Investigating evolutionarily conserved molecular mechanisms controlling gene expression in the notochord

Julie E. Maguire, Aakarsha Pandey, Yushi Wu, Anna Di Gregorio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ascidian embryos have been employed as model systems for studies of developmental biology for well over a century, owing to their desirable blend of experimental advantages, which include their rapid development, traceable cell lineage, and evolutionarily conserved morphogenetic movements. Two decades ago, the development of a streamlined electroporation method drastically reduced the time and cost of transgenic experiments, and, along with the elucidation of the complete genomic sequences of several ascidian species, propelled these simple chordates to the forefront of the model organisms available for studies of regulation of gene expression. Numerous ascidian sequences with tissue-specific enhancer activity were isolated and rapidly characterized through systematic in vivo experiments that would require several weeks in most other model systems. These cis-regulatory sequences include a large collection of notochord enhancers, which have been used to visualize notochord development in vivo, to generate mutant phenotypes, and to knock down genes of interest. Moreover, their detailed characterization has allowed the reconstruction of different branches of the notochord gene regulatory network. This chapter describes how the use of transgenic techniques has rendered the ascidian Ciona a competitive model organism for studies of notochord development, evolution, and gene regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • Ascidian
  • Brachyury
  • Ciona
  • Electroporation
  • Enhancer
  • Notochord
  • T-Box
  • Tbx2/3
  • Transcription factor
  • cis-Regulatory Module

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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