ankAT-1 is a novel gene mediating the apical tuft formation in the sea urchin embryo

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In sea urchin embryos, the apical tuft forms within the neurogenic animal plate. When FoxQ2, one of the earliest factors expressed specifically in the animal plate by early blastula stage, is knocked down, the structure of the apical tuft is altered. To determine the basis of this phenotype, we identified FoxQ2-dependent genes using microarray analysis. The most strongly down-regulated gene in FoxQ2 morphants encodes a protein with ankyrin repeats region in its N-terminal domain. We named this gene ankAT-1, Ankyrin-containing gene specific for Apical Tuft. Initially its expression in the animal pole region of very early blastula stage embryos is FoxQ2-independent but becomes FoxQ2-dependent beginning at mesenchyme blastula stage and continuing in the animal plate of 3-day larvae. Furthermore, like FoxQ2, this gene is expressed throughout the expanded apical tuft region that forms in embryos lacking nuclear β-catenin. When AnkAT-1 is knocked-down by injecting a morpholino, the cilia at the animal plate in the resulting embryos are much shorter and their motility is less than that of motile cilia in other ectoderm cells, and remains similar to that of long apical tuft cilia. We conclude that AnkAT-1 is involved in regulating the length of apical tuft cilia.



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