Regulation of gene expression during ontogeny of physiological function in the brackishwater amphipod Gammarus chevreuxi
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Embryonic development is a complex process involving the co-ordinated onset and integration of multiple morphological features and physiological functions. While the molecular basis of morphological development in embryos is relatively well known for traditional model species, the molecular underpinning of the development of physiological functions is not. Here, we used global gene expression profiling to investigate the transcriptional changes associated with the development of morphological and physiological function in the amphipod crustacean Gammarus chevreuxi. We compared the transcriptomes at three timepoints during the latter half of development, characterised by different stages of the development of heart form and function: 10 days post fertilisation (dpf, Early: no heart structure visible), 15 dpf (Middle: heart present but not fully functional), and 18 dpf (Late: regular heartbeat). Gene expression profiles differed markedly between developmental stages, likely representing a change in the activity of different processes throughout the latter period of G. chevreuxi embryonic development. Differentially expressed genes belonged to one of three distinct clusters based on their expression patterns across development. One of these clusters, which included key genes relating to cardiac contractile machinery and calcium handling, displayed a pattern of sequential up-regulation throughout the developmental period studied. Further analyses of these transcripts could reveal genes that may influence the onset of a regular heartbeat. We also identified morphological and physiological processes that may occur alongside heart development, such as development of digestive caeca and the cuticle. Elucidating the mechanisms underpinning morphological and physiological development of non-model organisms will support improved understanding of conserved mechanisms, addressing the current phylogenetic gap between relatively well known model species.
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