[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Annelids and arthropods share a similar segmented organization of the body whose evolutionary origin remains unclear. The Hedgehog signaling pathway, prominent in arthropod embryonic segment patterning, has not been shown to have a similar function outside arthropods. We show that the ligand Hedgehog, the receptor Patched, and the transcription factor Gli are all expressed in striped patterns before the morphological appearance of segments in the annelid Platynereis dumerilii. Treatments with small molecules antagonistic to Hedgehog signaling disrupt segment formation. Platynereis Hedgehog is not necessary to establish early segment patterns but is required to maintain them. The molecular similarity of segment patterning functions of the Hedgehog pathway in an annelid and in arthropods supports a common origin of segmentation in protostomes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The spectacular escalation in complexity in early bilaterian evolution correlates with a strong increase in the number of microRNAs. To explore the link between the birth of ancient microRNAs and body plan evolution, we set out to determine the ancient sites of activity of conserved bilaterian microRNA families in a comparative approach. We reason that any specific localization shared between protostomes and deuterostomes (the two major superphyla of bilaterian animals) should probably reflect an ancient specificity of that microRNA in their last common ancestor. Here, we investigate the expression of conserved bilaterian microRNAs in Platynereis dumerilii, a protostome retaining ancestral bilaterian features, in Capitella, another marine annelid, in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus, a deuterostome, and in sea anemone Nematostella, representing an outgroup to the bilaterians. Our comparative data indicate that the oldest known animal microRNA, miR-100, and the related miR-125 and let-7 were initially active in neurosecretory cells located around the mouth. Other sets of ancient microRNAs were first present in locomotor ciliated cells, specific brain centres, or, more broadly, one of four major organ systems: central nervous system, sensory tissue, musculature and gut. These findings reveal that microRNA evolution and the establishment of tissue identities were closely coupled in bilaterian evolution. Also, they outline a minimum set of cell types and tissues that existed in the protostome-deuterostome ancestor.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To elucidate the evolutionary origin of nervous system centralization, we investigated the molecular architecture of the trunk nervous system in the annelid Platynereis dumerilii. Annelids belong to Bilateria, an evolutionary lineage of bilateral animals that also includes vertebrates and insects. Comparing nervous system development in annelids to that of other bilaterians could provide valuable information about the common ancestor of all Bilateria. We find that the Platynereis neuroectoderm is subdivided into longitudinal progenitor domains by partially overlapping expression regions of nk and pax genes. These domains match corresponding domains in the vertebrate neural tube and give rise to conserved neural cell types. As in vertebrates, neural patterning genes are sensitive to Bmp signaling. Our data indicate that this mediolateral architecture was present in the last common bilaterian ancestor and thus support a common origin of nervous system centralization in Bilateria.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: For vision, insect and vertebrate eyes use rhabdomeric and ciliary photoreceptor cells, respectively. These cells show distinct architecture and transduce the light signal by different phototransductory cascades. In the marine rag-worm Platynereis, we find both cell types: rhabdomeric photoreceptor cells in the eyes and ciliary photoreceptor cells in the brain. The latter use a photopigment closely related to vertebrate rod and cone opsins. Comparative analysis indicates that both types of photoreceptors, with distinct opsins, coexisted in Urbilateria, the last common ancestor of insects and vertebrates, and sheds new light on vertebrate eye evolution.