Developmental progression in the coral acropora digitifera is controlled by differential expression of distinct regulatory gene networks

Alejandro Reyes-Bermudez*, Alejandro Villar-Briones, Catalina Ramirez-Portilla, Michio Hidaka, Alexander S. Mikheyev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Corals belong to themost basal class of the Phylum Cnidaria,which is considered the sister group of bilaterian animals, and thus have become an emerging model to study the evolution of developmental mechanisms. Although cell renewal, differentiation, and maintenance of pluripotency are cellular events shared by multicellular animals, the cellular basis of these fundamental biological processes are still poorly understood. To understand howchanges in gene expression regulatemorphogenetic transitions at the base of the eumetazoa,we performed quantitative RNA-seq analysis during Acropora digitifera's development.We collected embryonic, larval, and adult samples to characterize stage-specific transcription profiles, as well as broad expression patterns. Transcription profiles reconstructed development revealing two main expression clusters. The first cluster grouped blastula and gastrula and the second grouped subsequent developmental time points. Consistently, we observed clear differences in gene expression between earlyandlatedevelopmental transitions, withhighernumbers of differentially expressedgenes andfold changes aroundgastrulation. Furthermore, we identified three coexpression clusters that represented discrete gene expression patterns. During early transitions, transcriptional networks seemed to regulate cellular fate and morphogenesis of the larval body. In late transitions, these networks seemed to play important roles preparing planulae for switch in lifestyle and regulation of adult processes. Although developmental progression in A. digitifera is regulated to some extent by differential coexpression of well-defined gene networks, stage-specific transcription profiles appear to be independent entities.While negative regulation of transcription is predominant in early development, cell differentiation was upregulated in larval and adult stages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-870
Number of pages20
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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