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spagnuolo antoniettaSenior Scientist
Section BEOM

Tel. +39 081 5833252 - +39 081 5833346
Fax: +39 081 7641355
e-mail antonietta.spagnuolo(at)szn.it
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Research interests

Marine tunicates, as Ciona intestinalis, are recognized as evolutionarily significant because their tadpole larva represent a simplified body plan of chordates. This cellular simplicity, coupled with a not duplicated genome and a number of computational tools, techniques and genomic resources, makes the simple Ciona model a foundation for dissecting a typical chordate developmental program at the level of single cell resolution. One of these processes concerns eye development, a very sophisticated vertebrate organ, which shows molecular and functional homologies with the simple Ciona ocellus, made of 1 pigment cell and around 30 photoreceptor cells. Our studies aim at identifying new genes, acting early in development, that direct specific cells of the neural plate toward photoreceptor cell lineage, using targeted interference of markers specific of this cell type and a differential transcriptomic approach.
Besides being a key organism for evolutionary and developmental biology studies, Ciona adults, as filter-feeders, are exposed to toxic compounds accumulated from the diet of microscopic marine organisms, thus representing an important sentinel for marine environmental monitoring, while the larval stages of this species are very useful for testing environmental stressors of embryonic development. Therefore, we use Ciona to inquire into the biological response of a marine organism to the effects of 2-trans-4-trans-decadienal (DD), a toxic compound produced by the diatoms. The aim is to reveal important clues about the mechanism of action of the toxicant and pave the way for finding general biomarkers to detect exposure to pollutants.

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