The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Patrick R.H. Steinmetz

Sea anemones and the evolution of animal digestion and nutrient homeostasis

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Patrick R.H. Steinmetz
Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology, University of Bergen

Digestive, circulatory and hormonal systems are key evolutionary novelties that have allowed animals to optimize nutrient degradation, uptake and distribution as well as to balance growth and nutrient availability on a whole-body level. These systems have been relatively well studied in bilaterian model organisms such as vertebrate, insect or nematode genetic model organisms. Due to the lack of knowledge from non-bilaterian animals (e.g. cnidarians or sponges), however, the emergence of these complex systems during early animal evolution is currently poorly understood. In my talk, I will introduce the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis (Cnidaria) as a research organism to study the development, cell biology, physiology and evolution of digestive systems and growth homeostasis. I will show how fate mapping and comparative gene expression studies in Nematostella have led us to challenge long-standing concepts of germ layer evolution and helped understanding the evolution of digestive tissues. In addition, I will present our current efforts to establish Nematostella as a molecular research organism to study feeding-induced growth and starvation-induced shrinkage on a whole-body level.

Chairperson: Karl Johan Tronstad, Department of Biomedicine