The cephalochordates, commonly known as amphioxus or lancelets, are now considered the most basal chordate group, and the studies of these organisms therefore offer important insights into various levels of evolutionary biology. In the past two decades, the investigation of amphioxus developmental biology has provided key knowledge for understanding the basic patterning mechanisms of chordates. Comparative genome studies of vertebrates and amphioxus have uncovered clear evidence supporting the hypothesis of two-round whole-genome duplication thought to have occurred early in vertebrate evolution and have shed light on the evolution of morphological novelties in the complex vertebrate body plan. Complementary to the amphioxus genome-sequencing project, a large collection of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) has been generated for amphioxus in recent years; this valuable collection represents a rich resource for gene discovery, expression profiling and molecular developmental studies in the amphioxus model. Here, we review previous EST analyses and available cDNA resources in amphioxus and discuss their value for use in evolutionary and developmental studies. We also discuss the potential advantages of applying high-throughput, next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies to the field of amphioxus research.
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