Expression of homeobox genes shows chelicerate arthropods retain their deutocerebral segment.
ABSTRACT: Expression patterns of six homeobox containing genes in a model chelicerate, the oribatid mite Archegozetes longisetosus, were examined to establish homology of chelicerate and insect head segments and to investigate claims that the chelicerate deutocerebral segment has been reduced or lost. engrailed (en) expression, which has been used to demonstrate the presence of segments in insects, fails to demonstrate a reduced deutocerebral segment. Expression patterns of the chelicerate homologs of the Drosophila genes Antennapedia (Antp), Sex combs reduced (Scr), Deformed (Dfd), proboscipedia (pb), and orthodenticle (otd) confirm direct correspondence of head segments. The chelicerate deutocerebral segment has not been reduced or lost. We make further inferences concerning the evolution of heads and Hox genes in arthropods.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Hox genes encode transcription factors that have an ancestral role in all bilaterian animals in specifying regions along the antero-posterior axis. In arthropods (insects, crustaceans, myriapods and chelicerates), Hox genes function to specify segmental identity, and changes in Hox gene expression domains in different segments have been causal to the evolution of novel arthropod morphologies. Despite this, the roles of Hox genes in arthropods that have secondarily lost or reduced their segmental composition have been relatively unexplored. Recent data suggest that acariform mites have a reduced segmental component of their posterior body tagma, the opisthosoma, in that only two segments are patterned during embryogenesis. This is in contrast to the observation that in many extinct and extant chelicerates (that is, horseshoe crabs, scorpions, spiders and harvestmen) the opisthosoma is comprised of ten or more segments. To explore the role of Hox genes in this reduced body region, we followed the expression of the posterior-patterning Hox genes Ultrabithorax (Ubx) and Abdominal-B (Abd-B), as well as the segment polarity genes patched (ptc) and engrailed (en), in the oribatid mite Archegozetes longisetosus. RESULTS:We find that the expression patterns of ptc are in agreement with previous reports of a reduced mite opisthosoma. In comparison to the ptc and en expression patterns, we find that Ubx and Abd-B are expressed in a single segment in A. longisetosus, the second opisthosomal segment. Abd-B is initially expressed more posteriorly than Ubx, that is, into the unsegmented telson; however, this domain clears in subsequent stages where it remains in the second opisthosomal segment. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings suggest that Ubx and Abd-B are expressed in a single segment in the opisthosoma. This is a novel observation, in that these genes are expressed in several segments in all studied arthropods. These data imply that a reduction in opisthosomal segmentation may be tied to a dramatically reduced Hox gene input in the opisthosoma.
Project description:The segmental architecture of the arthropod head is one of the most controversial topics in the evolutionary developmental biology of arthropods. The deutocerebral (second) segment of the head is putatively homologous across Arthropoda, as inferred from the segmental distribution of the tripartite brain and the absence of Hox gene expression of this anterior-most, appendage-bearing segment. While this homology statement implies a putative common mechanism for differentiation of deutocerebral appendages across arthropods, experimental data for deutocerebral appendage fate specification are limited to winged insects. Mandibulates (hexapods, crustaceans and myriapods) bear a characteristic pair of antennae on the deutocerebral segment, whereas chelicerates (e.g. spiders, scorpions, harvestmen) bear the eponymous chelicerae. In such hexapods as the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and the cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus, cephalic appendages are differentiated from the thoracic appendages (legs) by the activity of the appendage patterning gene homothorax (hth). Here we show that embryonic RNA interference against hth in the harvestman Phalangium opilio results in homeonotic chelicera-to-leg transformations, and also in some cases pedipalp-to-leg transformations. In more strongly affected embryos, adjacent appendages undergo fusion and/or truncation, and legs display proximal defects, suggesting conservation of additional functions of hth in patterning the antero-posterior and proximo-distal appendage axes. Expression signal of anterior Hox genes labial, proboscipedia and Deformed is diminished, but not absent, in hth RNAi embryos, consistent with results previously obtained with the insect G. bimaculatus. Our results substantiate a deep homology across arthropods of the mechanism whereby cephalic appendages are differentiated from locomotory appendages.
