Host: European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), DE

PhD Awarding institution: Heidelberg University (UHEI), DE.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Detlev Arendt

Project duration: 36 months

Project description: Our aim to elucidate the evolution of the bilaterian brain requires an in-depth understanding of the sensory cell types that innervate the distinct ancient brain parts such as the mechanosensory girdle and the apical nervous system. We will study the evolution of sensory cell types, with a strong emphasis on head mechanosensory cells and chemo-/photosensory-secretory cells of the apical nervous system. We will focus on marine animal model systems that exhibit a differentiated nervous system at life cycle stages composed of relatively few cells so that whole-body cellular resolution can be obtained, as already shown for the annelid P. dumerilii and as also manifest for pre- and postmetamorphic stages of the chiton Acanthochitona crinita and juvenile nemerteans, which together represent a broad range of Lophotrochozoa phyla and will be studied here. For these animals, we will attempt to create whole-body cellular atlases for pre- and postmetamorphic juveniles in P. dumerlii and A. crinita, and for juvenile nemerteans, in collaboration with other ZooCELL doctoral candidates. This effort will combine gene expression and ultrastructural information for the entire body, as a prerequisite for the identification of coregulated gene sets correlating with co-occurring morphofeatures together with DC1 (EMBL). This way the project aims to find and define conserved cellular functional modules characteristic for mechanosensory and sensory-secretory cell types.

*Application closed*