ZFIN ID: ZDB-PUB-181224-23
Functional conserved non-coding elements among tunicates and chordates
Ambrosino, L., Vassalli, Q.A., D'Agostino, Y., Esposito, R., Cetrangolo, V., Caputi, L., Amoroso, A., Aniello, F., D'Aniello, S., Chatzigeorgiou, M., Chiusano, M.L., Locascio, A.
Date: 2018
Source: Developmental Biology   448(2): 101-110 (Journal)
Registered Authors: Aniello, Francesco, Caputi, Luigi, D'Aniello, Salvatore
Keywords: CNE, Chordate evolution, Homeobox-containing genes, Regulatory elements
MeSH Terms:
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Base Sequence
  • Chordata/genetics*
  • Conserved Sequence/genetics*
  • DNA, Intergenic/genetics*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian/metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Homeodomain Proteins/genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins/metabolism
  • Species Specificity
  • Urochordata/genetics*
PubMed: 30579696 Full text @ Dev. Biol.
Non-coding regions with dozens to several hundred base pairs of extreme conservation have been found in all metazoan genomes. The distribution of these conserved non-coding elements (CNE) within and across genomes has suggested that many of them may have roles as transcriptional regulatory elements. A combination of bioinformatics and experimental approaches can be used to identify CNEs with regulatory activity in phylogenetically distant species. Nevertheless, the high divergent rate of genomic sequences of several organisms, such as tunicates, complicates the characterization of these conserved elements and very few examples really may prove their functional activity. We used a comparative approach to facilitate the identification of CNEs among distantly related or highly divergent species and experimentally demonstrated the functional significance of these novel CNEs. We first experimentally tested, in C. robusta and D. rerio transgenic embryos, the regulatory activity of conserved elements associated to genes involved in developmental control among different chordates (Homo sapiens and Danio rerio for vertebrates, Ciona robusta and Ciona savignyi for tunicates and Branchiostoma floridae for cephalochordates). Once demonstrated the cross-species functional conservation of these CNEs, the same gene loci were used as references to locate homologous regions and possible CNEs in available tunicate genomes. Comparison of tunicate-specific and chordate-specific CNEs revealed absence of conservation of the regulatory elements in spite of conservation of regulatory patterns, likely due to evolutionary specification of the respective developmental networks. This result highlights the importance of an integrative in-silico/in-vivo approach to CNEs investigation, encompassing both bioinformatics, essential for putative CNEs identification, and laboratory experiments, pivotal for the understanding of CNEs functionality.