Impairing Otp homeodomain function in oral ectoderm cells affects skeletogenesis in sea urchin embryos

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In the sea urchin embryo skeletogenesis is the result of a complex series of molecular and cellular events that coordinate the morphogenetic process. Past and recent evidence strongly indicate that skeletal initiation and growth are strictly dependent on signals emanating from the oral ectodermal wall. As previously suggested, Orthopedia (Otp), a homeodomain-containing transcription factor specifically expressed in a small subset of oral ectoderm cells, might be implicated in this signalling pathway. In this study, we utilize three different strategies to address the issue of whether Otp is an upstream regulator of sketelogenesis. We describe the effects of microinjection of Otp morpholino-substituted antisense oligonucleotides and dominant-negative Otp-engrailed mRNA in Paracentrotus lividus embryos. We demonstrate that inhibition of Otp expression completely abolishes skeletal synthesis. By contrast, coinjection of Otp mRNA and the morpholino antisense oligonucleotide specifically rescues the skeletogenic program. In addition, localized ectodermal expression of the Otp-GFP fusion gene construct driven by the hatching enzyme promoter, induces ectopic and abnormal spiculogenesis. We further show that an indirect target of this homeoprotein is the skeletogenic specific gene SM30, whose expression is known to be under the strict control of the oral ectoderm territory. Based on these results, we conclude that Otp triggers the ectoderm-specific signal that promotes skeletogenesis. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




Cavalieri, V., Spinelli, G., & Di Bernardo, M. (2003). Impairing Otp homeodomain function in oral ectoderm cells affects skeletogenesis in sea urchin embryos. Developmental Biology, 262(1), 107–118.

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