Early specification of ascidian larval motor neurons

Yu Katsuyama, Toshiaki Okada, Jun Matsumoto, Yukio Ohtsuka, Toshio Terashima, Yasushi Okamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In the tadpole larvae of the ascidian Halocynthia roretzi, six motor neurons, Moto-A, -B, and -C (a pair of each), are localized proximal to the caudal neural tube and show distinct morphology and innervation patterns. To gain insights into early mechanisms underlying differentiation of individual motor neurons, we have isolated an ascidian homologue of Islet, a LIM type homeobox gene. Earliest expression of Islet was detected in a pair of bilateral blastomeres on the dorsal edge of the late gastrula. At the neurula stage, this expression began to disappear and more posterior cells started to express Islet. Compared to expression of a series of motor neuron genes, it was confirmed that early Islet-positive blastomeres are the common precursors of Moto-A and -B, and late Islet-positive cells in the posterior neural tube are the precursors of Moto-C. Overexpression of Islet induced ectopic expression of motor neuron markers, suggesting that Islet is capable of regulating motor neuron differentiation. Since early expression of Islet colocalizes with that of HrBMPb, the ascidian homologue of BMP2/4, we tested a role of BMP in specification of the motor neuron fate. Overexpression of HrBMPb led to expansion of Lim and Islet expression toward the central area of the neural plate, and microinjection of mRNA coding for a dominant-negative BMP receptor weakened the expression of these genes. Our results suggest that determination of the ascidian motor neuron fate takes place at late gastrula stage and local BMP signaling may play a role in this step.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-322
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Feb 15
Externally publishedYes


  • Ascidian
  • BMP
  • Ion channel genes
  • LIM
  • Motor neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Early specification of ascidian larval motor neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this