Non-canonical Wnt signals similar to planar cell polarity (PCP) signaling in the fly control convergent extension (CE) of the dorsal mesoderm during gastrulation in vertebrates. Using the Ciona complete genome sequence and EST sequence data, we present here an initial and exhaustive search in non-vertebrate chordates, Ciona intestinalis for the family members as well as homologs or orthologs that are involved in PCP/CE signaling cascades. We clarified 7 cardinal gene families, including the MAPK, STE20 group kinase, Rho small GTPase, STAT, Glypican, Fz and Wnt gene families, as well as gene homologs or orthologs for known PCP/CE signaling components with their phylogenetic nature. As a result, we characterized 62 Ciona component genes. Among them, 59 genes were novel and functional genes which were supported by EST expressions and 15 genes belonged to PCP/CE component orthologs of other organisms or common ancestor genes. Moreover, from the phylogenetic point of view, we compared these components genome-widely with the PCP signaling components of fly and the CE signaling components of vertebrates. We then discovered not only that ascidians contain the basic ancestral signaling pathway components in chordates but also that several signaling components have not found in ascidian, indicating that ascidian CE pathway might have several gaps from vertebrate CE pathway. The present study provides an initial step for the subsequent analysis of CE in the non-vertebrate chordates, ascidians. In addition, this phylogenetic approach will help to facilitate understanding of the relationship between fly PCP signaling and the vertebrate CE pathway.
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