Gene expression in notochord and nuclei pulposi: a study of gene families across the chordate phylum

Rahul Raghavan, Ugo Coppola, Yushi Wu, Chibuike Ihewulezi, Lenny J. Negrón-Piñeiro, Julie E. Maguire, Justin Hong, Matthew Cunningham, Han Jo Kim, Todd J. Albert, Abdullah M. Ali, Jean-Pierre Saint-Jeannet, Filomena Ristoratore, Chitra L. Dahia, Anna Di Gregorio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transition from notochord to vertebral column is a crucial milestone in chordate evolution and in prenatal development of all vertebrates. As ossification of the vertebral bodies proceeds, involutions of residual notochord cells into the intervertebral discs form the nuclei pulposi, shock-absorbing structures that confer flexibility to the spine. Numerous studies have outlined the developmental and evolutionary relationship between notochord and nuclei pulposi. However, the knowledge of the similarities and differences in the genetic repertoires of these two structures remains limited, also because comparative studies of notochord and nuclei pulposi across chordates are complicated by the gene/genome duplication events that led to extant vertebrates. Here we show the results of a pilot study aimed at bridging the information on these two structures. We have followed in different vertebrates the evolutionary trajectory of notochord genes identified in the invertebrate chordate Ciona, and we have evaluated the extent of conservation of their expression in notochord cells. Our results have uncovered evolutionarily conserved markers of both notochord development and aging/degeneration of the nuclei pulposi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number63
JournalBMC Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Ciona
  • Coronin
  • Human
  • Mouse
  • Notochord
  • Nucleus pulposus
  • Phip
  • Rgm
  • Rgs
  • Tmod
  • Xenopus
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science


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