Neural architecture and regeneration in the acoel Hofstenia miamia
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences
The origin of bilateral symmetry, a major transition in animal evolution, coincided with the evolution of organized nervous systems that show regionalization along major body axes. Studies of Xenacoelomorpha, the likely outgroup lineage to all other animals with bilateral symmetry, can inform the evolutionary history of animal nervous systems. Here, we characterized the neural anatomy of the acoel Hofstenia miamia. Our analysis of transcriptomic data uncovered orthologues of enzymes for all
... enzymes for all major neurotransmitter synthesis pathways. Expression patterns of these enzymes revealed the presence of a nerve net and an anterior condensation of neural cells. The anterior condensation was layered, containing several cell types with distinct molecular identities organized in spatially distinct territories. Using these anterior cell types and structures as landmarks, we obtained a detailed timeline for regeneration of the H. miamia nervous system, showing that the anterior condensation is restored by eight days after amputation. Our work detailing neural anatomy in H. miamia will enable mechanistic studies of neural cell type diversity and regeneration and provide insight into the evolution of these processes.