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Analyzing gene regulation in ascidian embryos: new tools for new perspectives

Authors

  • A. Di Gregorio,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Division of Genetics and Development, 401 Barker Hall, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-3204, USA
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  • M. Levine

    1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Division of Genetics and Development, 401 Barker Hall, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-3204, USA
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✉ e-mail: annadg@uclink4.berkeley.edu
Fax: +1 510 643 5785

Abstract

Abstract Ascidians are marine protochordates at the evolutionary boundary between invertebrates and vertebrates. Ascidian larvae provide a simple system for unraveling gene regulation networks underlying the formation of the basic chordate body plan. After being used for over a century as a model for embryological studies, ascidians have become, in the past decade, an increasingly popular organism for studying gene regulation. Part of the renewed appeal of this system is the use of electroporation to introduce transgenic DNAs into developing embryos. This method is considerably more efficient than conventional microinjection assays and permits the simultaneous transformation of hundreds of embryos. Electroporation has allowed the identification and characterization of cis-regulatory DNAs that mediate gene expression in a variety of tissues, including the notochord, tail muscles, CNS, and endoderm. Electroporation has also provided a simple method for misexpressing patterning genes and producing dominant mutant phenotypes. Recent studies have used electroporation to create “knock-out” phenotypes by overexpressing dominant negative forms of particular proteins. Here we review the past and present uses of electroporation in ascidian development, and speculate on potential future uses.

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