T-Box Genes and Developmental Gene Regulatory Networks in Ascidians

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ascidians are invertebrate chordates with a biphasic life cycle characterized by a dual body plan that displays simplified versions of chordate structures, such as a premetamorphic 40-cell notochord topped by a dorsal nerve cord and postmetamorphic pharyngeal slits. These relatively simple chordates are characterized by rapid development, compact genomes and ease of transgenesis, and thus provide the opportunity to rapidly characterize the genomic organization, developmental function, and transcriptional regulation of evolutionarily conserved gene families. This review summarizes the current knowledge on members of the T-box family of transcription factors in Ciona and other ascidians. In both chordate and nonchordate animals, these genes control a variety of morphogenetic processes, and their mutations are responsible for malformations and developmental defects in organisms ranging from flies to humans. In ascidians, T-box transcription factors are required for the formation and specialization of essential structures, including notochord, muscle, heart, and differentiated neurons. In recent years, the experimental advantages offered by ascidian embryos have allowed the rapid accumulation of a wealth of information on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the expression of T-box genes. These studies have also elucidated the strategies employed by these transcription factors to orchestrate the appropriate spatial and temporal deployment of the numerous target genes that they control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages37
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Publication series

NameCurrent topics in developmental biology
ISSN (Print)0070-2153


  • Ascidian
  • Brachyury
  • Ciona
  • Enhancer
  • Muscle
  • Notochord
  • T-box
  • Tbx1
  • Tbx10
  • Tbx2/3
  • Tbx6
  • Transcription factor
  • Gene Duplication
  • Urochordata/genetics
  • T-Box Domain Proteins/genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Body Patterning/genetics
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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