Biologists have captured a glimpse into the origins of the nervous system through an unlikely lens: sea sponges. According to a report in this month's Public Library of Science ONE, these primitive animals possess protein components of synapses, even though they don't have nervous systems. The authors also found evidence that these synaptic proteins interact in the same way in sponges as they do in animals with nervous systems.The findings "could provide some clues to how synapses were constructed during evolution," said Lu Chen of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research. "It's very exciting work."Led by Onur Sakarya of the University of California, Santa Barbara, (UCSB) and Kathryn Armstrong of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the researchers found homologs of most human post-synaptic genes in the genome of the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. The authors also found that sequences that...

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