Evolutionarily conserved role for SoxC genes in neural crest specification and neuronal differentiation.
Uy BR., Simoes-Costa M., Koo DE., Sauka-Spengler T., Bronner ME.
Members of the Sox family of transcription factors play a variety of critical developmental roles in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Whereas SoxBs and SoxEs are involved in neural and neural crest development, respectively, far less is known about members of the SoxC subfamily. To address this from an evolutionary perspective, we compare expression and function of SoxC genes in neural crest cells and their derivatives in lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), a basal vertebrate, to frog (Xenopus laevis). Analysis of transcript distribution reveals conservation of lamprey and X. laevis SoxC expression in premigratory neural crest, branchial arches, and cranial ganglia. Moreover, morpholino-mediated loss-of-function of selected SoxC family members demonstrates essential roles in aspects of neural crest development in both organisms. The results suggest important and conserved functions of SoxC genes during vertebrate evolution and a particularly critical, previously unrecognized role in early neural crest specification.