The single MyoD family gene of Ciona intestinalis encodes two differentially expressed proteins: Implications for the evolution of chordate muscle gene regulation

Thomas H. Meedel, Steven C. Farmer, James J. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Scopus citations


A MyoD family gene was identified in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis and designated CiMDF (Ciona intestinalis Muscle Determination Factor). Expression of CiMDF was restricted to the muscle cells of the developing embryo and the body-wall muscle of adults. Northern blots showed that two differentially regulated CiMDF transcripts were expressed during development. A 1.8 kb transcript (CiMDFa) appeared first and was gradually replaced by a 2.7 kb transcript (CiMDFb). These transcripts encoded essentially identical MyoD family proteins with the exception of a 68 amino acid C-terminal sequence present in CiMDFb that was absent from CiMDFa. Although both CiMDFa and CiMDFb contained the cysteine-rich/basic-helix loop helix domain (Cys-rich/bHLH) present in all MyoD family proteins, only CiMDFb contained the region near the C terminus (Domain III) characteristic of this gene family. Genomic Southern blots showed that C. intestinalis has only one MyoD family gene, suggesting that CiMDFa and CiMDFb result from differential processing of primary transcripts. The existence of two MyoD family proteins that are differentially expressed during ascidian embryogenesis has novel parallels to vertebrate muscle development and may reflect conserved myogenic regulatory mechanisms among chordates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1711-1721
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 1997



  • Ascidian
  • Chordate
  • CiMDF
  • Ciona
  • Embryogenesis
  • Evolution
  • Muscle
  • MyoD family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology

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