New paper in Organisms Diversity & Evolution


A mosaic of conserved and novel modes of gene expression and morphogenesis in mesoderm and muscle formation of a larval bivalve.

Schulreich SMSalamanca-Díaz DAZieger ECalcino AD & Wanninger A. 2022. 
Org Divers Evol (2022). Link. Published online 7 July 2022


The mesoderm gives rise to several key morphological features of bilaterian animals including endoskeletal elements and the musculature. A number of regulatory genes involved in mesoderm and/or muscle formation (e.g., Brachyury (Bra), even-skipped (eve), Mox, myosin II heavy chain (mhc)) have been identified chiefly from chordates and the ecdysozoans Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans, but data for non-model protostomes, especially those belonging to the ecdysozoan sister clade, Lophotrochozoa (e.g., flatworms, annelids, mollusks), are only beginning to emerge. Within the lophotrochozoans, Mollusca constitutes the most speciose and diverse phylum. Interestingly, however, information on the morphological and molecular underpinnings of key ontogenetic processes such as mesoderm formation and myogenesis remains scarce even for prominent molluscan sublineages such as the bivalves. Here, we investigated myogenesis and developmental expression of Bra, eve, Mox, and mhc in the quagga mussel Dreissena rostriformis, an invasive freshwater bivalve and an emerging model in invertebrate evodevo. We found that all four genes are expressed during mesoderm formation, but some show additional, individual sites of expression during ontogeny. While Mox and mhc are involved in early myogenesis, eve is also expressed in the embryonic shell field and Bra is additionally present in the foregut. Comparative analysis suggests that Mox has an ancestral role in mesoderm and possibly muscle formation in bilaterians, while Bra and eve are conserved regulators of mesoderm development of nephrozoans (protostomes and deuterostomes). The fully developed Dreissena veliger larva shows a highly complex muscular architecture, supporting a muscular ground pattern of autobranch bivalve larvae that includes at least a velum muscle ring, three or four pairs of velum retractors, one or two pairs of larval retractors, two pairs of foot retractors, a pedal plexus, possibly two pairs of mantle retractors, and the muscles of the pallial line, as well as an anterior and a posterior adductor. As is typical for their molluscan kin, remodelling and loss of prominent larval features such as the velum musculature and various retractor systems appear to be also common in bivalves.