Nayeli Escudero Castelan
Project title: Genomic and physiological analysis of the evolution of neuropeptide signalling in the phylum Echinodermata
Summary: Neuropeptides are signalling molecules in nervous systems and they are involved in the regulation of many physiological processes and behaviours. The reconstruction of their evolutionary history has revealed that the origin of many neuropeptides and their co-evolved cognate receptors can be traced back to the common ancestor of all bilaterian animals. The echinoderms, as deuterostomian invertebrates, occupy an “intermediate” evolutionary position with respect to the well-studied vertebrates and “model” protostomian invertebrates, and therefore can provide key insights into neuropeptide evolution. Recently, genome sequences of species belonging to several echinoderm classes have been obtained. The aim of this project, supported by a CONACYT studentship, will be to utilise these data to investigate the evolution and relationships of neuropeptide signalling systems in the Phylum Echinodermata and to predict novel neuropeptide-receptor partnerships. Then cell-based in vitro assays will be used to test predicted neuropeptide-receptor partnerships. Finally, the physiological roles of novel neuropeptide signalling systems will be investigated using molecular neuroanatomical techniques and in vitro/in vivo pharmacology.