06 December 2007

Sintoni and colleagues, 2007

Sintoni S, Fabritius-Vilpoux K & Harzsch S. 2007. The Engrailed-expressing secondary head spots in the embryonic crayfish brain: examples for a group of homologous neurons in Crustacea and Hexapoda? Development Genes and Evolution: 217(11-12): 791-799.


Hexapoda have been traditionally seen as the closest relatives of the Myriapoda (Tracheata hypothesis) but molecular studies have challenged this hypothesis and rather have suggested a close relationship of hexapods and crustaceans (Tetraconata hypothesis). In this new debate, data on the structure and development of the arthropod nervous system contribute important new data (“neurophylogeny”). Neurophylogenetic studies have already provided several examples for individually identifiably neurons in the ventral nerve cord that are homologous between insects and crustaceans. In the present report, we have analysed the emergence of Engrailed-expressing cells in the embryonic brain of a parthenogenetic crayfish, the marbled crayfish (Marmorkrebs), and have compared our findings to the pattern previously reported from insects. Our data suggest that a group of six Engrailed-expressing neurons in the optic anlagen, the so-called secondary head spot cells can be homologised between crayfish and the grasshopper. In the grasshopper, these cells are supposed to be involved in establishing the primary axon scaffold of the brain. Our data provide the first example for a cluster of brain neurons that can be homologised between insects and crustaceans and show that even at the level of certain cell groups, brain structures are evolutionary conserved in these two groups.

Keywords: arthropod • neurophylogeny• evolution • Engrailed • Tetraconata

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