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J Comp Neurol 2019 Apr 15;5276:1127-1139. doi: 10.1002/cne.24596.
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Nervous system characterization during the development of a basal echinoderm, the feather star Antedon mediterranea.

Mercurio S , Gattoni G , Messinetti S , Sugni M , Pennati R .

Neural development of echinoderms has always been difficult to interpret, as larval neurons degenerate at metamorphosis and a tripartite nervous system differentiates in the adult. Despite their key phylogenetic position as basal echinoderms, crinoids have been scarcely studied in developmental research. However, since they are the only extant echinoderms retaining the ancestral body plan of the group, crinoids are extremely valuable models to clarify neural evolution in deuterostomes. Antedon mediterranea is a feather star, endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. Its development includes a swimming lecithotrophic larva, the doliolaria, with basiepithelial nerve plexus, and a sessile filter-feeding juvenile, the pentacrinoid, whose nervous system has never been described in detail. Thus, we characterized the nervous system of both these developmental stages by means of immunohistochemistry and, for the first time, in situ hybridization techniques. The results confirmed previous descriptions of doliolaria morphology and revealed that the larval apical organ contains two bilateral clusters of serotonergic cells while GABAergic neurons are localized under the adhesive pit. This suggested that different larval activities (e.g., attachment and metamorphosis) are under the control of different neural populations. In pentacrinoids, the analysis showed the presence of a cholinergic entoneural system while the ectoneural plexus appeared more composite, displaying different neural populations. The expression of three neural-related microRNAs was described for the first time, suggesting that these are evolutionarily conserved also in basal echinoderms. Overall, our results set the stage for future investigations that will reveal new information on echinoderm evo-devo neurobiology.

PubMed ID: 30520044
Article link: J Comp Neurol

Genes referenced: LOC100887844 LOC583082