Vertebrates diverged from other chordates approximately 500 million years ago and have adopted several modifications of developmental processes. Amphioxus is widely used in evolutionary developmental biology research, such as on the basic patterning mechanisms involved in the chordate body plan and the origin of vertebrates. The fast development of next-generation sequencing has advanced knowledge of the genomic organization of amphioxus; however, many aspects of gene regulation during amphioxus development have not been fully characterized. In this study, we applied high-throughput sequencing on the transcriptomes of 13 developmental stages of Chinese amphioxus to gain a comprehensive understanding of transcriptional processes occurring from the fertilized egg to the adult stage. The expression levels of 3,423 genes were significantly changed (FDR ≤ 0.01). All of these genes were included in a clustering analysis, and enrichment of biological functions associated with these clusters was determined. Significant changes were observed in several important processes, including the down-regulation of the cell cycle and the up-regulation of translation. These results should build a foundation for identifying developmentally important genes, especially those regulatory factors involved in amphioxus development, and advance understanding of the developmental dynamics in vertebrates.
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