In addition to studying brain development in the annelid C. teleta, our lab is also interested in characterizing ventral nerve cord development. The brain and ventral nerve cord are generated from two distinct cell lineages. The brain arises from unsegmented anterior ectoderm, while the ventral nerve cord develops from segmented trunk ectoderm. Furthermore, within spiralians, fate map comparisons show that the brain comes from a homologous group of cells. However, this may not be the case for ganglia in the trunk, which would have important evolutionary implications. Finally, in C. teleta, adult neurogenesis and regeneration only occur in the trunk, and study of these processes will require a comparison of these modes of neurogenesis with those that occur during embryonic and larval development.
Ventral nerve cord development will be characterized by examining the cellular morphology, cellular divisions, gene expression and lineage analysis of small groups of cells (techniques similar to those used to examine brain development in C. teleta).
Preliminary results have already revealed interesting developmental differences between these two structures.