Modelling genetic regulation of growth and form in a branching sponge

Jaap A. Kaandorp, Joke G. Blom, Jozef Verhoef, Max Filatov, M. Postma, Werner E.G. Müller

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We present a mathematical model of the genetic regulation controlling skeletogenesis and the influence of the physical environment on a branching sponge with accretive growth (e.g. Haliclona oculata or Lubomirskia baikalensis). From previous work, it is known that high concentrations of silicate induce spicule formation and upregulate the silicatein gene. The upregulation of this gene activates locally the production of spicules in the sponge and the deposition of the skeleton. Furthermore, it is known that the expression of the gene Iroquois induces the formation of an aquiferous system, consisting of exhalant and inhalant pores. We propose a model of the regulatory network controlling the separation in time and space of the skeletogenesis and the formation of the aquiferous system. The regulatory network is closely linked with environmental influences. In building a skeleton, silicate is absorbed from the environment. In our model, silicate is transported by diffusion through the environment and absorbed at the surface of a geometric model of the sponge, resulting in silicate gradients emerging in the neighbourhood of the sponge. Our model simulations predict sponge morphology and the positioning of the exhalant pores over the surface of the sponge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2569-2575
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1651
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Body plan formation
  • Morphogenesis
  • Regulatory networks
  • Sponges


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