Final Report Summary - EVODEVOPATHS (Evolution of Developmental Gene Pathways)
The research achievements of this project have been at the interface of gene expression, development, and evolution. Using experimental embryology, molecular biology, and computational biology, we explored how developmental pathways evolve at the molecular level. Carrying out intricate embryological experiments at the level of individual cells and applying computational approaches to explore the resulting data, we studied the embryonic development of the best understood animal, the nematode C. elegans. Using systematic gene expression analyses, we provided evidence that developmental milestones punctuate gene expression and proposed that ventral enclosure is the nematode phylotypic stage. We identified the time and germ-layer of expression of all genes throughout C. elegans embryogenesis, and used this information to infer the evolutionary history of the endoderm germ layer. Studying ten phyla at the transcriptome level, we also revealed a universal ‘mid-developmental transition’ during the embryogenesis of each species, which we believe has implications for the study of animal body plans. Our results of this systematic comparison of gene pathways across diverse animal species indicate the evolutionary processes underlying regulatory genomic architecture.