Analysis of snail genes in the crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis: insight into snail gene family evolution. Academic Article uri icon


  • The transcriptional repressor snail was first discovered in Drosophila melanogaster, where it initially plays a role in gastrulation and mesoderm formation, and later plays a role in neurogenesis. Among arthropods, this role of snail appears to be conserved in the insects Tribolium and Anopheles gambiae, but not in the chelicerates Cupiennius salei and Achaearanea tepidariorum, the myriapod Glomeris marginata, or the Branchiopod crustacean Daphnia magna. These data imply that within arthropoda, snail acquired its role in gastrulation and mesoderm formation in the insect lineage. However, crustaceans are a diverse group with several major taxa, making analysis of more crustaceans necessary to potentially understand the ancestral role of snail in Pancrustacea (crustaceans + insects) and thus in the ancestor of insects as well. To address these questions, we examined the snail family in the Malacostracan crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis. We found three snail homologs, Ph-snail1, Ph-snail2 and Ph-snail3, and one scratch homolog, Ph-scratch. Parhyale snail genes are expressed after gastrulation, during germband formation and elongation. Ph-snail1, Ph-snail2, and Ph-snail3 are expressed in distinct patterns in the neuroectoderm. Ph-snail1 is the only Parhyale snail gene expressed in the mesoderm, where its expression cycles in the mesodermal stem cells, called mesoteloblasts. The mesoteloblasts go through a series of cycles, where each cycle is composed of a migration phase and a division phase. Ph-snail1 is expressed during the migration phase, but not during the division phase. We found that as each mesoteloblast division produces one segment's worth of mesoderm, Ph-snail1 expression is linked to both the cell cycle and the segmental production of mesoderm.

publication date

  • May 2012