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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 May;20(5):784-91. Epub 2003 Apr 2.

Search for the evolutionary origin of a brain: planarian brain characterized by microarray.

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  • 1Center for Information Biology and DNA Data Bank of Japan, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Japan.


The origin of the brain remains a challenging problem in evolutionary studies. To understand when and how the structural brain emerged, we analyzed the central nervous system (CNS) of a lower invertebrate, planarian. We conducted a large-scale screening of the head part-specific genes in the planarian by constructing a cDNA microarray. Competitive hybridization of cDNAs between a head portion and the other body portion of planarians revealed 205 genes with head part-specific spikes, including essential genes in the vertebrate nervous system. The expression patterns of the top 30 genes showing the strongest spikes implied that the planarian brain has undergone functional regionalization. We demonstrate the complex cytoarchitecture of the planarian brain, despite its simple superficiality of the morphology.

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