1. Developmental Biology
  2. Evolutionary Biology
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Functional divergence of paralogous transcription factors supported the evolution of biomineralization in echinoderms

  1. Jian Ming Khor
  2. Charles A Ettensohn  Is a corresponding author
  1. Carnegie Mellon University, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 4
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Cite this article as: eLife 2017;6:e32728 doi: 10.7554/eLife.32728

Abstract

Alx1 is a pivotal transcription factor in a gene regulatory network that controls skeletogenesis throughout the echinoderm phylum. We performed a structure-function analysis of sea urchin Alx1 using a rescue assay and identified a novel, conserved motif (Domain 2) essential for skeletogenic function. The paralogue of Alx1, Alx4, was not functionally interchangeable with Alx1, but insertion of Domain 2 conferred robust skeletogenic function on Alx4. We used cross-species expression experiments to show that Alx1 proteins from distantly related echinoderms are not interchangeable, although the sequence and function of Domain 2 are highly conserved. We also found that Domain 2 is subject to alternative splicing and provide evidence that this domain was originally gained through exon extension. Our findings show that a gene duplication event permitted the functional specialization of a transcription factor through changes in exon-intron organization and thereby supported the evolution of a major morphological novelty.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jian Ming Khor

    Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1428-6770
  2. Charles A Ettensohn

    Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, United States
    For correspondence
    ettensohn@cmu.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3625-0955

Funding

National Science Foundation (IOS-1354973)

  • Charles A Ettensohn

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Diethard Tautz, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: October 12, 2017
  2. Accepted: November 16, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 20, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 8, 2018 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2017, Khor & Ettensohn

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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