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Notch signaling is involved in nervous system formation in ascidian embryos


Notch signaling plays crucial roles during embryogenesis in various metazoans. HrNotch, a Notch homologue in the ascidian Halocynthia roretzi, has been previously cloned, and its expression pattern suggests that HrNotch signaling is involved in nervous system formation. To determine the function of HrNotch signaling, in the present study we examined the effects of the constitutively activated forms of HrNotch. Overexpression resulted in larvae with defects in neural tube closure and brain vesicle formation. In embryos expressing the activated HrNotch, the expression of a neural marker gene, HrETR-1, was enhanced and expanded in the central nervous system, although ectopic expression decreased during the tailbud stage. The activated HrNotch also suppressed the formation of the adhesive organ (palps) and the peripheral nervous system, which consists of ciliary mechanosensory neurons, whereas it promoted epidermal differentiation. The suppression and promotion of the formation of these respective cell types were confirmed by examination of the expression of relevant tissue-specific markers. We also cloned HrDelta, an ascidian homologue of DSL family genes, which encode ligands for which Notch acts as a receptor. The expression of HrDelta was observed in the precursors of palps and peripheral neurons in addition to the CNS. These results suggest that Notch signaling is important for ascidian nervous system formation and that it affects the fate choice between palps and epidermis and between peripheral neurons and epidermis within the neurogenic regions of the surface ectoderm by suppressing the formations of palps and peripheral neurons and promoting epidermal differentiation.

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Akanuma, T., Hori, S., Darras, S. et al. Notch signaling is involved in nervous system formation in ascidian embryos. Dev Genes Evol 212, 459–472 (2002).

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  • Ascidian Notch signaling HrNotch Nervous system PNS formation