Regeneration as an adult developmental process is in many aspects similar to embryonic development. Although many studies point out similarities and differences, no large-scale, direct and functional comparative analyses between development and regeneration of a specific cell type or structure in one animal exist. Here, we use the brittle star Amphiura filiformis to characterise the role of the FGF signalling pathway during skeletal development in embryos and arm regeneration. In both processes, we find ligands expressed in ectodermal cells flanking underlying skeletal mesenchymal cells, which express the receptors. Perturbation of FGF signalling showed inhibited skeleton formation in both embryogenesis and regeneration, without affecting other key developmental processes. Differential transcriptome analysis finds mostly differentiation genes rather than transcription factors to be downregulated in both contexts. Moreover, comparative gene analysis allowed us to discover brittle star specific, differentiation genes. In conclusion, our results show that the FGF pathway is crucial for skeletogenesis in the brittle star, as in other deuterostomes and provide evidence for the re-deployment of a developmental gene regulatory module during regeneration.

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