Gut patterning and PANcreas development in evolution and disease: a TRAnsCriptomic approach


Many genes that have been shown to cause diseases were originally identified because of their role in embryonic development, but were subsequently shown to be also important in the postnatal control of cell growth and differentiation. This is the case of many transcription factors (TF) among which the ParaHox gene Xlox, whose mammalian homolog, Pdx1, is well known for its role in specification of the pancreas, and subsequent formation and maintenance of pancreatic beta-cells. Pdx1 is a causal factor in the development of diabetes, wherein there is a deficiency in insulin production of beta-cells within the pancreas. Moreover, mis-expression of Pdx1 is commonly seen in intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Here we propose to combine analyses in the highly simple but phylogenetically relevant sea urchin embryo and sea star embryo models with developmentally targeted mouse transcriptome data to characterize regulatory connections that are downstream of the disease-related Xlox/Pdx1 transcription factor.

What we do

We are coordinator of the project and Operating unit SZN and will perform all manipulations and analyses in sea urchin and sea star embryos and all bioinformatic analyses and evolutionary comparisons.


Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Napoli; Laboratorio di Medicina Molecolare e Genomica, Università degli Studi di Salerno.

Research Area

Organismal Biology

Project Lifetime

April 2014 to December 2015

SZN Role


Principal Investigator

Maria I. Arnone

Funding Institution

MIUR Progetti Premiali (DLGS 213/99)

Contribution to SZN

€169.143,00 (MIUR contribution)


Annunziata R and Arnone MI (2014). A dynamic network of regulatory interactions explains ParaHox gene control of gut patterning in the sea urchin embryo. Development 141: 2462-72.

Perillo M, Wang YJ, Leach SD and Arnone MI. Specification and differentiation of pancreatic, acinar-like cells in the sea urchin embryo and larva. Submitted to Development.

Meet the team

Maria I. Arnone, primo ricercatore
Rossella Annunziata, postdoc
Claudia Cuomo, PhD student
Elijah Lowe, postdoc

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