The genomic regulatory control of skeletal morphogenesis in the sea urchin.

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Abstract or Description

A central challenge of developmental and evolutionary biology is to understand how anatomy is encoded in the genome. Elucidating the genetic mechanisms that control the development of specific anatomical features will require the analysis of model morphogenetic processes and an integration of biological information at genomic, cellular and tissue levels. The formation of the endoskeleton of the sea urchin embryo is a powerful experimental system for developing such an integrated view of the genomic regulatory control of morphogenesis. The dynamic cellular behaviors that underlie skeletogenesis are well understood and a complex transcriptional gene regulatory network (GRN) that underlies the specification of embryonic skeletogenic cells (primary mesenchyme cells, PMCs) has recently been elucidated. Here, we link the PMC specification GRN to genes that directly control skeletal morphogenesis. We identify new gene products that play a proximate role in skeletal morphogenesis and uncover transcriptional regulatory inputs into many of these genes. Our work extends the importance of the PMC GRN as a model developmental GRN and establishes a unique picture of the genomic regulatory control of a major morphogenetic process. Furthermore, because echinoderms exhibit diverse programs of skeletal development, the newly expanded sea urchin skeletogenic GRN will provide a foundation for comparative studies that explore the relationship between GRN evolution and morphological evolution.




Published In

Development, 139, 3, 579-590.