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Functional studies on the role of Notch signaling in Hydractinia development.

ABSTRACT

The function of Notch signaling was previously studied in two cnidarians, Hydra and Nematostella, representing the lineages Hydrozoa and Anthozoa, respectively. Using pharmacological inhibition in Hydra and a combination of pharmacological and genetic approaches in Nematostella, it was shown in both animals that Notch is required for tentacle morphogenesis and for late stages of stinging cell maturation. Surprisingly, a role for Notch in neural development, which is well documented in bilaterians, was evident in embryonic Nematostella but not in adult Hydra. Adult neurogenesis in the latter seemed to be unaffected by DAPT, a drug that inhibits Notch signaling. To address this apparent discrepancy we studied the role of Notch in Hydractinia echinata, an additional hydrozoan, in all life stages. Using CRISPR-Cas9 mediated mutagenesis, transgenesis, and pharmacological interference we show that Notch is dispensable for Hydractinia normal neurogenesis in all life stages but is required for the maturation of stinging cells and for tentacle morphogenesis. Our results are consistent with a conserved role for Notch in morphogenesis and nematogenesis across Cnidaria, and a lineage specific loss of Notch dependence in neurogenesis in hydrozoans.