Origin of Bilaterian Body Plans: Evolution of Developmental Regulatory Mechanisms

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Science  24 Nov 1995:
Vol. 270, Issue 5240, pp. 1319-1325
DOI: 10.1126/science.270.5240.1319


An argument is proposed to explain the origin of large metazoans, based on the regulatory processes that underlie the morphogenetic organization of pattern in modern animals. Genetic regulatory systems similar to those used in modern, indirectly developing marine invertebrates are considered to indicate the Precambrian regulatory platform on which were erected innovations that underlie the development of macroscopic body plans. Those systems are genetic regulatory programs that produce groups of unspecified “set-aside cells” and hierarchical regulatory programs that initially define regions of morphogenetic space in terms of domains of transcription factor expression. These ideas affect interpretation of the development of arthropods and chordates as well as interpretation of the role of the genes of the homeotic complex in embryogenesis.