Nature Blog Network

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I Knew It! We Have Worm Brains!

Photo credit: Image courtesy of European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

Well, at least the part of our brain that controls hormones anyways.
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] now reveal that the hypothalamus and its hormones are not purely vertebrate inventions, but have their evolutionary roots in marine, worm-like ancestors.

In a press release on ScienceDaily, researchers in Germany found striking similarities in hormone-secreting nerve cells between the marine polychaete, Platynereis dumerilii (pictured above) and the Zebrafish, a model organism for developmental biology. These calls also have the dual purpose of containing sensory properties, such as photo- and chemo-sensory functions.
The similarities between the fingerprints of vasotocin and RF-amide-secreting cells in zebrafish and Platynereis are so big that they are difficult to explain by coincidence. Instead they indicate a common evolutionary origin of the cells.
"...vertebrate-type hormones were found in annelid worms and molluscs, indicating that these centres might be much older than expected." - Study coauthor, Detlev Arendt
The study's authors propose that cell types with dual sensory-neurosecretory properties were the starting point for the evolution of neurosecretory brain centers in Bilateria.
"Now we know that the brain is itself a sensory organ and has been so since very ancient times."-Kristin Tessmar-Raible, lead author of the study, published this week in the journal Cell.

In your face vert-o-centrics! I knew all along that worms were at the core of our brains. We all dream of them every night, just most of us deny our inner desire to evert our pharynx!

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