Morphological differences between forelimbs and hindlimbs are thought to be regulated by Tbx5 expressed in the forelimb and Tbx4 and Pitx1 expressed in the hindlimb. Gene deletion and misexpression experiments have suggested that these factors have two distinct functions during limb development: the initiation and/or maintenance of limb outgrowth and the specification of limb-specific morphologies. Using genetic methods in the mouse, we have investigated the roles of Tbx5, Tbx4, and Pitx1 in both processes. Our results support a role for Tbx5 and Tbx4, but not for Pitx1, in initiation of limb outgrowth. In contrast to conclusions from gene misexpression experiments in the chick, our results demonstrate that Tbx5 and Tbx4 do not determine limb-specific morphologies. However, our results support a role for Pitx1 in the specification of hindlimb-specific morphology. We propose a model in which positional codes, such as Pitx1 and Hox genes in the lateral plate mesoderm, dictate limb-specific morphologies.
The amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae) Hox cluster is a model for the ancestral vertebrate cluster, prior to the hypothesized genome-wide duplications that may have facilitated the evolution of the vertebrate body plan. Here we describe the posterior (5') genes of the amphioxus cluster, and report the isolation of four new homeobox genes. Vertebrates possess 13 types of Hox gene (paralogy groups), but we show that amphioxus possesses more than 13 Hox genes. Amphioxus is now the first animal in which a Hox14 gene has been found. Our mapping and phylogenetic analysis of amphioxus "Posterior Class" Hox genes reveals that these genes are evolving at a faster rate in deuterostomes than in protostomes, a phenomenon we term Posterior Flexibility.
SUMMARYTbx4 and Tbx5 are two closely related T-box genes that encode transcription factors expressed in the prospective hindlimb and forelimb territories, respectively, of all jawed vertebrates. Despite their striking limb type-restricted expression pattern, we have shown that these genes do not participate in the acquisition of limb type-specific morphologies. Instead, Tbx4 and Tbx5 play similar roles in the initiation of hindlimb and forelimb outgrowth, respectively. We hypothesized that different combinations of Hox proteins expressed in different rostral and caudal domains of the lateral plate mesoderm, where limb induction occurs, might be involved in regulating the limb type-restricted expression of Tbx4 and Tbx5 and in the later determination of limb type-specific morphologies. Here, we identify the minimal regulatory element sufficient for the earliest forelimb-restricted expression of the mouse Tbx5 gene and show that this sequence is Hox responsive. Our results support a mechanism in which Hox genes act upstream of Tbx5 to control the axial position of forelimb formation.
During development, mesodermal progenitors from the first heart field (FHF) form a primitive cardiac tube, to which progenitors from the second heart field (SHF) are added. The contribution of FHF and SHF progenitors to the adult zebrafish heart has not been studied to date. Here we find, using genetic tbx5a lineage tracing tools, that the ventricular myocardium in the adult zebrafish is mainly derived from tbx5a + cells, with a small contribution from tbx5a − SHF progenitors. Notably, ablation of ventricular tbx5a + -derived cardiomyocytes in the embryo is compensated by expansion of SHF-derived cells. In the adult, tbx5a expression is restricted to the trabeculae and excluded from the outer cortical layer. tbx5a-lineage tracing revealed that trabecular cardiomyocytes can switch their fate and differentiate into cortical myocardium during adult heart regeneration. We conclude that a high degree of cardiomyocyte cell fate plasticity contributes to efficient regeneration.
The majority of animals show external bilateral symmetry, precluding the observation of multiple internal left-right (L/R) asymmetries that are fundamental for organ packaging and function1,2. In vertebrates, left identity is mediated by the left-specific Nodal-Pitx2 axis that is repressed on the right-hand side by the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) inducer Snail13,4. Despite some existing evidence3,5, it remains unclear whether an equivalent instructive pathway provides right-hand specific information to the embryo. Here we show that in zebrafish, BMP mediates the L/R asymmetric activation of another EMT inducer, Prrx1a, in the lateral plate mesoderm (LPM) with higher levels on the right. Prrx1a drives L/R differential cell movements towards the midline leading to a leftward displacement of the cardiac posterior pole through an actomyosin-dependent mechanism. Downregulation of Prrx1a prevents heart looping and leads to mesocardia. Two parallel and mutually repressed pathways, respectively driven by Nodal and BMP on the left and right LPM, converge on the asymmetric activation of Pitx2 and Prrx1, two transcription factors that integrate left and right information to govern heart morphogenesis. This mechanism is conserved in the chicken embryo and, in the mouse, Snail1 fulfills the role played by Prrx1 in fish and chick. Thus, a differential L/R EMT produces asymmetric cell movements and forces, more prominent from the right, that drive heart laterality in vertebrates.
