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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The genome of the sea squirt Ciona Intestinalis: The seeds of vertebrate innovation

  • Author(s): Rokhsar, D.S.
  • Chapman, J.
  • Putnam, N.
  • Dehal, P.S.
  • Rash, S.
  • Gelpke-Sollweijn, M.
  • Terry, A.
  • Zhou, C.
  • Zhang, Q.
  • Goodstein, D.L.
  • Kobayashi, A.
  • Keys, D.
  • DiGregorio, A.
  • Medina, M.
  • Boore, J.L.
  • Doggett, N.
  • Detter, C.
  • Richardson, P.M.
  • Lucas, S.
  • Satou, Y.
  • Kohara, Y.
  • Satoh, N.
  • Levine, M.
  • Hawkins, T.L.
  • et al.

The first chordates appeared over a half a billion years ago, providing the ancestral stock from which modern vertebrates emerged. To shed some light on the chordate origins, we have sequenced the genome of Ciona intestinalis, a sea squirt whose lineage split from that of vertebrates in the mid Cambrian. Ciona has long been a popular model system for the study of development, featuring world-wide and year-round availability, easily visualized cells and morphogenetic processes, simple methods for transient transgene expression, and a growing genomic infrastructure including extensive EST and cDNA collections. A comparison of the assembled Ciona genome sequence and gene complement with available invertebrate and vertebrate sequences provides insight into the origins and development of a chordate and vertebrate systems including the nervous systems, muscular, immune and endocrine systems, as well as the evolution of the chordate body plan. The Ciona genome provides a foundation for a genome-scale analyses of regulatory networks through chordate development.

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