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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 1999 Oct;9(5):596-602.

Chordate origins of the vertebrate central nervous system.

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  • 1Marine Biology Research Division Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California at San Diego La Jolla, California, 92093-0202, USA. lzholland@ucsd.edu


Fine structural, computerized three-dimensional (3D) mapping of cell connectivity in the amphioxus nervous system and comparative molecular genetic studies of amphioxus and tunicates have provided recent insights into the phylogenetic origin of the vertebrate nervous system. The results suggest that several of the genetic mechanisms for establishing and patterning the vertebrate nervous system already operated in the ancestral chordate and that the nerve cord of the proximate invertebrate ancestor of the vertebrates included a diencephalon, midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord. In contrast, the telencephalon, a midbrain-hindbrain boundary region with organizer properties, and the definitive neural crest appear to be vertebrate innovations.

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