed that Nodal inhibition is largely due to domains other than the TGF beta domain. We conclude that amphioxus Dkk3 regulates head formation by modulating both Wnt/beta-catenin and Nodal signaling, and that these functions may have been partitioned among various vertebrate lineages during evolution of Dkk3 proteins.

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.

Holland, LZ.  2015.  Evolution of basal deuterostome nervous systems. Journal of Experimental Biology. 218:637-645.   10.1242/jeb.109108   AbstractWebsite

Understanding the evolution of deuterostome nervous systems has been complicated by the by the ambiguous phylogenetic position of the Xenocoelomorpha (Xenoturbellids, acoel flat worms, nemertodermatids), which has been placed either as basal bilaterians, basal deuterostomes or as a sister group to the hemichordate/echinoderm clade (Ambulacraria), which is a sister group of the Chordata. None of these groups has a single longitudinal nerve cord and a brain. A further complication is that echinoderm nerve cords are not likely to be evolutionarily related to the chordate central nervous system. For hemichordates, opinion is divided as to whether either one or none of the two nerve cords is homologous to the chordate nerve cord. In chordates, opposition by two secreted signaling proteins, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Nodal, regulates partitioning of the ectoderm into central and peripheral nervous systems. Similarly, in echinoderm larvae, opposition between BMP and Nodal positions the ciliary band and regulates its extent. The apparent loss of this opposition in hemichordates is, therefore, compatible with the scenario, suggested by Dawydoff over 65 years ago, that a true centralized nervous system was lost in hemichordates.

Holland, LZ, Carvalho JE, Escriva H, Laudet V, Schubert M, Shimeld SM, Yu JK.  2013.  Evolution of bilaterian central nervous systems: a single origin? Evodevo. 4   10.1186/2041-9139-4-27   AbstractWebsite

The question of whether the ancestral bilaterian had a central nervous system (CNS) or a diffuse ectodermal nervous system has been hotly debated. Considerable evidence supports the theory that a CNS evolved just once. However, an alternative view proposes that the chordate CNS evolved from the ectodermal nerve net of a hemichordate-like ancestral deuterostome, implying independent evolution of the CNS in chordates and protostomes. To specify morphological divisions along the anterior/posterior axis, this ancestor used gene networks homologous to those patterning three organizing centers in the vertebrate brain: the anterior neural ridge, the zona limitans intrathalamica and the isthmic organizer, and subsequent evolution of the vertebrate brain involved elaboration of these ancestral signaling centers; however, all or part of these signaling centers were lost from the CNS of invertebrate chordates. The present review analyzes the evidence for and against these theories. The bulk of the evidence indicates that a CNS evolved just once - in the ancestral bilaterian. Importantly, in both protostomes and deuterostomes, the CNS represents a portion of a generally neurogenic ectoderm that is internalized and receives and integrates inputs from sensory cells in the remainder of the ectoderm. The expression patterns of genes involved in medio/lateral (dorso/ventral) patterning of the CNS are similar in protostomes and chordates; however, these genes are not similarly expressed in the ectoderm outside the CNS. Thus, their expression is a better criterion for CNS homologs than the expression of anterior/posterior patterning genes, many of which (for example, Hox genes) are similarly expressed both in the CNS and in the remainder of the ectoderm in many bilaterians. The evidence leaves hemichordates in an ambiguous position - either CNS centralization was lost to some extent at the base of the hemichordates, or even earlier, at the base of the hemichordates + echinoderms, or one of the two hemichordate nerve cords is homologous to the CNS of protostomes and chordates. In any event, the presence of part of the genetic machinery for the anterior neural ridge, the zona limitans intrathalamica and the isthmic organizer in invertebrate chordates together with similar morphology indicates that these organizers were present, at least in part, at the base of the chordates and were probably elaborated upon in the vertebrate lineage.

