Identification of neural transcription factors required for the differentiation of three neuronal subtypes in the sea urchin embryo.
Correct patterning of the nervous system is essential for an organism's survival and complex behavior. Embryologists have used the sea urchin as a model for decades, but our understanding of sea urchin nervous system patterning is incomplete. Previous histochemical studies identified multiple neurotransmitters in the pluteus larvae of several sea urchin species. However, little is known about how, where and when neural subtypes are differentially specified during development. Here, we examine the molecular mechanisms of neuronal subtype specification in 3 distinct neural subtypes in the Lytechinus variegatus larva. We show that these subtypes are specified through Delta/Notch signaling and identify a different transcription factor required for the development of each neural subtype. Our results show achaete-scute and neurogenin are proneural for the serotonergic neurons of the apical organ and cholinergic neurons of the ciliary band, respectively. We also show that orthopedia is not proneural but is necessary for the differentiation of the cholinergic/catecholaminergic postoral neurons. Interestingly, these transcription factors are used similarly during vertebrate neurogenesis. We believe this study is a starting point for building a neural gene regulatory network in the sea urchin and for finding conserved deuterostome neurogenic mechanisms.
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