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  • Brief Communication
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Evolutionary biology

Hedgehog crosses the snail's midline


According to the dorsoventral axis-inversion theory1, protostomes (such as insects, snails and worms) are organized upside-down by comparison with deuterostomes (vertebrates)2,3,4,5, in which case their respective ventrally (belly-side) and dorsally (back-side) located nervous systems, as well as their midline regions, should all be derived from a common ancestor5. Here we provide experimental evidence for such homology by showing that an orthologue of hedgehog, an important gene in midline patterning in vertebrates, is expressed along the belly of the larva of the limpet Patella vulgata. This finding supports the existence of a similar mechanism for the development of the midline of the nervous system in protostomes and deuterostomes.

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Figure 1: The hedgehog gene in the limpet Patella vulgata is expressed in the ventral midline of the trochophore larva.

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Correspondence to Alexander J. Nederbragt.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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brief communications is intended to provide a forum for both brief, topical reports of general scientific interest and technical discussion of recently published material of particular interest to non-specialist readers. Priority will be given to contributions that have fewer than 500 words, 10 references and only one figure. Detailed guidelines are available on Nature's website ( or on request from

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Nederbragt, A., van Loon, A. & Dictus, W. Hedgehog crosses the snail's midline. Nature 417, 811–812 (2002).

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