Date: 13 Jul 2011

Analyses of Gene Function in Amphioxus Embryos by Microinjection of mRNAs and Morpholino Oligonucleotides

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The invertebrate chordate amphioxus (Branchiostoma), which is the most basal living chordate, has become an accepted model for the vertebrate ancestor in studies of development and evolution. Amphioxus resembles vertebrates in regard to morphology, developmental gene expression, and gene function. In addition, the amphioxus genome has representatives of most vertebrate gene families. Although it has not undergone the two rounds of whole genome duplications that occurred early in the vertebrate lineage, the amphioxus genome has retained considerable synteny with vertebrate genomes. Thus, studies of genes and development in amphioxus embryos can reveal the fundamental genetic basis of the vertebrate body plan, giving insights into the developmental mechanisms of such organs as the somites, pharynx, kidney, and the central nervous system. Moreover, amphioxus is very useful for understanding how these characters evolved. This chapter details methods for microinjection of amphioxus eggs with mRNAs or morpholino antisense oligonucleotides to analyze gene networks operating in early development.