A serpin is required for ectomesoderm, a hallmark of spiralian development

Longjun Wu, J. David Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among animals, diploblasts contain two germ layers, endoderm and ectoderm, while triploblasts have a distinct third germ layer called the mesoderm. Spiralians are a group of triploblast animals that have highly conserved development: they share the distinctive spiralian cleavage pattern as well as a unique source of mesoderm, the ectomesoderm. This population of mesoderm is distinct from endomesoderm and is considered a hallmark of spiralian development, but the regulatory network that drives its development is unknown. Here we identified ectomesoderm-specific genes in the mollusc Tritia (aka Ilyanassa) obsoleta through differential gene expression analyses comparing control and ectomesoderm-ablated embryos, followed by in situ hybridization of identified transcripts. We identified a Tritia serpin gene (ToSerpin1) that appears to be specifically expressed in the ectomesoderm of the posterior and head. Ablation of the 3a and 3b cells, which make most of the ectomesoderm, abolishes ToSerpin1 expression, consistent with its expression in these cells. Morpholino knockdown of ToSerpin1 causes ectomesoderm defects, most prominently in the muscle system of the larval head. This is the first gene identified that is specifically implicated in spiralian ectomesoderm development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-181
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Biology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Development
  • Ectomesoderm
  • Germ layer
  • Novel cell type
  • Serpin
  • Spiralian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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