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  1. Axon regrowth after spinal cord injury (SCI) is inhibited by several types of inhibitory extracellular molecules in the central nervous system (CNS), including chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs), which also are components of perineuronal nets (PNNs). The axons of lampreys regenerate following SCI, even though their spinal cords contain CSPGs, and their neurons are enwrapped by PNNs. Previously, we showed that by 2 weeks after spinal cord transection in the lamprey, expression of CSPGs increased in the lesion site, and thereafter, decreased to pre-injury levels by 10 weeks. Enzymatic digestion of CSPGs in the lesion site with chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) enhanced axonal regeneration after SCI and reduced retrograde neuronal death. Lecticans (aggrecan, versican, neurocan, and brevican) are the major CSPG family in the CNS. Previously, we cloned a cDNA fragment that lies in the most conserved link-domain of the lamprey lecticans and found that lectican mRNAs are expressed widely in lamprey glia and neurons. Because of the lack of strict one-to-one orthology with the jawed vertebrate lecticans, the four lamprey lecticans were named simply A, B, C, and D. Using probes that distinguish these four lecticans, we now show that they all are expressed in glia and neurons but at differentmore »levels. Expression levels are relatively high in embryonic and early larval stages, gradually decrease, and are upregulated again in adults. Reductions of lecticans B and D are greater than those of A and C. Levels of mRNAs for lecticans B and D increased dramatically after SCI. Lectican D remained upregulated for at least 10 weeks. Multiple cells, including glia, neurons, ependymal cells and microglia/macrophages, expressed lectican mRNAs in the peripheral zone and lesion center after SCI. Thus, as in mammals, lamprey lecticans may be involved in axon guidance and neuroplasticity early in development. Moreover, neurons, glia, ependymal cells, and microglia/macrophages, are responsible for the increase in CSPGs during the formation of the glial scar after SCI.« less
  2. Vertebrates have distinct tissues which are not present in invertebrate chordates nor other metazoans. The rise of these tissues also coincided with at least one round of whole-genome duplication as well as a suite of lineage-specific segmental duplications. Understanding whether novel genes lead to the origin and diversification of novel cell types, therefore, is of great importance in vertebrate evolution. Here we were particularly interested in the evolution of the vertebrate musculoskeletal system, the muscles and connective tissues that support a diversity of body plans. A major component of the musculoskeletal extracellular matrix (ECM) is fibrillar collagens, a gene family which has been greatly expanded upon in vertebrates. We thus asked whether the repertoire of fibrillar collagens in vertebrates reflects differences in the musculoskeletal system. To test this, we explored the diversity of fibrillar collagens in lamprey, a jawless vertebrate which diverged from jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes) more than five hundred million years ago and has undergone its own gene duplications. Some of the principal components of vertebrate hyaline cartilage are the fibrillar collagens type II and XI, but their presence in cartilage development across all vertebrate taxa has been disputed. We particularly emphasized the characterization of genes in the lampreymore »hyaline cartilage, testing if its collagen repertoire was similar to that in gnathostomes. Overall, we discovered thirteen fibrillar collagens from all known gene subfamilies in lamprey and were able to identify several lineage-specific duplications. We found that, while the collagen loci have undergone rearrangement, the Clade A genes have remained linked with the hox clusters, a phenomenon also seen in gnathostomes. While the lamprey muscular tissue was largely similar to that seen in gnathostomes, we saw considerable differences in the larval lamprey skeletal tissue, with distinct collagen combinations pertaining to different cartilage types. Our gene expression analyses were unable to identify type II collagen in the sea lamprey hyaline cartilage nor any other fibrillar collagen during chondrogenesis at the stages observed, meaning that sea lamprey likely no longer require these genes during early cartilage development. Our findings suggest that fibrillar collagens were multifunctional across the musculoskeletal system in the last common ancestor of vertebrates and have been largely conserved, but these genes alone cannot explain the origin of novel cell types.« less
  3. Jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes) have been the dominant lineage of deuterostomes for nearly three hundred fifty million years. Only a few lineages of jawless vertebrates remain in comparison. Composed of lampreys and hagfishes (cyclostomes), these jawless survivors are important systems for understanding the evolution of vertebrates. One focus of cyclostome research has been head skeleton development, as its evolution has been a driver of vertebrate morphological diversification. Recent work has identified hyaline-like cartilage in the oral cirri of the invertebrate chordate amphioxus, making cyclostomes critical for understanding the stepwise acquisition of vertebrate chondroid tissues. Our knowledge of cyclostome skeletogenesis, however, has lagged behind gnathostomes due to the difficulty of manipulating lamprey and hagfish embryos. In this review, we discuss and compare the regulation and histogenesis of cyclostome and gnathostome skeletal tissues. We also survey differences in skeletal morphology that we see amongst cyclostomes, as few elements can be confidently homologized between them. A recurring theme is the heterogeneity of skeletal morphology amongst living vertebrates, despite conserved genetic regulation. Based on these comparisons, we suggest a model through which these mesenchymal connective tissues acquired distinct histologies and that histological flexibility in cartilage existed in the last common ancestor of modern vertebrates.
  4. Whereas the gill chambers of jawless vertebrates open directly into the environment, jawed vertebrates evolved skeletal appendages that drive oxygenated water unidirectionally over the gills. A major anatomical difference between the two jawed vertebrate lineages is the presence of a single large gill cover in bony fishes versus separate covers for each gill chamber in cartilaginous fishes. Here, we find that these divergent patterns correlate with the pharyngeal arch expression of Pou3f3 orthologs. We identify a deeply conserved Pou3f3 arch enhancer present in humans through sharks but undetectable in jawless fish. Minor differences between the bony and cartilaginous fish enhancers account for their restricted versus pan-arch expression patterns. In zebrafish, mutation of Pou3f3 or the conserved enhancer disrupts gill cover formation, whereas ectopic pan-arch Pou3f3b expression generates ectopic skeletal elements resembling the multimeric covers of cartilaginous fishes. Emergence of this Pou3f3 arch enhancer >430 Mya and subsequent modifications may thus have contributed to the acquisition and diversification of gill covers and respiratory strategies during gnathostome evolution.