Victor Piñon Gonzalez
Project title: Mechanisms of neuropeptidergic regulation of reproductive physiology in starfish
Summary: Neuropeptides are intercellular signalling molecules secreted by neurons that act as neurotransmitters, modulators of synaptic transmission or hormones. Neuropeptides are derived from larger precursor proteins and typically exert effects on target cells by binding to specific G-protein coupled receptors. One of the most important physiological processes regulated by neuropeptides is reproduction. Although much is known about the pathways that promote gamete maturation and gonadal function in vertebrates, less is known about the mechanisms of neuropeptidergic control of reproduction in invertebrates. However, one animal type where insights into the mechanisms of neural control of reproduction have been obtained are starfish (phylum Echinodermata), where a relaxin-type peptide triggers spawning. Building upon this knowledge, the aim of this project is to identify other neuropeptides and receptors that regulate reproductive physiology in starfish, using the common European starfish Asterias rubens as a model system. This will provide new insights into the evolution of neural mechanisms controlling reproductive physiology and behaviour in invertebrates.