Nervous System Evolution

Despite fundamental differences in neural organization, hemichordates and vertebrates share exquisite conservation of the gene regulatory networks involved in neural A/P patterning. Does this conservation reflect some cryptic neural patterning similarities in cell types along the A/P axis? Despite all the developmental patterning work in hemichordates, we still understand little about the basic neural organization in hemichordates: is the enteropneust nervous system largely characterized by a centralized nervous system with clear centers of integration in the two cords, or largely dispersed with local processing in the neural plexus? 

We are investigating the basic organization of the nervous system using in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry,  transgenics and single cell sequencing to investigate the basic neural organization of hemichordates.


Relevant Publications:

Cis-regulatory architecture of a brain signaling center predates the origin of chordatesNature genetics (May 2016). PMID: 27064252


Ancient deuterostome origins of vertebrate brain signalling centres. Nature. 2012 Mar 14;483(7389) 289-94. PMID: 22422262