Testing an unusual in vivo vessel network model: a method to study angiogenesis in the colonial tunicate Botryllus schlosseri.
ABSTRACT: Tunicates are the closest relatives to vertebrates and include the only chordate species able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. The colonial tunicate Botryllus schlosseri is embedded in a transparent extracellular matrix (the tunic) containing the colonial circulatory system (CCS). The latter is a network of vessels external to zooids, limited by a simple, flat epithelium that originated from the epidermis. The CCS propagates and regenerates by remodelling and extending the vessel network through the mechanism of sprouting, which typically characterises vertebrate angiogenesis. In exploiting the characteristics of B. schlosseri as a laboratory model, we present a new experimental and analysis method based on the ability to obtain genetically identical subclones representing paired samples for the appropriate quantitative outcome statistical analysis. The method, tested using human VEGF and EGF to induce angiogenesis, shows that the CCS provides a useful in vivo vessel network model for testing the effects of specific injected solutes on vessel dynamics. These results show the potentiality of B. schlosseri CCS as an effective complementary model for in vivo studies on angiogenesis and anticancer therapy. We discuss this potentiality, taking into consideration the origin, nature, and roles of the cellular and molecular agents involved in CCS growth.
Project description:What mechanisms underlie aging? One theory, the wear-and-tear model, attributes aging to progressive deterioration in the molecular and cellular machinery which eventually lead to death through the disruption of physiological homeostasis. The second suggests that life span is genetically programmed, and aging may be derived from intrinsic processes which enforce a non-random, terminal time interval for the survivability of the organism. We are studying an organism that demonstrates both properties: the colonial ascidian, Botryllus schlosseri. Botryllus is a member of the Tunicata, the sister group to the vertebrates, and has a number of life history traits which make it an excellent model for studies on aging. First, Botryllus has a colonial life history, and grows by a process of asexual reproduction during which entire bodies, including all somatic and germline lineages, regenerate every week, resulting in a colony of genetically identical individuals. Second, previous studies of lifespan in genetically distinct Botryllus lineages suggest that a direct, heritable basis underlying mortality exists that is unlinked to reproductive effort and other life history traits. Here we will review recent efforts to take advantage of the unique life history traits of B. schlosseri and develop it into a robust model for aging research.
Project description:Botryllus schlosseri is a colonial urochordate that follows the chordate plan of development following sexual reproduction, but invokes a stem cell-mediated budding program during subsequent rounds of asexual reproduction. As urochordates are considered to be the closest living invertebrate relatives of vertebrates, they are ideal subjects for whole genome sequence analyses. Using a novel method for high-throughput sequencing of eukaryotic genomes, we sequenced and assembled 580 Mbp of the B. schlosseri genome. The genome assembly is comprised of nearly 14,000 intron-containing predicted genes, and 13,500 intron-less predicted genes, 40% of which could be confidently parceled into 13 (of 16 haploid) chromosomes. A comparison of homologous genes between B. schlosseri and other diverse taxonomic groups revealed genomic events underlying the evolution of vertebrates and lymphoid-mediated immunity. The B. schlosseri genome is a community resource for studying alternative modes of reproduction, natural transplantation reactions, and stem cell-mediated regeneration. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00569.001.
Project description:Botryllus schlosseri is a colonial ascidian with characteristics that make it an attractive model for studying immunology, stem cell biology, evolutionary biology, and regeneration. Transcriptome sequencing and the recent completion of a draft genome sequence for B. schlosseri have revealed a large number of genes, both with and without vertebrate homologs, but analyzing the spatial and temporal expression of these genes in situ has remained a challenge. Here, we report a robust protocol for in situ hybridization that enables the simultaneous detection of multiple transcripts in whole adult B. schlosseri using Tyramide Signal Amplification in conjunction with digoxigenin- and dinitrophenol-labeled RNA probes. Using this protocol, we have identified a number of genes that can serve as markers for developing and mature structures in B. schlosseri, permitting analysis of phenotypes induced in loss-of-function experiments.
