Comparative genomics of hormonal signaling in the chorioallantoic membrane of oviparous and viviparous amniotes

Oliver W. Griffith, Matthew C. Brandley, Camilla M. Whittington, Katherine Belov, Michael B. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


In oviparous amniotes (reptiles, birds, and mammals) the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) lines the inside of the egg and acts as the living point of contact between the embryo and the outside world. In livebearing (viviparous) amniotes, communication during embryonic development occurs across placental tissues, which form between the uterine tissue of the mother and the CAM of the embryo. In both oviparous and viviparous taxa, the CAM is at the interface of the embryo and the external environment and can transfer signals from there to the embryo proper. To understand the evolution of placental hormone production in amniotes, we examined the expression of genes involved in hormone synthesis, metabolism, and hormone receptivity in the CAM of species across the amniote phylogeny. We collected transcriptome data for the chorioallantoic membranes of the chicken (oviparous), the lizards Lerista bougainvillii (both oviparous and viviparous populations) and Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii (viviparous), and the horse Equus caballus (viviparous). The viviparous taxa differ in their mechanisms of nutrient provisioning: L. bougainvillii is lecithotrophic (embryonic nourishment is provided via the yolk only), but P. entrecasteauxii and the horse are placentotrophic (embryos are nourished via placental transport). Of the 423 hormone-related genes that we examined, 91 genes are expressed in all studied species, suggesting that the chorioallantoic membrane ancestrally had an endocrine function. Therefore, the chorioallantoic membrane appears to be a highly hormonally active organ in all amniotes. No genes are expressed only in viviparous species, suggesting that the evolution of viviparity has not required the recruitment of any specific hormone-related genes. Our data suggest that the endocrine function of the CAM as a placental tissue evolved in part through co-option of ancestral gene expression patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Viviparity
  • Placenta
  • Placentotrophy
  • Hormone
  • Transcriptome

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