1 Department of Biology, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49006, U.S.A.
2 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0202, U.S.A.
A LIM-homeobox gene, AmphiLim1/5, from the Florida amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae) encodes a protein that phylogenetic analysis positions at the base of a clade comprising vertebrate Lim1 and Lim5. Amphioxus AmphiLim1/5 is expressed in domains that are a composite of those of vertebrate Lim1 and Lim5, which evidently underwent subfunctionalization after duplication of an ancestral protochordate Lim1/5. During amphioxus development, transcription is first detected in the ectoderm of the blastula. Then, in the gastrula, a second expression domain appears in the mesendoderm just within the dorsal lip of the blastopore, a region known to have organizer properties in amphioxus. This mesendodermal expression corresponds to Lim1 expression in the Spemann organizer of vertebrates. At least one of the functions of vertebrate Lim1 in the organizer is to control the transcription of genes involved in cell and tissue movements during gastrulation, and a comparable early function seems likely for AmphiLim1/5 during gastrular invagination of amphioxus. Later embryos and larvae of amphioxus express AmphiLim1/5 in clusters of cells, probably motoneurons, in the anterior part of the central nervous system, in the hindgut, in Hatschek's right diverticulum (a rudiment of the rostral coelom), and in the wall of the first somite on the left side (a precursor of Hatschek's nephridium). In the early larva, expression continues in neural cells, in Hatschek's nephridium, in the wall of the rostral coelom, in the epidermis of the upper lip, and in mesoderm cells near the opening of the second gill slit. The developmental expression in Hatschek's nephridium is especially interesting because it helps support the homology between this amphioxus organ and the vertebrate pronephros.
Keywords: Spemann organizer, kidney, brain, cephalochordate, lancelet