Vertebrate Hairy genes are highly pleiotropic and have been implicated in numerous functions, such as somitogenesis, neurogenesis and endocrine tissue development. In order to gain insight into the timing of acquisition of these roles by the Hairy subfamily, we have cloned and studied the expression pattern of the Hairy gene(s) in amphioxus. The cephalochordate amphioxus is widely believed to be the living invertebrate more closely related to vertebrates, the genome of which has not undergone the massive gene duplications that took place early during vertebrate evolution. Surprisingly,we have isolated eight Hairy genes from the `pre-duplicative' amphioxus genome. In situ hybridisation on amphioxus embryos showed that Hairy genes had experienced a process of subfunctionalisation that is predicted in the DDC model (for duplication-degeneration-complementation). Only the summation of four out of the eight Amphi-Hairy genes expression resembles the expression pattern of vertebrate Hairy genes, i.e. in the central nervous system,presomitic mesoderm, somites, notochord and gut. In addition, Amphi-Hairy genes expression suggest that amphioxus early somites are molecularly prefigured in an anteroposterior sequence in the dorsolateral wall of the archenteron, and the presence of a midbrain/hindbrain boundary. The expansion of the amphioxus Hairy subfamily request for caution when deducing the evolutionary history of a gene family in chordates based in the singularity of the amphioxus genome. Amphioxus may resemble the ancestor of the vertebrates,but it is not the ancestor, only its closest living relative, a privileged position that should not assume the freezing of its genome.
T-box genes encode a family of DNA-binding transcription factors implicated in numerous developmental processes in all metazoans. The Tbx2/3/4/5 subfamily genes are especially interesting because of their key roles in the evolution of vertebrate appendages, eyes, and the heart, and, like the Hox genes, the longevity of their chromosomal linkage. A BAC library derived from the single male amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae) used to sequence the amphioxus genome was screened for AmphiTbx2/3 and AmphiTbx4/5, yielding two independent clones containing both genes. Using comparative expression, genomic linkage, and phylogenetic analyses, we have reconstructed the evolutionary histories of these members of the T-box gene family. We find that the Tbx2-Tbx4 and Tbx3-Tbx5 gene pairs have maintained tight linkage in most animal lineages since their birth by tandem duplication, long before the divergence of protostomes and deuterostomes (e.g., arthropods and vertebrates) at least 600 million years ago, and possibly Dev Genes Evol (Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (
Paired fins/limbs are one of the most successful vertebrate innovations, since they are used for numerous fundamental activities, including locomotion, feeding, and breeding. Gene duplication events generate new genes with the potential to acquire novel functions, and two rounds of genome duplication took place during vertebrate evolution. The cephalochordate amphioxus diverged from other chordates before these events and is widely used to deduce the functions of ancestral genes, present in single copy in amphioxus, compared to the functions of their duplicated vertebrate orthologues. The T-box genes Tbx5 and Tbx4 encode two closely related transcription factors that are the earliest factors required to initiate forelimb and hind limb outgrowth, respectively. Since the genetic components proposed to be responsible for acquiring a trait during evolution are likely to be involved in the formation of that same trait in living organisms, we investigated whether the duplication of an ancestral, single Tbx4/5 gene to give rise to distinct Tbx4 and Tbx5 genes has been instrumental in the acquisition of limbs during vertebrate evolution. We analyzed whether the amphioxus Tbx4/5 gene is able to initiate limb outgrowth, and assayed the amphioxus locus for the presence of limb-forming regulatory regions. We show that AmphiTbx4/5 is able to initiate limb outgrowth and, in contrast, that the genomic locus lacks the regulatory modules required for expression that would result in limb formation. We propose that changes at the level of Tbx5 and Tbx4 expression, rather than the generation of novel protein function, have been necessary for the acquisition of paired appendages during vertebrate evolution.S ince Ohno's visionary hypothesis concerning the origin of vertebrate innovations by genome duplication (1), numerous reports have been published supporting this concept (reviewed in ref.2). The cephalochordate amphioxus, a limbless extant invertebrate relative of the vertebrates (3), has been extensively used to study the ancestral functions of genes, present in single copy in amphioxus, that have been duplicated in the vertebrate lineage. Amphioxus exhibits many basal chordate characteristics, including the presence of a dorsal nerve cord, a notochord, and segmented paraxial mesoderm, but lacks many vertebrate characteristics such as migratory neural crest cells, a cranium, or an endoskeleton (4). We sought to investigate the origin of one of the most successful vertebrate innovations, paired appendages, which include the pectoral and pelvic fins of fish and their derived homologues, the forelimbs and hind limbs of tetrapods.The T-box genes Tbx4 and Tbx5 are paralogous genes that arose by duplication of a single, ancestral Tbx4/5 gene. Extant amphioxus possesses a single Tbx4/5 gene (AmphiTbx4/5) (5) and lacks paired appendages, whereas all jawed vertebrates with two pairs of paired appendages have distinct, postduplication Tbx4 and Tbx5 genes. In vertebrates, Tbx5 is expressed in the lateral plate mesoderm (LPM) of the presump...
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