In hydra -
Hydra, a member of phylum Cnidaria that arose early in evolution, is endowed with a defined axis, organized nervous system, and active behavior. It is a powerful model system for the elucidation of evolution of developmental mechanisms in animals. Here, we describe the identification and cloning of noggin-like gene from hydra. Noggin is a secreted protein involved at multiple stages of vertebrate embryonic development including neural induction and is known to exert its effects by inhibiting the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-signaling pathway. Sequence analysis revealed that hydra Noggin shows considerable similarity with its orthologs at the amino acid level. When microinjected in the early Xenopus embryos, hydra noggin mRNA induced a secondary axis in 100% of the injected embryos, demonstrating functional conservation of hydra noggin in vertebrates. This was further confirmed by the partial rescue of Xenopus embryos by hydra noggin mRNA from UV-induced ventralization. By using animal cap assay in Xenopus embryos, we demonstrate that these effects of hydra noggin in Xenopus embryos are because of inhibition of BMP signaling by Noggin. Our data indicate that BMP/Noggin antagonism predates the bilaterian divergence and is conserved during the evolution.
In zebrafish (less interesting from evolutionary perspective) -
The dorsoventral polarity of the vertebrate embryo is established through interactions between ventrally expressed bone morphogenetic proteins and their organizer-borne antagonists Noggin, Chordin, and Follistatin. While the opposing interactions between Short Gastrulation/Chordin and Decapentaplegic/BMP4 have been evolutionarily conserved in arthropods and vertebrates, there has been up to now no functional evidence of an implication of Noggin in the early patterning of organisms other than Xenopus. We have studied the contribution of Noggin to the embryonic development of the zebrafish. While single-copy noggin genes have been characterized in several vertebrate species, we report that the zebrafish genome harbors three noggin homologues. Overexpression experiments show that Noggin1, Noggin2, and Noggin3 can antagonize ventralizing BMPs. While all three factors have similar biological activities, their embryonic expression is different. The combined expression of the three genes recapitulates the different aspects of the expression of the single-copy noggin genes of other organisms. This suggests that the three zebrafish noggin genes and the single noggin genes of other vertebrates have evolved from a common ancestor and that subsequent differential loss of tissue-specific elements in the promoters of the different zebrafish genes accounts for their more restricted spatiotemporal expression. Finally we show that noggin1 is expressed in the fish organizer and able to dorsalize the embryo, suggesting its implication in the dorsoventral patterning of the zebrafish.