Project description:Ontologies provide an important resource to integrate information. For developmental biology and comparative anatomy studies, ontologies of a species are used to formalize and annotate data that are related to anatomical structures, their lineage and timing of development. Here, we have constructed the first ontology for anatomy and asexual development (blastogenesis) of a bilaterian, the colonial tunicate Botryllus schlosseri. Tunicates, like Botryllus schlosseri, are non-vertebrates and the only chordate taxon species that reproduce both sexually and asexually. Their tadpole larval stage possesses structures characteristic of all chordates, i.e. a notochord, a dorsal neural tube, and gill slits. Larvae settle and metamorphose into individuals that are either solitary or colonial. The latter reproduce both sexually and asexually and these two reproductive modes lead to essentially the same adult body plan. The Botryllus schlosseri Ontology of Development and Anatomy (BODA) will facilitate the comparison between both types of development. BODA uses the rules defined by the Open Biomedical Ontologies Foundry. It is based on studies that investigate the anatomy, blastogenesis and regeneration of this organism. BODA features allow the users to easily search and identify anatomical structures in the colony, to define the developmental stage, and to follow the morphogenetic events of a tissue and/or organ of interest throughout asexual development. We invite the scientific community to use this resource as a reference for the anatomy and developmental ontology of B. schlosseri and encourage recommendations for updates and improvements.
Project description:We performed an analysis of the transcriptome during the blastogenesis of the chordate Botryllus schlosseri, focusing in particular on genes involved in cell death by apoptosis. The tunicate B. schlosseri is an ascidian forming colonies characterized by the coexistence of three blastogenetic generations: filter-feeding adults, buds on adults, and budlets on buds. Cyclically, adult tissues undergo apoptosis and are progressively resorbed and replaced by their buds originated by asexual reproduction. This is a feature of colonial tunicates, the only known chordates that can reproduce asexually.Thanks to a newly developed web-based platform ( http://botryllus.cribi.unipd.it ), we compared the transcriptomes of the mid-cycle, the pre-take-over, and the take-over phases of the colonial blastogenetic cycle. The platform is equipped with programs for comparative analysis and allows to select the statistical stringency. We enriched the genome annotation with 11,337 new genes; 581 transcripts were resolved as complete open reading frames, translated in silico into amino acid sequences and then aligned onto the non-redundant sequence database. Significant differentially expressed genes were classified within the gene ontology categories. Among them, we recognized genes involved in apoptosis activation, de-activation, and regulation.With the current work, we contributed to the improvement of the first released B. schlosseri genome assembly and offer an overview of the transcriptome changes during the blastogenetic cycle, showing up- and down-regulated genes. These results are important for the comprehension of the events underlying colony growth and regression, cell proliferation, colony homeostasis, and competition among different generations.
Project description:Gonad differentiation is an essential function for all sexually reproducing species, and many aspects of these developmental processes are highly conserved among the metazoa. The colonial ascidian, Botryllus schlosseri is a chordate model organism which offers two unique traits that can be utilized to characterize the genes underlying germline development: a colonial life history and variable fertility. These properties allow individual genotypes to be isolated at different stages of fertility and gene expression can be characterized comprehensively.Here we characterized the transcriptome of both fertile and infertile colonies throughout blastogenesis (asexual development) using differential expression analysis. We identified genes (as few as 7 and as many as 647) regulating fertility in Botryllus at each stage of blastogenesis. Several of these genes appear to drive gonad maturation, as they are expressed by follicle cells surrounding both testis and oocyte precursors. Spatial and temporal expression of differentially expressed genes was analyzed by in situ hybridization, confirming expression in developing gonads.We have identified several genes expressed in developing and mature gonads in B. schlosseri. Analysis of genes upregulated in fertile animals suggests a high level of conservation of the mechanisms regulating fertility between basal chordates and vertebrates.
