The evolutionary history of vertebrate cranial placodes II. Evolution of ectodermal patterning.
Schlosser G., Patthey C., Shimeld SM.
Cranial placodes are evolutionary innovations of vertebrates. However, they most likely evolved by redeployment, rewiring and diversification of preexisting cell types and patterning mechanisms. In the second part of this review we compare vertebrates with other animal groups to elucidate the evolutionary history of ectodermal patterning. We show that several transcription factors have ancient bilaterian roles in dorsoventral and anteroposterior regionalisation of the ectoderm. Evidence from amphioxus suggests that ancestral chordates then concentrated neurosecretory cells in the anteriormost non-neural ectoderm. This anterior proto-placodal domain subsequently gave rise to the oral siphon primordia in tunicates (with neurosecretory cells being lost) and anterior (adenohypophyseal, olfactory, and lens) placodes of vertebrates. Likewise, tunicate atrial siphon primordia and posterior (otic, lateral line, and epibranchial) placodes of vertebrates probably evolved from a posterior proto-placodal region in the tunicate-vertebrate ancestor. Since both siphon primordia in tunicates give rise to sparse populations of sensory cells, both proto-placodal domains probably also gave rise to some sensory receptors in the tunicate-vertebrate ancestor. However, proper cranial placodes, which give rise to high density arrays of specialised sensory receptors and neurons, evolved from these domains only in the vertebrate lineage. We propose that this may have involved rewiring of the regulatory network upstream and downstream of Six1/2 and Six4/5 transcription factors and their Eya family cofactors. These proteins, which play ancient roles in neuronal differentiation were first recruited to the dorsal non-neural ectoderm in the tunicate-vertebrate ancestor but subsequently probably acquired new target genes in the vertebrate lineage, allowing them to adopt new functions in regulating proliferation and patterning of neuronal progenitors.