Yue, JX, Holland ND, Holland LZ, Deheyn DD.  2016.  The evolution of genes encoding for green fluorescent proteins: insights from cephalochordates (amphioxus). Scientific Reports. 6   10.1038/srep28350   AbstractWebsite

Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) was originally found in cnidarians, and later in copepods and cephalochordates (amphioxus) (Branchiostoma spp). Here, we looked for GFP-encoding genes in Asymmetron, an early-diverged cephalochordate lineage, and found two such genes closely related to some of the Branchiostoma GFPs. Dim fluorescence was found throughout the body in adults of Asymmetron lucayanum, and, as in Branchiostoma floridae, was especially intense in the ripe ovaries. Spectra of the fluorescence were similar between Asymmetron and Branchiostoma. Lineage-specific expansion of GFP-encoding genes in the genus Branchiostoma was observed, largely driven by tandem duplications. Despite such expansion, purifying selection has strongly shaped the evolution of GFP-encoding genes in cephalochordates, with apparent relaxation for highly duplicated clades. All cephalochordate GFP-encoding genes are quite different from those of copepods and cnidarians. Thus, the ancestral cephalochordates probably had GFP, but since GFP appears to be lacking in more early-diverged deuterostomes (echinoderms, hemichordates), it is uncertain whether the ancestral cephalochordates (i.e. the common ancestor of Asymmetron and Branchiostoma) acquired GFP by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from copepods or cnidarians or inherited it from the common ancestor of copepods and deuterostomes, i.e. the ancestral bilaterians.

Holland, LZ, McFallNgai M, Somero GN.  1997.  Evolution of lactate dehydrogenase-A homologs of barracuda fishes (genus Sphyraena) from different thermal environments: Differences in kinetic properties and thermal stability are due to amino acid substitutions outside the active site. Biochemistry. 36:3207-3215.   10.1021/bi962664k   AbstractWebsite

Orthologous homologs of lactate dehydrogenase-a (LDH-A) (EC; NAD(+):lactate oxidoreductase) of six barracuda species (genus Sphyraena) display differences in Michaelis-Menten constants (apparent K-m) for substrate (pyruvate) and cofactor (NADH) that reflect evolution at different habitat temperatures. Significant increases in K-m with increasing measurement temperature occur for all homologs, yet K-m at normal body temperatures is similar among species because of the inverse relationship between adaptation temperature and K-m. Thermal stabilities of the homologs also differ. To determine the amino acid substitutions responsible for differences in K-m and thermal stability, peptide mapping of the LDH-As of all six species was first performed. Then, the amino acid sequences of the three homologs having the most similar peptide maps, those of the north temperate species, S. argentea, the subtropical species, S. lucasana, and the south temperate species, S. idiastes, were deduced from the respective cDNA sequences. At most, there were four amino acid substitutions between any pair of species, none of which occurred in the loop or substrate binding sites of the enzymes. The sequence of LDH-A from S. lucasana differs from that of S. idiastes only at position 8. The homolog of S. argentea differs from the other two sequences at positions 8, 61, 68, and 223. We used a full-length cDNA clone of LDH-A of S. lucasana to test, by site-directed mutagenesis, the importance of these sequence changes in establishing the observed differences in kinetics and thermal stability. Differences in sequence at sites 61 and/or 68 appear to account for the differences in K-m between the LDH-As of S. argentea and S. lucasana. Differences at position 8 appear to account for the difference in thermal stability between the homologs of S. argentea and S. lucasana. Evolutionary adaptation of proteins to temperature thus may be achieved by minor changes in sequence at locations outside of active sites, and these changes may independently affect kinetic properties and thermal stabilities.

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.

Holland, LZ.  2013.  Evolution of new characters after whole genome duplications: Insights from amphioxus. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. 24:101-109.   AbstractWebsite

Additional copies of genes resulting from two whole genome duplications at the base of the vertebrates have been suggested as enabling the evolution of vertebrate-specific structures such as neural crest, a midbrain/hindbrain organizer and neurogenic placodes. These structures, however, did not evolve entirely de novo, but arose from tissues already present in an ancestral chordate. This review discusses the evolutionary history of co-option of old genes for new roles in vertebrate development as well as the relative contributions of changes in cis-regulation and in protein structure. Particular examples are the FoxD, FGF8/17/18 and Pax2/5/8 genes. Comparisons with invertebrate chordates (amphioxus and tunicates) paint a complex picture with co-option of genes into new structures occurring both after and before the whole genome duplications. In addition, while cis-regulatory changes are likely of primary importance in evolution of vertebrate-specific structures, changes in protein structure including alternative splicing are non-trivial.

