Tallafuss, A. and Bally-Cuif, L. (2002) Formation of the head-trunk boundary in the animal body plan: an evolutionary perspective. Gene. 287(1-2):23-32.
Gene expression analyses and anatomical studies suggest that the body plans of protostomes and deuterostomes are phylogenetically related. In the central nervous system (CNS), arthropods and vertebrates (as well as their closest related phyla the urochordates and cephalochordates) share a nerve cord with rostral specification: the cerebral neuromeres in Drosophila, cerebral sensory vesicle of ascidians and lancelets and the large brain of craniates. Homologous genes, in particular of the otd/Otx and Hox families, are at play in these species to specify the anterior and posterior CNS territories, respectively. In contrast, homologies in the establishment of boundary regions like those separating head and trunk structures in arthropods or mid- and hindbrain domains in chordates are still unclear. We compare in these species the formation, properties and molecular characteristics of these boundaries during embryonic development. We also discuss recent findings suggesting that insects and vertebrates might have co-opted factors of related families to control the formation of these boundary regions, the evolution of which would then appear dramatically different from that of the anterior and posterior CNS domains.