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Dev Genes Evol. 2008 Jan;218(1):15-21. Epub 2007 Dec 18.

Development of the nervous system in the brittle star Amphipholis kochii.

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Department of Biology, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, University of Toyama, Toyama, Japan.


There are several studies of neural development in various echinoderms, but few on ophiuroids, which develop indirectly via the production of pluteus larvae, as do echinoids. To determine the extent of similarity of neuroanatomy and neural development in the ophiuroids with other echinoderm larvae, we investigated the development of the nervous system in the brittle star Amphipholis kochii (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) by immunohistochemistry. Immunoreactive cells first appeared bilaterally in the animal pole at the late gastrula stage, and there was little migration of the neural precursors during A. kochii ontogeny, as is also the case in echinoids and holothuroids. On the other hand, neural specification in the presumptive ciliary band near the base of the arms does occur in ophiuroid larvae and is a feature they share with echinoids and ophiuroids. The ophiopluteus larval nervous system is similar to that of auricularia larvae on the whole, including the lack of a fine network of neurites in the epidermis and the presence of neural connections across the oral epidermis. Ophioplutei possess a pair of bilateral apical organs that differ from those of echinoid echinoplutei in terms of relative position. They also possess coiled cilia, which may possess a sensory function, but in the same location as the serotonergic apical ganglia. These coiled cilia are thought to be a derived structure in pluteus-like larvae. Our results suggest that the neural specification in the animal plate in ophiuroids, holothuroids, and echinoids is a plesiomorphic feature of the Ambulacraria, whereas neural specification at the base of the larval arms may be a more derived state restricted to pluteus-like larvae.

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