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      The genealogy of genealogy of neurons.

      Communicative & Integrative Biology

      Informa UK Ltd.

      pleurobrachia, phylogeny, neurotransmitters, neurons, mnemiopsis, genome, evolution, ctenophora

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          Two scenarios of neuronal evolution (monophyly and polyphyly) are discussed in the historical timeline starting from the 19th century. The recent genomic studies on Ctenophores re-initiated a broad interest in the hypotheses of independent origins of neurons. However, even earlier work on ctenophores suggested that their nervous systems are unique in many aspects of their organization and a possibility of the independent origin of neurons and synapses was introduced well before modern advances in genomic biology.

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            The genetic causes of convergent evolution.

            The evolution of phenotypic similarities between species, known as convergence, illustrates that populations can respond predictably to ecological challenges. Convergence often results from similar genetic changes, which can emerge in two ways: the evolution of similar or identical mutations in independent lineages, which is termed parallel evolution; and the evolution in independent lineages of alleles that are shared among populations, which I call collateral genetic evolution. Evidence for parallel and collateral evolution has been found in many taxa, and an emerging hypothesis is that they result from the fact that mutations in some genetic targets minimize pleiotropic effects while simultaneously maximizing adaptation. If this proves correct, then the molecular changes underlying adaptation might be more predictable than has been appreciated previously.
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              The Ctenophore Genome and the Evolutionary Origins of Neural Systems

              The origins of neural systems remain unresolved. In contrast to other basal metazoans, ctenophores, or comb jellies, have both complex nervous and mesoderm-derived muscular systems. These holoplanktonic predators also have sophisticated ciliated locomotion, behaviour and distinct development. Here, we present the draft genome of Pleurobrachia bachei, Pacific sea gooseberry, together with ten other ctenophore transcriptomes and show that they are remarkably distinct from other animal genomes in their content of neurogenic, immune and developmental genes. Our integrative analyses place Ctenophora as the earliest lineage within Metazoa. This hypothesis is supported by comparative analysis of multiple gene families, including the apparent absence of HOX genes, canonical microRNA machinery, and reduced immune complement in ctenophores. Although two distinct nervous systems are well-recognized in ctenophores, many bilaterian neuron-specific genes and genes of “classical” neurotransmitter pathways either are absent or, if present, are not expressed in neurons. Our metabolomic and physiological data are consistent with the hypothesis that ctenophore neural systems, and possibly muscle specification, evolved independently from those in other animals.

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