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A genomewide survey of developmentally relevant genes in Ciona intestinalis

IX. Genes for muscle structural proteins


Ascidians are simple chordates that are related to, and may resemble, vertebrate ancestors. Comparison of ascidian and vertebrate genomes is expected to provide insight into the molecular genetic basis of chordate/vertebrate evolution. We annotated muscle structural (contractile protein) genes in the completely determined genome sequence of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis, and examined gene expression patterns through extensive EST analysis. Ascidian muscle protein isoform families are generally of similar, or lesser, complexity in comparison with the corresponding vertebrate isoform families, and are based on gene duplication histories and alternative splicing mechanisms that are largely or entirely distinct from those responsible for generating the vertebrate isoforms. Although each of the three ascidian muscle types – larval tail muscle, adult body-wall muscle and heart – expresses a distinct profile of contractile protein isoforms, none of these isoforms are strictly orthologous to the smooth-muscle-specific, fast or slow skeletal muscle-specific, or heart-specific isoforms of vertebrates. Many isoform families showed larval-versus-adult differential expression and in several cases numerous very similar genes were expressed specifically in larval muscle. This may reflect different functional requirements of the locomotor larval muscle as opposed to the non-locomotor muscles of the sessile adult, and/or the biosynthetic demands of extremely rapid larval development.

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This research was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from MEXT, Japan to Y.S. (13044001) and N.S. (12202001). S.C. was a Postdoctoral Fellow of JSPS with a research grant (12060102). We thank Kazuko Hirayama, Chikako Imaizumi, Asako Fujimoto, and Hisayoshi Ishikawa for their technical support.

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Correspondence to Nori Satoh.

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Edited by D. Tautz

The first three authors contributed equally to this work.

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Chiba, S., Awazu, S., Itoh, M. et al. A genomewide survey of developmentally relevant genes in Ciona intestinalis . Dev Genes Evol 213, 291–302 (2003).

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  • Vertebrate Lineage
  • Larval Muscle
  • Myosin Regulatory Light Chain
  • Fast Skeletal Muscle
  • Myosin Heavy Chain Gene