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Title: Lamprey neural Helix-Loop-Helix (HLH) genes and the evolution of the vertebrate nervous system
Author: Lara-Ramirez, Ricardo
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Transcription factors of the helix-loop-helix (HLH) gene family are widespread in the animal kingdom. Among them, members of HLH subfamilies such as ASCL, Neurogenin, NeuroD, COE, Atonal, Oligo, NSCL, Hairy/E(spl) and Hey (here referred to as neural HLH genes) have been shown to be fundamental for the development of the nervous system. They are expressed at different time periods of neuronal differentiation, from the specification of ectoderm towards a neural lineage, to the ultimate differentiation of neurons. Few HLH genes have been identified in the lamprey; however, considering the wide diversity of HLH gene subfamilies in metazoans, including vertebrates, it is very likely that lampreys possess a large repertoire of HLH genes in their genome. In the present study, the identification of several HLH genes in the lamprey genome, as well as the isolation and expression of different lamprey neural HLH genes is reported. As expected, a wide repertoire of HLH genes was identified in the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) genome. On the other hand, the identification and expression analysis of different neural HLH genes of the ASCL, Neurogenin, COE and Hairy/E(spl) in the brook lamprey Lampetra planeri showed an overall conservation with other vertebrates, both at the sequence and expression pattern levels. In addition, novel features of the lamprey nervous system are revealed, such as the identification of possible new sensory cranial placodes in pharyngeal arches. Furthermore, these genes can serve as molecular markers for different cranial placodes and dorsal root ganglia (DRG), and their expression also highlights the presence of a ventricular zone in the brain and spinal cord, along with a complementary marginal zone. Finally, with the use of a Notch pathway inhibitor in developing L. planeri embryos, the regulation of expression of the isolated genes by the Notch signaling pathway was shown to be generally conserved between lampreys and gnathostomes in the spinal cord. This functional study also revealed that the lamprey spinal cord likely presents an independent developmental programme from the brain. All together, the present study shows that the analysis of neural HLH genes represents an excellent tool to understand the lamprey nervous system.
Supervisor: Shimeld, Sebastian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Genetics (life sciences) ; Development (zoology) ; Evolution (zoology) ; Lamprey ; Nervous System ; Development ; Evolution ; Helix-Loop-Helix Genes ; Phylogenetics ; Notch Signalling ; Spinal Cord ; Placodes ; Brain Compartments ; Dorsal Root Ganglia ; Vertebrate