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Tissieres, Virginie; Geier, Florian; Kessler, Barbara; Wolf, Eckhard; Zeller, Rolf and Lopez-Rios, Javier (2020): Gene Regulatory and Expression Differences between Mouse and Pig Limb Buds Provide Insights into the Evolutionary Emergence of Artiodactyl Traits. In: Cell Reports, Vol. 31, No. 1, 107490

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Abstract

Digit loss/reductions are evolutionary adaptations in cursorial mammals such as pigs. To gain mechanistic insight into these processes, we performed a comparative molecular analysis of limb development in mouse and pig embryos, which revealed a loss of anterior-posterior polarity during distal progression of pig limb bud development. These alterations in pig limb buds are paralleled by changes in the mesenchymal response to Sonic hedgehog (SHH) signaling, which is altered upstream of the reduction and loss of Fgf8 expression in the ectoderm that overlaps the reduced and vestigial digit rudiments of the pig handplate, respectively. Furthermore, genome-wide open chromatin profiling using equivalent developmental stages of mouse and pig limb buds reveals the functional divergence of about one-third of the regulatory genome. This study uncovers widespread alterations in the regulatory landscapes of genes essential for limb development that likely contributed to the morphological diversion of artiodactyl limbs from the pentadactyl archetype of tetrapods.

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