Mesodermal gene expression during the embryonic and larval development of the articulate brachiopod Terebratalia transversa
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Background: Brachiopods undergo radial cleavage, which is distinct from the stereotyped development of closely related spiralian taxa. The mesoderm has been inferred to derive from the archenteron walls following gastrulation, and the primary mesoderm derivative in the larva is a complex musculature. To investigate the specification and differentiation of the mesoderm in the articulate brachiopod Terebratalia transversa, we have identified orthologs of genes involved in mesoderm development in other taxa and investigated their spatial and temporal expression during the embryonic and larval development of T. transversa. Results: Orthologs of 17 developmental regulatory genes with roles in the development of the mesoderm in other bilaterian animals were found to be expressed in the developing mesoderm of T. transversa. Five genes, Tt.twist, Tt.GATA456, Tt.dachshund, Tt.mPrx, and Tt.NK1, were found to have expression throughout the archenteron wall at the radial gastrula stage, shortly after the initiation of gastrulation. Three additional genes, Tt.Pax1/9, Tt.MyoD, and Tt.Six1/2, showed expression at this stage in only a portion of the archenteron wall. Tt.eya, Tt.FoxC, Tt.FoxF, Tt.Mox, Tt.paraxis, Tt.Limpet, and Tt.Mef2 all showed initial mesodermal expression during later gastrula or early larval stages. At the late larval stage, Tt.dachshund, Tt.Limpet, and Tt.Mef2 showed expression in nearly all mesoderm cells, while all other genes were localized to specific regions of the mesoderm. Tt.FoxD and Tt.noggin both showed expression in the ventral mesoderm at the larval stages, with gastrula expression patterns in the archenteron roof and blastopore lip, respectively. Conclusions: Expression analyses support conserved roles for developmental regulators in the specification and differentiation of the mesoderm during the development of T. transversa. Expression of multiple mesodermal factors in the archenteron wall during gastrulation supports previous morphological observations that this region gives rise to larval mesoderm. Localized expression domains during gastrulation and larval development evidence early regionalization of the mesoderm and provide a basis for hypotheses regarding the molecular regulation underlying the complex system of musculature observed in the larva.