Project description:Background: Gonad differentiation is an essential function for all sexually reproducing species, and many aspects of these developmental processes are highly conserved among the metazoa. The colonial ascidian, Botryllus schlosseri is a chordate model organism which offers two unique traits that can be utilized to characterize the genes underlying germline development: a colonial life history and variable fertility. These properties allow individual genotypes to be isolated at different stages of fertility and gene expression can be characterized comprehensively. Results: Here we characterized the transcriptome of both fertile and infertile colonies throughout blastogenesis (asexual development) using differential expression analysis. We identified genes (as few as 7 and as many as 647) regulating fertility in Botryllus at each stage of blastogenesis. Several of these genes appear to drive gonad maturation, as they are expressed by follicle cells surrounding both testis and oocyte precursors. Spatial and temporal expression of differentially expressed genes was analyzed by in situ hybridization, confirming expression in developing gonads. Conclusion: We have identified several genes expressed in developing and mature gonads in B. schlosseri. Analysis of genes upregulated in fertile animals suggests a high level of conservation of the mechanisms regulating fertility between basal chordates and vertebrates. mRNA profiles of seven infertile stages from infertile Botryllus schlosseri colonies (each in triplicates) and seven stages of fertile Botryllus schlosseri colonies (each in triplicates) using Illumina deep sequencing and analyzed for differential expression between each stage.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Allorecognition, the ability of an organism to distinguish self from non-self, occurs throughout the entire tree of life. Despite the prevalence and importance of allorecognition systems, the genetic basis of allorecognition has rarely been characterized outside the well-known MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) in vertebrates and SI (Self-Incompatibility) in plants. Where loci have been identified, their evolutionary history is an open question. We have previously identified the genes involved in self/non-self recognition in the colonial ascidian Botryllus schlosseri, and we can now begin to investigate their evolution. In B. schlosseri, colonies sharing 1 or more alleles of a gene called FuHC (Fusion Histocompatibility) will fuse. Protein products of a locus called fester, located ~300 kb from FuHC, have been shown to play multiple roles in the histocompatibility reaction, as activating and/or inhibitory receptors. We test whether the proteins encoded by this locus are evolving neutrally or are experiencing balancing, directional, or purifying selection. RESULTS:Nearly all of the variation in the fester locus resides within populations. The 13 housekeeping genes (12 nuclear genes and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I) have substantially more structure among populations within groups and among groups than fester. All polymorphism statistics (Tajima's D, Fu and Li's D* and F*) are significantly negative for the East Coast A-type alleles, and Fu and Li's F* statistic is significantly negative for the West Coast A-type alleles. These results are likely due to selection rather than demography, given that 10 of the housekeeping loci have no populations with significant values for any of the polymorphism statistics. The majority of codons in the fester proteins have ? values < 1, but 15-27 codons have > 95% posterior probability of ? values > 1. CONCLUSION:Fester proteins are evolving non-neutrally. The polymorphism statistics are consistent with either purifying selection or directional selection. The ? statistics show that the majority of the protein is experiencing purifying selection (? < 1), but that 15-27 codons are undergoing either balancing or directional selection: ? > 1 is compatible with either scenario. The distribution of variation within and among populations points towards balancing selection and away from directional selection. While these data do not provide unambiguous support for a specific type of selection, they contribute to our evolutionary understanding of a critical biological process by determining the forces that affect loci involved in allorecognition.
Project description:In many taxa, germline precursors segregate from somatic lineages during embryonic development and are irreversibly committed to gametogenesis. However, in animals that can propagate asexually, germline precursors can originate in adults. Botryllus schlosseri is a colonial ascidian that grows by asexual reproduction, and on a weekly basis regenerates all somatic and germline tissues. Embryonic development in solitary ascidians is the classic example of determinative specification, and we are interested in both the origins and the persistence of stem cells responsible for asexual development in colonial ascidians. In this study, we characterized vasa as a putative marker of germline precursors. We found that maternally deposited vasa mRNA segregates early in development to a posterior lineage of cells, suggesting that germline formation is determinative in colonial ascidians. In adults, vasa expression was observed in the gonads, as well as in a population of mobile cells scattered throughout the open circulatory system, consistent with previous transplantation/reconstitution results. vasa expression was dynamic during asexual development in both fertile and infertile adults, and was also enriched in a population of stem cells. Germline precursors in juveniles could contribute to gamete formation immediately upon transplantation into fertile adults, thus vasa expression is correlated with the potential for gamete formation, which suggests that it is a marker for embryonically specified, long-lived germline progenitors. Transient vasa knockdown did not have obvious effects on germline or somatic development in adult colonies, although it did result in a profound heterochrony, suggesting that vasa might play a homeostatic role in asexual development.