Michael Sars Centre

Prof. Maurice Elphick, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Prof. Maurice Elphick, from the School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London, will present: "Discovering missing links in neuropeptide evolution and function"

Asteria rubens
Maurice Elphick

Main content

Neuropeptides and peptide hormones have fundamental roles in controlling, regulating and integrating physiological and behavioural processes in humans and other animals. I am interested in reconstructing the evolutionary history of neuropeptide signalling systems and investigating how neuropeptides are utilised to co-ordinate physiological processes and behaviour in animals. The primary focus of my neuropeptide research is on echinoderms (e.g. starfish, sea urchins), which are of special interest for a number of reasons. As deuterostomes, echinoderms are more closely related to vertebrates than the majority of invertebrates, and therefore research on echinoderms can shed light on the evolutionary origins of vertebrate neuropeptides. Echinoderms also have many remarkable morphological and physiological characteristics – they are typically five-sided and have a unique ability to rapidly change (under neural control) the stiffness of their body wall collagenous tissue; they also have amazing powers of regeneration, which makes them of great interest from a medical perspective. In this talk I will discuss how, facilitated by recent advances in transcriptome and genome sequencing, we are using the common European starfish Asterias rubens and other echinoderms as experimental animals to discover “missing links” in our knowledge of neuropeptide evolution and function, bridging the huge evolutionary gap between protostome invertebrates (e.g. Drosophila, C. elegans) and vertebrates.

Visit Prof. Elphick's website.