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Hepatocyte Growth Factor Is Crucial For Development Of The Carapace In Turtles

Y. Kawashima-Ohya, Y. Narita, H. Nagashima, R. Usuda, S. Kuratani
Published 2011 · Biology, Medicine

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Turtles are characterized by their shell, composed of a dorsal carapace and a ventral plastron. The carapace first appears as the turtle‐specific carapacial ridge (CR) on the lateral aspect of the embryonic flank. Accompanying the acquisition of the shell, unlike in other amniotes, hypaxial muscles in turtle embryos appear as thin threads of fibrous tissue. To understand carapacial evolution from the perspective of muscle development, we compared the development of the muscle plate, the anlage of hypaxial muscles, between the Chinese soft‐shelled turtle, Pelodiscus sinensis, and chicken embryos. We found that the ventrolateral lip (VLL) of the thoracic dermomyotome of P. sinensis delaminates early and produces sparse muscle plate in the lateral body wall. Expression patterns of the regulatory genes for myotome differentiation, such as Myf5, myogenin, Pax3, and Pax7 have been conserved among amniotes, including turtles. However, in P. sinensis embryos, the gene hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), encoding a regulatory factor for delamination of the dermomyotomal VLL, was uniquely expressed in sclerotome and the lateral body wall at the interlimb level. Implantation of COS‐7 cells expressing a HGF antagonist into the turtle embryo inhibited CR formation. We conclude that the de novo expression of HGF in the turtle mesoderm would have played an innovative role resulting in the acquisition of the turtle‐specific body plan.
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