Project description:Chelicerata represents a vast clade of mostly predatory arthropods united by a distinctive body plan throughout the Phanerozoic. Their origins, however, with respect to both their ancestral morphological features and their related ecologies, are still poorly understood. In particular, it remains unclear whether their major diagnostic characters were acquired early on, and their anatomical organization rapidly constrained, or if they emerged from a stem lineage encompassing an array of structural variations, based on a more labile "panchelicerate" body plan.In this study, we reinvestigated the problematic middle Cambrian arthropod Habelia optata Walcott from the Burgess Shale, and found that it was a close relative of Sanctacaris uncata Briggs and Collins (in Habeliida, ord. nov.), both retrieved in our Bayesian phylogeny as stem chelicerates. Habelia possesses an exoskeleton covered in numerous spines and a bipartite telson as long as the rest of the body. Segments are arranged into three tagmata. The prosoma includes a reduced appendage possibly precursor to the chelicera, raptorial endopods connected to five pairs of outstandingly large and overlapping gnathobasic basipods, antennule-like exopods seemingly dissociated from the main limb axis, and, posteriorly, a pair of appendages morphologically similar to thoracic ones. While the head configuration of habeliidans anchors a seven-segmented prosoma as the chelicerate ground pattern, the peculiar size and arrangement of gnathobases and the presence of sensory/tactile appendages also point to an early convergence with the masticatory head of mandibulates.Although habeliidans illustrate the early appearance of some diagnostic chelicerate features in the evolution of euarthropods, the unique convergence of their cephalons with mandibulate anatomies suggests that these traits retained an unusual variability in these taxa. The common involvement of strong gnathal appendages across non-megacheirans Cambrian taxa also illustrates that the specialization of the head as the dedicated food-processing tagma was critical to the emergence of both lineages of extant euarthropods-Chelicerata and Mandibulata-and implies that this diversification was facilitated by the expansion of durophagous niches.
Project description:The genes otd/otx, six3, pax6 and engrailed are involved in eye patterning in many animals. Here, we describe the expression pattern of the homologs to otd/otx, six3, pax6 and engrailed in the developing Euperipatoides kanangrensis embryos. Special reference is given to the expression in the protocerebral/ocular region. E. kanangrensis otd is expressed in the posterior part of the protocerebral/ocular segment before, during and after eye invagination. E. kanangrensis otd is also expressed segmentally in the developing ventral nerve cord. The E. kanangrensis six3 is located at the extreme anterior part of the protocerebral/ocular segment and not at the location of the developing eyes. Pax6 is expressed in a broad zone at the posterior part of the protocerebral/ocular segment but only weak expression can be seen at the early onset of eye invagination. In late stages of development, the expression in the eye is upregulated. Pax6 is also expressed in the invaginating hypocerebral organs, thus supporting earlier suggestions that the hypocerebral organs in onychophorans are glands. Pax6 transcripts are also present in the developing ventral nerve cord. The segment polarity gene engrailed is expressed at the dorsal side of the developing eye including only a subset of the cells of the invaginating eye vesicle. We show that engrailed is not expressed in the neuroectoderm of the protocerebral/ocular segment as in the other segments. In addition, we discuss other aspect of otd, six3 and pax6 expression that are relevant to our understanding of evolutionary changes in morphology and function in arthropods.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Oxygen transport in the hemolymph of many arthropod species is facilitated by large copper-proteins referred to as hemocyanins. Arthropod hemocyanins are hexamers or oligomers of hexamers, which are characterized by a high O2 transport capacity and a high cooperativity, thereby enhancing O2 supply. Hemocyanin subunit sequences had been available from horseshoe crabs (Xiphosura) and various spiders (Araneae), but not from any other chelicerate taxon. To trace the evolution of hemocyanins and the emergence of the large hemocyanin oligomers, hemocyanin cDNA sequences were obtained from representatives of selected chelicerate classes. RESULTS: Hemocyanin subunits from a sea spider, a scorpion, a whip scorpion and a whip spider were sequenced. Hemocyanin has been lost in Opiliones, Pseudoscorpiones, Solifugae and Acari, which may be explained by the evolution of trachea (i.e., taxon Apulmonata). Bayesian phylogenetic analysis was used to reconstruct the evolution of hemocyanin subunits and a relaxed molecular clock approach was applied to date the major events. While the sea spider has a simple hexameric hemocyanin, four distinct subunit types evolved before Xiphosura and Arachnida diverged around 470 Ma ago, suggesting the existence of a 4 × 6mer at that time. Subsequently, independent gene duplication events gave rise to the other distinct subunits in each of the 8 × 6mer hemocyanin of Xiphosura and the 4 × 6mer of Arachnida. The hemocyanin sequences were used to infer the evolutionary history of chelicerates. The phylogenetic trees support a basal position of Pycnogonida, a sister group relationship of Xiphosura and Arachnida, and a sister group relationship of the whip scorpions and the whip spiders. CONCLUSION: Formation of a complex hemocyanin oligomer commenced early in the evolution of euchelicerates. A 4 × 6mer hemocyanin consisting of seven subunit types is conserved in most arachnids since more than 400 Ma, although some entelegyne spiders display selective subunit loss and independent oligomerization. Hemocyanins also turned out to be a good marker to trace chelicerate evolution, which is, however, limited by the loss of hemocyanin in some taxa. The molecular clock calculations were in excellent agreement with the fossil record, also demonstrating the applicability of hemocyanins for such approach.
