The Arnone group main focus is to elucidate how Gene Regulatory Networks evolved to guide diverse organogenetic processes.
Of particular interest to us is to understand which are the elements controlling the differentiation of the embryonic archenteron into a complex tripartite larval digestive tract equipped with distinct cell types regulating its function.
To answer this question, we use Echinoderms that are phylogenetically, together with the sister group hemichordates, ancient lineages of living non-chordate deuterostomes.
Therefore, they provide an invaluable outgroup for assessment of what is ancient in chordates, what is chordate-specific, what is protostome-specific and represent a key group for studying the origin of deuterostomes.
In our comparative studies, we use two sea urchin species: the Pacific Ocean species Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and the Mediterranean species Paracentrotus lividus as well as the Pacific Ocean starfish species Patiria miniata.
Using multidisciplinary approaches spanning from high throughput sequencing techniques (RNA-seq, ChIP-Seq, ATAC-seq, scRNA-seq) to confocal (FISH, IHC) and electron based microscopy strategies (SEM, TEM, SBEM) paired with the in vivo gene expression perturbation (MASOs, CRISPR/Cas9), we aim to characterize specific echinoderm cell types at molecular, morphological and behavioral levels.
The current aims of the group are:
Investigating the cell type diversity of the sea urchin embryo and larva.
Tracing the evolutionary origins of pancreatic like cell types
Understanding how larvae, juveniles and adult sea urchins, that lack a centralized nervous system and obvious eye-like structures, sense and respond to environmental light.