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Spatio-temporal regulation of Rx and mitotic patterns shape the eye-cup of the photoreceptor cells in Ciona

Oonuma, Kouhei, Kusakabe, Takehiro G.
Developmental biology 2019 v.445 no.2 pp. 245-255
Ciona, kinship, larvae, mitosis, ocelli, photoreceptors, vertebrates
The ascidian larva has a pigmented ocellus comprised of a cup-shaped array of approximately 30 photoreceptor cells, a pigment cell, and three lens cells. Morphological, physiological and molecular evidence has suggested evolutionary kinship between the ascidian larval photoreceptors and vertebrate retinal and/or pineal photoreceptors. Rx, an essential factor for vertebrate photoreceptor development, has also been suggested to be involved in the development of the ascidian photoreceptor cells, but a recent revision of the photoreceptor cell lineage raised a crucial discrepancy between the reported expression patterns of Rx and the cell lineage. Here, we report spatio-temporal expression patterns of Rx at single-cell resolution along with mitotic patterns up to the final division of the photoreceptor-lineage cells in Ciona. The expression of Rx commences in non-photoreceptor a-lineage cells on the right side of the anterior sensory vesicle at the early tailbud stage. At the mid tailbud stage, Rx begins to be expressed in the A-lineage photoreceptor cell progenitors located on the right side of the posterior sensory vesicle. Thus, Rx is specifically but not exclusively expressed in the photoreceptor-lineage cells in the ascidian embryo. Two cis-regulatory modules are shown to be important for the photoreceptor-lineage expression of Rx. The cell division patterns of the photoreceptor-lineage cells rationally explain the generation of the cup-shaped structure of the pigmented ocellus. The present findings demonstrate the complete cell lineage of the ocellus photoreceptor cells and provide a framework elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of photoreceptor development in Ciona.