GATA factors are evolutionarily conserved and play crucial roles during embryonic development in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Vertebrate GATAs can be divided into two subgroups, the GATA1/2/3 and the GATA4/5/6 classes. Through genomic analysis, we have identified three GATA factors, representing the GATA1/2/3 and GATA4/5/6 subfamilies respectively, and one GATA like protein in the genome of the basal chordate amphioxus ( Branchiostoma floridae
, cephalochordata). Partial sequence of GATA123 in the amphioxus Branchiostoma belcheri
) was cloned and its expression pattern during early embryonic development was studied. Expression of BbGATA123
is first detected in the mesendoderm during gastrulation. Interestingly, in the late neurula and early larva stages, it is expressed strongly in the cerebral vesicle and the mid gut region. Its expression is compared to Otx, a gene known crucial for the development of anterior structures. Our observations suggest that GATA123, together with Otx, might play an important role in the development of amphioxus cerebral vesicle, the counterpart of the vertebrate brain.