Evolution of molecular complexity in the earliest nervous system(s)

16 October 2015

Harold Zakon
School of Biological Sciences
University of Texas at Austin


The nervous system appeared fairly soon after the evolution of multicellularity in animals. Voltage-gated ion channels are critical molecules in the nervous system. There were multiple independent evolutions of sodium permeable channels in early nervous systems which form the basis of electrical excitability in all animal brains. Furthermore, there is a rich history of duplication of ion channel genes in three animal lineages (cnidaria, ctenophora, and vertebrates). In some cases, the same gene families duplicated independently in all three lineages emphasizing their importance in neural processing and providing a molecular signature for the evolution of neuronal complexity.

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