Neural crest cells (NCCs) are highly patterned embryonic cells that migrate along stereotyped routes to give rise to a diverse array of adult tissues and cell types. Modern NCCs are thought to have evolved from migratory neural precursors with limited developmental potential and patterning. How this occurred is poorly understood. Endothelin signaling regulates several aspects of NCC development, including their migration, differentiation, and patterning. In jawed vertebrates, Endothelin signaling involves multiple functionally distinct ligands (Edns) and receptors (Ednrs) expressed in various NCC subpopulations. To test the potential role of endothelin signaling diversification in the evolution of modern, highly patterned NCC, we analyzed the expression of the complete set of endothelin ligands and receptors in the jawless vertebrate, the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). To better understand ancestral features of gnathostome edn and ednr expression, we also analyzed all known Endothelin signaling components in the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). We found that the sea lamprey has a gnathsotome-like complement of edn and ednr duplicates, and these genes are expressed in patterns highly reminiscent of their gnathostome counterparts. Our results suggest that the duplication and specialization of vertebrate Endothelin signaling coincided with the appearance of highly patterned and multipotent NCCs in stem vertebrates.
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Square, Tyler; Jandzik, David; Cattell, Maria; Hansen, Andrew; and Medeiros, Daniel Meulemans, "Embryonic expression of endothelins and their receptors in lamprey and frog reveals stem vertebrate origins of complex Endothelin signaling." (2016). Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Faculty Contributions. 27.