Evolution of neuropeptide signaling: finding the missing links

Maurice Elphick (primary)
School of Biological & Chemical Sciences
Paola Oliveri (secondary)
Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment


The physiology and behaviour of humans and other animals are regulated by a huge variety of neuropeptide signaling molecules. Consequently, discovering the evolutionary and functional relationships of neuropeptides and their receptors has proven challenging. However, important advances have been made recently using animals that occupy key positions in animal phylogeny (e.g. echinoderms) as model systems. The aim here is to build upon this successful strategy by investigating the structure and synteny of neuropeptide and receptor genes in echinoderm genomes to predict novel neuropeptide-receptor partnerships, which will then be tested experimentally using cell-based bioassays, molecular neuroanatomy and in vitro/in vivo pharmacology.


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Semmens DC, Beets I, Rowe ML, Blowes LM, Oliveri P, Elphick MR (2015) Discovery of sea urchin NGFFFamide receptor unites a bilaterian neuropeptide family. Open Biology vol. 5, (4), 150030 DOI: 10.1098/rsob.150030

Wood, N. J., Mattiello, T., Rowe, M. L., Ward, L., Perillo, M., Arnone, M. I., Elphick, M. R., & Oliveri, P. (2018). Neuropeptidergic Systems in Pluteus Larvae of the Sea Urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus: Neurochemical Complexity in a “Simple” Nervous System. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 9, 61–13.

Dylus, D. V., Czarkwiani, A., Blowes, L. M., Elphick, M. R., & Oliveri, P. (2018). Developmental transcriptomics of the brittle star Amphiura filiformis reveals gene regulatory network rewiring in echinoderm larval skeleton evolution, Genome Biology 19:26 1–17.

Animal disease, health and welfare
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BiochemistryBioinformaticsGeneticsImage ProcessingMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular Biology