Holland, LZ, Schubert M, Holland LZ, Neuman T.  2001.  Evolutionary conservation of the presumptive neural plate markers AmphiSox1/2/3 and AmphiNeurogenin in the invertebrate chordate amphioxus. Developmental Biology. 232:493-508.
Holland, LZ, Schubert M, Holland ND, Neuman T.  2000.  Evolutionary conservation of the presumptive neural plate markers AmphiSox1/2/3 and AmphiNeurogenin in the invertebrate chordate amphioxus. Developmental Biology. 226:18-33.   10.1006/dbio.2000.9810   AbstractWebsite

Amphioxus, as the closest living invertebrate relative of the vertebrates, can give insights into the evolutionary origin of the vertebrate body plan. Therefore, to investigate the evolution of genetic mechanisms for establishing and patterning the neuroectoderm, we cloned and determined the embryonic expression of two amphioxus transcription factors, AmphiSox1/2/3 and AmphiNeurogenin. These genes are the earliest known markers for presumptive neuroectoderm in amphioxus. By the early neurula stage, AmphiNeurogenin expression becomes restricted to two bilateral columns of segmentally arranged neural plate cells, which probably include precursors of motor neurons. This is the earliest indication of segmentation in the amphioxus nerve cord, Later, expression extends to dorsal cells in the nerve cord, which may include precursors of sensory neurons. By the midneurula, AmphiSox1/2/3 expression becomes limited to the dorsal part of the forming neural tube. These patterns resemble those of their vertebrate and Drosophila homologs. Taken together with the evolutionarily conserved expression of the dorsoventral patterning genes, BLP2/4 and chordin, in nonneural and neural ectoderm, respectively, of chordates and Drosophila, our results are consistent with the evolution of the chordate dorsal nerve cord and the insect ventral nerve cord from a longitudinal nerve cord in a common bilaterian ancestor. However, AmphiSox1/2/3 differs from its vertebrate homologs in not being expressed outside the CNS, suggesting that additional roles for this gene have evolved in connection with gene duplication in the vertebrate lineage. In contrast, expression in the midgut of AmphiNeurogenin together with the gene encoding the insulin-like peptide suggests that amphioxus may have homologs of vertebrate pancreatic islet cells, which express neurogenin3. In addition, AmphiNeurogenin, like its vertebrate and Drosophila homologs, is expressed in apparent precursors of epidermal chemosensory and possibly mechanosensory cells, suggesting a common origin for protostome and deuterostome epidermal sensory cells in the ancestral bilaterian. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Holland, ND, Holland LZ, Davis CA, Honma Y.  1991.  Expression domains of engrailed gene in lamprey embryos. American Zoologist. 31:A46-A46. AbstractWebsite
Holland, LZ, Holland ND.  1996.  Expression of AmphiHox-1 and AmphiPax-1 in amphioxus embryos treated with retinoic acid: Insights into evolution and patterning of the chordate nerve cord and pharynx. Development. 122:1829-1838. AbstractWebsite

Excess all-trans retinoic acid (RA) causes severe craniofacial malformations in vertebrate embryos: pharyngeal arches are fused or absent, and a rostrad expansion of Hoxb-1 expression in the hindbrain shows that anterior rhombomeres are homeotically respecified to a more posterior identity. As a corollary, neural crest migration into the pharyngeal arches is abnormal. We administered excess RA to developing amphioxus, the closest invertebrate relative of the vertebrates and thus a key organism for understanding evolution of the vertebrate body plan. In normal amphioxus, the nerve cord has only a slight anterior swelling, the cerebral vesicle, and apparently lacks migratory neural crest. Nevertheless, excess RA similarly affects amphioxus and vertebrates. The expression domain of AmphiHox-1 (homologous to mouse Hoxb-1) in the amphioxus nerve cord is also extended anteriorly. For both the amphioxus and mouse genes, excess RA causes either (1) continuous expression throughout the preotic hindbrain (mouse) and from the level of somite 7 to the anterior end of the nerve cord (amphioxus) or (2) discontinuous expression with a gap in rhombomere 3 (mouse) and a gap at the posterior end of the cerebral vesicle (amphioxus). A comparison of these expression patterns suggests that amphioxus has a homolog of the vertebrate hindbrain, both preotic and postotic. Although RA alters the expression of AmphiHox-1 expression in the amphioxus nerve cord, it does not alter the expression of AmphiHox-1 in presomitic mesoderm or of alkali myosin light chain (AmphiMlc-alk) in somites, and the axial musculature and notochord develop normally. The most striking morphogenetic effect of RA on amphioxus larvae is the failure of mouth and gill slits to form. In vertebrates effects of excess RA on pharyngeal development have been attributed solely to the abnormal migratory patterns of Hox-expressing cranial neural crest cells. This cannot be true for amphioxus because of the lack of migratory neural crest. Furthermore, expression of Hox genes in pharyngeal tissues of amphioxus has not yet been detected. However, the absence of gill slits in RA-treated amphioxus embryos correlates with an RA-induced failure of AmphiPax-1 to become down-regulated in regions of pharyngeal endoderm that would normally fuse with the overlying ectoderm. In vertebrates, RA might similarly act via Pax-1/9, also expressed in pharyngeal endoderm, to impair pharyngeal patterning.

