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Rhode Island College


Trans-differentiation of non-muscle tissue to muscle tissue is a well-established property of vertebrate myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs). For instance the vertebrate MRF, MyoD, has been shown to convert nonmuscle cells to muscle cells. During this trans-differentiation, however, endogenous gene activity of the nonmuscle cells is down regulated. To test if this property is also found in invertebrate MRFs our lab has developed a system to analyze the ability of the MRF of Ciona intestinalis, CiMRF, to suppress endogenous gene activity during trans-differentiation. We did this by misexpressing CiMRF in the notochord and endoderm of Ciona embryos, two nonmuscle lineages, and by examining the expression of Brachyury and Alkaline Phosphatase, which are markers of notochord and gut differentiation respectively. Expression of CiMRF in the notochord of Ciona embryos reduced the level of Brachyury expression and resulted in embryos with abnormal tails. This latter result is consistent with studies demonstrating that tail development in Ciona requires Brachyury expression. In addition, expression of CiMRF in the endoderm led to a decrease in the level of alkaline phosphatase activity. These studies indicate that CiMRF functions similarly to vertebrate MRFs in its ability to suppress endogenous gene activity while directing muscle-specific gene activity in nonmuscle cell types.

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