Gain of gene regulatory network interconnectivity at the origin of vertebrates

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In this manuscript, we address an essential question in developmental and evolutionary biology: How have changes in gene regulatory networks contributed to the invertebrate-to-vertebrate transition? To address this issue, we perturbed four signaling pathways critical for body plan formation in the cephalochordate amphioxus and in zebrafish and compared the effects of such perturbations on gene expression and gene regulation in both species. Our data reveal that many developmental genes have gained response to these signaling pathways in the vertebrate lineage. Moreover, we show that the interconnectivity between these pathways is much higher in zebrafish than in amphioxus. We conclude that this increased signaling pathway complexity likely contributed to vertebrate morphological novelties during evolution.

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  1. Excerpt

    In evolution, more is more: Higher interconnectivity among developmental pathways and enrichment of highly connected genes in vertebrate novelty tissues – clues on the origins of vertebrates.