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RuthSPhD Student
Biology and Evolution of Marine Organisms

Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn
Villa Comunale
80121 Naples - Italy

Tel.: +39 081 5833281
Fax: +39 081 7641355
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Curriculum Vitae

Director of Studies: Graziano Fiorito
Internal Supervisor: Graziano Fiorito
External Supervisor: Eve Seuntjens
Program: In collaboration with KU Leuven.

Research Interests

I am studying protocadherins in the cephalopod mollusc Octopus vulgaris with the aim to understand how these molecules contribute to neural wiring. Cephalopods such as the octopus are invertebrates that are known to possess complex brains and sophisticated behavioural repertoires. In mammals, complex brains require precise and plastic wiring for correct functioning. In higher vertebrates, the protocadherin superfamily has been implicated in neural wiring, synaptogenesis and neuronal diversity. The expansion of this gene family was considered a vertebrate innovation and appears essential for creating complex brains. Invertebrates have only a very limited set of protocadherins. In Drosophila the neuronal diversity and wiring is achieved through Dscam proteins (i.e. Down syndrome cell adhesion molecules). Surprisingly, more than one hundred and sixty protocadherins have been identified in the Octopus genome, suggesting that it uses a vertebrate-like system to create a complex brain. Based on the analysis of the O. vulgaris transcriptome available at G. Fiorito Lab, I identified a similar number of cell-adhesion molecules in the common octopus and I am exploring the diversity, the spatial expression patterns and the function of these molecules in the nervous system of O. vulgaris, and how these contribute to neural complexity during development and to neural plasticity in the adult.

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