Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (FP7-PEOPLE-2011-CIG)


The main interest of the project is to study the Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS) family evolution and its regulation during amphioxus development. In the framework of the project, setting-up an amphioxus facility at the SZN was a priority of national interest, representing the first Italian laboratory working with live amphioxus embryos on demand.
Since Furchgott, Ignarro and Murad won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1998 for their breakthrough work on the role of nitric oxide (NO) as a multifunctional signaling molecule, many reports have shown the seemingly limitless range of body functions controlled by this compound. To manipulate the endogenous NO level for therapeutic benefits using NOS gene therapy is essential to understand the physiological and developmental functions of different NOS isoforms (nNOS, iNOS, eNOS). Due to their extensive conservation over evolutionary time, one would expect greater differences and structural changes in NOS genes than that we have observed (Andreakis 2011), reflecting the very ancient and essential nature of Nitric Oxide biological pathways.
Surprisingly, a single molecule, identical in all living animals, can fulfil a huge range of different functions. This suggests that differences in the regulation of NOS enzymes expression are key in explaining their functional diversification, functional novelties and degree of complexity.

What we do

We use as animal model system the cephalochordate amphioxus Branchiostoma lanceolatum, from the Gulf of Napoli (Italy) and from Banyuls-sur-Mer (France), with comparative and multidisciplinary approaches in the field of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology (Evo-Devo). The primary aim of this project is to perform a detailed study of the duplicated set of NOS genes during amphioxus development, trying to establish the basic primary NOS roles that are evolutionary conserved in chordates.


Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Napoli.

Research Area

Organismal Biology

Project Lifetime

August 2011 to July 2015

SZN Role


Principal Investigator

Salvatore D’Aniello

Funding Institution

European Commission, FP7 Call for Proposal: FP7-PEOPLE-2011-CIG
Grant no. 293871

Contribution to SZN

€100.000 (EU contribution)

Dedicated website



Coppola U, Annona G, D’Aniello S* and Ristoratore F* (2015). Rab32/38 duplicated genes in chordate pigmentation: an evolutionary perspective BMC Evolutionary Biology, under review.

Annona G, Holland ND* and D’Aniello S* (2015). Evolution of the notochord. EvoDevo, in press.

Anishchenko E and D’Aniello S* (2015). Tunicate neurogenesis: the case of the SoxB2 missing CNE. Mathematical Models in Biology (Springer), in press.

Vassalli QA, Anishchenko E, Caputi L, Sordino P, D'Aniello S* and Locascio A* (2015). Regulatory elements retained during chordate evolution: Coming across tunicates. Genesis 53: 66-81.

Pascual-Anaya J, D’Aniello S, Kuratani S and Garcia-Fernàndez J (2013). Evolution of the Hox clusters in deuterostomes. BMC Developmental Biology 13: 26.

Meet the team

Salvatore D’Aniello, Ricercatore    
Evgeniya Anishchenko, post-doc
Giovanni Annona, post-doc
Filomena Caccavale, PhD student

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