Dev Genes Evol. 2023;[Epub] doi:10.1007/s00427-023-00702-0
Cranial neurogenic placodes have been considered vertebrate innovations. However, anterior neural plate border (ANB) cells of ascidian embryos share many properties with vertebrate neurogenic placodes; therefore, it is now believed that the last common ancestor of vertebrates and ascidians had embryonic structures similar to neurogenic placodes of vertebrate embryos. Because BMP signaling is important for specifying the placode region in vertebrate embryos, we examined whether BMP signaling is also involved in gene expression in the ANB region of ascidian embryos. Our data indicated that Admp, a divergent BMP family member, is mainly responsible for BMP signaling in the ANB region, and that two BMP-antagonists, Noggin and Chordin, restrict the domain, in which BMP signaling is activated, to the ANB region, and prevent it from expanding to the neural plate. BMP signaling is required for expression of Foxg and Six1/2 at the late gastrula stage, and also for expression of Zf220, which encodes a zinc finger transcription factor in late neurula embryos. Because Zf220 negatively regulates Foxg, when we downregulated Zf220 by inhibiting BMP signaling, Foxg was upregulated, resulting in one large palp instead of three palps (adhesive organs derived from ANB cells). Functions of BMP signaling in specification of the ANB region give further support to the hypothesis that ascidian ANB cells share an evolutionary origin with vertebrate cranial placodes.
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