Identification of a novel gene involved in asexual organogenesis in the budding ascidian Botryllus schlosseri
Development via regeneration or budding shares some known genetic pathways with embryogenesis, but no concerted effort has been made to identify genes unique to asexual development. We have identified a novel gene that plays a role in cyclical bud formation and asexual organogenesis in the colonial ascidian Botryllus schlosseri. Athena mRNA is transcribed at high levels during the 24- to 36-hr interval of programmed cell death and new bud initiation at the conclusion of the budding cycle (takeover). Knockdown of Athena by RNAi and antisense morpholinos induced defects in the development of new buds ranging from retardation in growth and abnormal organogenesis to hollow buds lacking organs. As genetic intervention in this organism has not been possible, this study establishes the use of RNAi and morpholinos in Botryllus as well as describing the knockdown phenotype of a new gene.