Omics approaches to study gene regulatory networks for development in echinoderms.

Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) describe the interactions for a developmental process at a given time and space. Historically, perturbation experiments represent one of the key methods for analyzing and reconstructing a GRN, and the GRN governing early development in the sea urchin embryo stands as one of the more deeply dissected so far. As technology progresses, so do the methods used to address different biological questions. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has become a standard experimental technique for genome and transcriptome sequencing and studies of protein-DNA interactions and DNA accessibility. While several efforts have been made toward the integration of different omics approaches for the study of the regulatory genome in many animals, in a few cases, these are applied with the purpose of reconstructing and experimentally testing developmental GRNs. Here, we review emerging approaches integrating multiple NGS technologies for the prediction and validation of gene interactions within echinoderm GRNs. These approaches can be applied to both ‘model’ and ‘non-model’ organisms. Although a number of issues still need to be addressed, advances in NGS applications, such as assay for transposase-accessible chromatin sequencing, combined with the availability of embryos belonging to different species, all separated by various evolutionary distances and accessible to experimental regulatory biology, place echinoderms in an unprecedented position for the reconstruction and evolutionary comparison of developmental GRNs. We conclude that sequencing technologies and integrated omics approaches allow the examination of GRNs on a genome-wide scale only if biological perturbation and cis-regulatory analyses are experimentally accessible, as in the case of echinoderm embryos.

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