Project description:Horseshoe crabs (order Xiphosura) are often referred to as an ancient order of marine chelicerates and have been considered as keystone taxa for the understanding of chelicerate evolution. However, the mitochondrial genome of this order is only available from a single species, Limulus polyphemus. In the present study, we analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes from two Asian horseshoe crabs, Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda and Tachypleus tridentatus to offer novel data for the evolutionary relationship within Xiphosura and their position in the chelicerate phylogeny. The mitochondrial genomes of C. rotundicauda (15,033 bp) and T. tridentatus (15,006 bp) encode 13 protein-coding genes, two ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes, and 22 transfer RNA (tRNA) genes. Overall sequences and genome structure of two Asian species were highly similar to that of Limulus polyphemus, though clear differences among three were found in the stem-loop structure of the putative control region. In the phylogenetic analysis with complete mitochondrial genomes of 43 chelicerate species, C. rotundicauda and T. tridentatus were recovered as a monophyly, while L. polyphemus solely formed an independent clade. Xiphosuran species were placed at the basal root of the tree, and major other chelicerate taxa were clustered in a single monophyly, clearly confirming that horseshoe crabs composed an ancestral taxon among chelicerates. By contrast, the phylogenetic tree without the information of Asian horseshoe crabs did not support monophyletic clustering of other chelicerates. In conclusion, our analyses may provide more robust and reliable perspective on the study of evolutionary history for chelicerates than earlier analyses with a single Atlantic species.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In vertebrates, the primordium of the brain is subdivided by the expression of Otx genes (forebrain/anterior midbrain), Hox genes (posterior hindbrain), and the genes Pax2, Pax5 and Pax8 (intervening region). The latter includes the midbrain/hindbrain boundary (MHB), which acts as a key organizer during brain patterning. Recent studies in Drosophila revealed that orthologous sets of genes are expressed in a similar tripartite pattern in the late embryonic brain, which suggested correspondence between the Drosophila deutocerebral/tritocerebral boundary region and the vertebrate MHB. To gain more insight into the evolution of brain regions, and particularly the MHB, I examined the expression of a comprehensive array of MHB-specific gene orthologs in the procephalic neuroectoderm and in individually identified neuroblasts during early embryonic stages 8-11, at which the segmental organization of the brain is most clearly displayed. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: I show that the early embryonic brain exhibits an anterior Otx/otd domain and a posterior Hox1/lab domain, but that Pax2/5/8 orthologs are not expressed in the neuroectoderm and neuroblasts of the intervening territory. Furthermore, the expression domains of Otx/otd and Gbx/unpg exhibit a small common interface within the anterior deutocerebrum. In contrast to vertebrates, Fgf8-related genes are not expressed posterior to the otd/unpg interface. However, at the otd/unpg interface the early expression of other MHB-specific genes (including btd, wg, en), and of dorsoventral patterning genes, closely resembles the situation at the vertebrate MHB. Altogether, these results suggest the existence of an ancestral territory within the primordium of the deutocerebrum and adjacent protocerebrum, which might be the evolutionary equivalent of the region of the vertebrate MHB. However, lack of expression of Pax2/5/8 and Fgf8-related genes, and significant differences in the expression onset of other key regulators at the otd/unpg interface, imply that genetic interactions crucial for the vertebrate organizer activity are absent in the early embryonic brain of Drosophila.