In addition to their unique evolutionary position as invertebrate chordates,
ascidians provide a simple experimental system to investigate molecular mechanisms underlying
development, reproduction, endocrinology, and physiology. In particular, their tadpole-type
larva, which has a notochord and a dorsal neural tube, represents the basic chordate body plan.
Ciona intestinalis is the seventh animal of which draft genome was decoded in 2002.
The approximately 160-Mb genome is estimated to contain -16,000 protein-coding genes. Together
with the genome information, cDNA resources as well as information of expression profiles of
genes and proteins have been accumulated. In addition,
C. intestinalis is the only marine invertebrate that has the advantages necessary for
developmental genetics: the application of transgenic technique and
Minos-based mutagenesis and established inland culture system. Mutagenesis is carried
out by the
Minos transposon. Insertional mutant strains and a variety of marker lines that
express tissue-specific reporter genes are available.
C. intestinalis is now an indispensable model organism for world-wide research
communication in life science. For research support, Kyoto University and Shimoda Marine
Research Center, University of Tsukuba, collaborate in NBRP resource project for collection,
maintenance and distribution of wild and transgenic lines.