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.

Beaster-Jones, L, Kaltenbach S, Koop D, Yuan SC, Chastain R, Holland LZ.  2008.  Expression of somite segmentation genes in amphioxus: a clock without a wavefront? Development Genes and Evolution. 218:599-611.   10.1007/s00427-008-0257-5   AbstractWebsite

In the basal chordate amphioxus (Branchiostoma), somites extend the full length of the body. The anteriormost somites segment during the gastrula and neurula stages from dorsolateral grooves of the archenteron. The remaining ones pinch off, one at a time, from the tail bud. These posterior somites appear to be homologous to those of vertebrates, even though the latter pinch off from the anterior end of bands of presomitic mesoderm rather than directly from the tail bud. To gain insights into the evolution of mesodermal segmentation in chordates, we determined the expression of ten genes in nascent amphioxus somites. Five (Uncx4.1, NeuroD/atonal-related, IrxA, Pcdh delta 2-17/18, and Hey1) are expressed in stripes in the dorsolateral mesoderm at the gastrula stage and in the tail bud while three (Paraxis, Lcx, and Axin) are expressed in the posterior mesendoderm at the gastrula and neurula stages and in the tail bud at later stages. Expression of two genes (Pbx and OligA) suggests roles in the anterior somites that may be unrelated to initial segmentation. Together with previous data, our results indicate that, with the exception that Engrailed is only segmentally expressed in the anterior somites, the genetic mechanisms controlling formation of both the anterior and posterior somites are probably largely identical. Thus, the fundamental pathways for mesodermal segmentation involving Notch-Delta, Wnt/beta-catenin, and Fgf signaling were already in place in the common ancestor of amphioxus and vertebrates although budding of somites from bands of presomitic mesoderm exhibiting waves of expression of Notch, Wnt, and Fgf target genes was likely a vertebrate novelty. Given the conservation of segmentation gene expression between amphioxus and vertebrate somites, we propose that the clock mechanism may have been established in the basal chordate, while the wavefront evolved later in the vertebrate lineage.

Lin, HC, Holland LZ, Holland ND.  2006.  Expression of the AmphiTcf gene in amphioxus: Insights into the evolution of the TCF/LEF gene family during vertebrate evolution. Developmental Dynamics. 235:3396-3403.   10.1002/dvdy.20971   AbstractWebsite

T-cell factor (TCF) and lymphoid enhancer factors (LEF) genes encode proteins that are transcription factors mediating beta-catenin/Wnt signaling. Whereas mammals have four such genes, the Florida amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae) apparently has only one such gene (AmphiTcF). From cleavage through early gastrula, cytoplasmic maternal transcripts of this gene are localized toward the animal pole. In gastrulae, AmphiTcf expression begins in the mesendoderm. In neurulae, there is expression in the pharynx, hindgut, anterior notochord, somites, and at the anterior end of the neural plate. In early larvae, expression is detectable in the floor of the diencephalon, notochord, tail bud, forming somites, pharynx, and ciliated pit (a presumed homolog of the vertebrate adenohypophysis). Phylogenetic analysis of TCF/LEF proteins placed AmphiTcf as the sister group of a clade comprising vertebrate Tcf1, Lef1, Tcf3, and Tcf4. Comparison of developmental expression for amphioxus AmphiTcf and vertebrate TCF/LEF genes indicates that this gene family has undergone extensive subfunctionalization and neofunctionalization during vertebrate evolution.

Yu, J-K, Holland LZ.  2009.  Extraction of DNA from adult amphioxus tissue. . Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. 2009:pdb.prot5287(9)   10.1101/pdb.prot5287  
Yu, J-K, Holland LZ.  2009.  Extraction of RNA from amphioxus embryos or adult amphioxus tissues. . Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. 2009:pdb.prot5288. (9)   10.1101/pdb.prot5288.  
Yu, J-K, Holland LZ.  2009.  Extraction of RNA from small amounts of amphioxus embryos. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. 2009:pdb.prot5289.   10.1101/pdb.prot5289