The pearl oyster Pinctada fucata has great potential as a model system for lophotrochozoan developmental biology research. Pinctada fucata is an important commercial resource, and a significant body of primary research on this species has emphasized its basic aquaculture biology such as larval biology and growth, aquaculture, pearl formation and quality improvement, shell formation, and biomineralization. Recently, a draft genome sequence of this species was published, and many experimental resources are currently being developed, such as bioinformatics tools, embryo and larva manipulation methods, gene knockdown technique, etc. In this paper, we report the results from our genomic survey pertaining to gene families that encode developmental signaling ligands (Fgf, Hedgehog, PDGF/VEGF, TGFβ, and Wnt families). We found most of the representative genes of major signaling pathways involved in axial patterning, as well as copies of the signaling molecule paralogs. Phylogenetic character mapping was used to infer a possible evolutionary scenario of the signaling molecules in the protostomes, and to reconstruct possible copy numbers of signaling molecule-coding genes for the ancestral protostome. Our reconstruction suggests that P. fucata retains the ancestral protostome gene complement, providing further justifications for the use of this taxon as a model organism for developmental genomics research.
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