Article

Expansion, diversification, and expression of T-box family genes in Porifera

Department of Biology, University of Richmond, 28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA, 23173, USA.
Development Genes and Evolution (Impact Factor: 2.18). 11/2010; 220(9-10):251-62. DOI: 10.1007/s00427-010-0344-2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Sponges are among the earliest diverging lineage within the metazoan phyla. Although their adult morphology is distinctive, at several stages of development, they possess characteristics found in more complex animals. The T-box family of transcription factors is an evolutionarily ancient gene family known to be involved in the development of structures derived from all germ layers in the bilaterian animals. There is an incomplete understanding of the role that T-box transcription factors play in normal sponge development or whether developmental pathways using the T-box family share similarities between parazoan and eumetazoan animals. To address these questions, we present data that identify several important T-box genes in marine and freshwater sponges, place these genes in a phylogenetic context, and reveal patterns in how these genes are expressed in developing sponges. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that sponges have members of at least two of the five T-box subfamilies (Brachyury and Tbx2/3/4/5) and that the T-box genes expanded and diverged in the poriferan lineage. Our analysis of signature residues in the sponge T-box genes calls into question whether "true" Brachyury genes are found in the Porifera. Expression for a subset of the T-box genes was elucidated in larvae from the marine demosponge, Halichondria bowerbanki. Our results show that sponges regulate the timing and specificity of gene expression for T-box orthologs across larval developmental stages. In situ hybridization reveals distinct, yet sometimes overlapping expression of particular T-box genes in free-swimming larvae. Our results provide a comparative framework from which we can gain insights into the evolution of developmentally important pathways.

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