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An Amphioxus Gli Gene Reveals Conservation of Midline Patterning and the Evolution of Hedgehog Signalling Diversity in Chordates

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      BackgroundHedgehog signalling, interpreted in receiving cells by Gli transcription factors, plays a central role in the development of vertebrate and Drosophila embryos. Many aspects of the signalling pathway are conserved between these lineages, however vertebrates have diverged in at least one key aspect: they have evolved multiple Gli genes encoding functionally-distinct proteins, increasing the complexity of the hedgehog-dependent transcriptional response. Amphioxus is one of the closest living relatives of the vertebrates, having split from the vertebrate lineage prior to the widespread gene duplication prominent in early vertebrate evolution.Principal FindingsWe show that amphioxus has a single Gli gene, which is deployed in tissues adjacent to sources of hedgehog signalling derived from the midline and anterior endoderm. This shows the duplication and divergence of the Gli gene family, and hence the origin of vertebrate Gli functional diversity, was specific to the vertebrate lineage. However we also show that the single amphioxus Gli gene produces two distinct transcripts encoding different proteins. We utilise three tests of Gli function to examine the transcription regulatory capacities of these different proteins, demonstrating one has activating activity similar to Gli2, while the other acts as a weak repressor, similar to Gli3.ConclusionsThese data show that vertebrates and amphioxus have evolved functionally-similar repertoires of Gli proteins using parallel molecular routes; vertebrates via gene duplication and divergence, and amphioxus via alternate splicing of a single gene. Our results demonstrate that similar functional complexity of intercellular signalling can be achieved via different evolutionary pathways.

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      Most cited references 75

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      CLUSTAL W: improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice.

      The sensitivity of the commonly used progressive multiple sequence alignment method has been greatly improved for the alignment of divergent protein sequences. Firstly, individual weights are assigned to each sequence in a partial alignment in order to down-weight near-duplicate sequences and up-weight the most divergent ones. Secondly, amino acid substitution matrices are varied at different alignment stages according to the divergence of the sequences to be aligned. Thirdly, residue-specific gap penalties and locally reduced gap penalties in hydrophilic regions encourage new gaps in potential loop regions rather than regular secondary structure. Fourthly, positions in early alignments where gaps have been opened receive locally reduced gap penalties to encourage the opening up of new gaps at these positions. These modifications are incorporated into a new program, CLUSTAL W which is freely available.
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        The CLUSTAL_X windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools.

        CLUSTAL X is a new windows interface for the widely-used progressive multiple sequence alignment program CLUSTAL W. The new system is easy to use, providing an integrated system for performing multiple sequence and profile alignments and analysing the results. CLUSTAL X displays the sequence alignment in a window on the screen. A versatile sequence colouring scheme allows the user to highlight conserved features in the alignment. Pull-down menus provide all the options required for traditional multiple sequence and profile alignment. New features include: the ability to cut-and-paste sequences to change the order of the alignment, selection of a subset of the sequences to be realigned, and selection of a sub-range of the alignment to be realigned and inserted back into the original alignment. Alignment quality analysis can be performed and low-scoring segments or exceptional residues can be highlighted. Quality analysis and realignment of selected residue ranges provide the user with a powerful tool to improve and refine difficult alignments and to trap errors in input sequences. CLUSTAL X has been compiled on SUN Solaris, IRIX5.3 on Silicon Graphics, Digital UNIX on DECstations, Microsoft Windows (32 bit) for PCs, Linux ELF for x86 PCs, and Macintosh PowerMac.
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          Targeted gene expression as a means of altering cell fates and generating dominant phenotypes.

           N Perrimon,  H. Brand (1993)
          We have designed a system for targeted gene expression that allows the selective activation of any cloned gene in a wide variety of tissue- and cell-specific patterns. The gene encoding the yeast transcriptional activator GAL4 is inserted randomly into the Drosophila genome to drive GAL4 expression from one of a diverse array of genomic enhancers. It is then possible to introduce a gene containing GAL4 binding sites within its promoter, to activate it in those cells where GAL4 is expressed, and to observe the effect of this directed misexpression on development. We have used GAL4-directed transcription to expand the domain of embryonic expression of the homeobox protein even-skipped. We show that even-skipped represses wingless and transforms cells that would normally secrete naked cuticle into denticle secreting cells. The GAL4 system can thus be used to study regulatory interactions during embryonic development. In adults, targeted expression can be used to generate dominant phenotypes for use in genetic screens. We have directed expression of an activated form of the Dras2 protein, resulting in dominant eye and wing defects that can be used in screens to identify other members of the Dras2 signal transduction pathway.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
            [2 ]Medical Research Council Functional Genetics Unit, Department of Human Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
            [3 ]Developmental Neurobiology, National Institute for Medical Research, London, United Kingdom
            Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
            Author notes
            * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: sebastian.shimeld@

            Conceived and designed the experiments: JB SS Mv. Performed the experiments: JB SS Mv RD. Analyzed the data: JB SS Mv. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: SS. Wrote the paper: JB SS Mv.

            Role: Academic Editor
            PLoS ONE
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            12 September 2007
            : 2
            : 9
            (Academic Editor)
            Shimeld et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Pages: 10
            Research Article
            Developmental Biology
            Evolutionary Biology
            Developmental Biology/Developmental Evolution
            Developmental Biology/Pattern Formation
            Evolutionary Biology/Developmental Molecular Mechanisms



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