, Volume 213, Issue 12, pp 601-611

A morphological and genetic characterization of metamorphosis in the ascidian Boltenia villosa

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Ascidian metamorphosis is a critical life history stage for exploring chordate evolution and conserved chordate developmental signaling pathways. The vast majority of research on ascidian development has been focused on embryogenesis. Thus there is still little known about the development of ascidian post-larval structures, including differentiation of the chordate pharyngeal gill slits and endostyle along with the heart, blood cells and gut. In this paper, we present our research on metamorphosis in the solitary ascidian Boltenia villosa. Through careful analysis of phalloidin staining in young juveniles, we have discerned a highly coordinated series of developmental events underlying the differentiation of the gut and body wall musculature. Additionally, we have employed subtractive hybridizations to isolate genes that are differentially transcribed during Boltenia metamorphosis. Some of these genes are expressed throughout ascidian development and some appear to be uniquely expressed during metamorphosis. Here we characterize several transcripts with potential developmental functions and discuss their possible roles in the differentiation of adult structures during solitary ascidian metamorphosis.

Edited by N. Satoh