Pax gene diversity in the basal cnidarian Acropora millepora (Cnidaria, Anthozoa): Implications for the evolution of the Pax gene family
Miller, DJ × Hayward, DC Reece-Hoyes, JS Scholten, I Catmull, J Gehring, WJ Callaerts, Patrick Larsen, JE Ball, EE #
Natl acad sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol:97 issue:9 pages:4475-4480
Pax genes encode a family of transcription factors, many of which play key roles in animal embryonic development but whose evolutionary relationships and ancestral functions are unclear. To address these issues, we are characterizing the Pax gene complement of the coral Acropora millepora, an anthozoan cnidarian. As the simplest animals at the tissue level of organization, cnidarians occupy a key position in animal evolution, and the Anthozoa are the basal class within this diverse phylum. We have identified four Pax genes in Acropora: two (Pax-Aam and Pax-Pam) are orthologs of genes identified in other cnidarians; the others (Pax-Cam and Pax-Dam) are unique to Acropora. Pax-Aam may be orthologous with Drosophila Pax neuro. and Pax-Pam clearly belongs to the Pax-2/5/8 class. The Pax-Pam Paired domain binds specifically and preferentially to Pax-2/5/8 binding sites. The recently identified Acropora gene Pax-Dam belongs to the Pax-3/7 class. Clearly, substantial diversification of the Pax family occurred before the Cnidaria/higher Metazoa split. The fourth Acropora Pax gene, Pax-Cam, may correspond to the ancestral vertebrate Pax gene and most closely resembles Pax-C. The expression pattern of Pax-Cam, in putative neurons, is consistent with an ancestral role of the Pax family in neural differentiation and patterning. We have determined the genomic structure of each Acropora Pax gene and show that some splice sites are shared both between the coral genes and between these and Pax genes in triploblastic metazoans. Together, these data support the monophyly of the Pax family and indicate ancient origins of several introns.