Insights into the evolution of a signalling molecule

EMBL scientists discover how a molecule’s role changes from simple metabolite to instructive signal

Retinoic acid signalling is crucial for the marine worm’s nervous system (green) to develop
Retinoic acid signalling is crucial for the marine worm’s nervous system (green) to develop. IMAGE: Mette Handberg-Thorsager/EMBL

Among developmental biologists, the signalling molecule retinoic acid is well known for its role in building the vertebrate body. Not much is known, however, about how such signals emerge in evolution. To investigate this, the Arendt lab at EMBL in Heidelberg have studied the role of retinoic acid signalling in a marine worm. In the study published in Science Advances, the team and their collaborators show that in the worm, retinoic acid acts like a metabolic timer that helps neurons to form at the right time and place during development.

Related links

Arendt group

Tags: Arendt, Development, evolution, Heidelberg, Origins, Research highlights, Signalling

More from this category

Picture of the week

Studying cancers means also knowing what healthy cells look like. In this case, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) from healthy bone marrow are a bit ‘loopy’.

By  Ivy Kupec

Red loops on a black background are dotted with bright red flecks and pale blue ovals as part of a confocal microscope image of bone marrow cells.


Read the latest Issues of our magazine - EMBLetc.

Looking for past print editions of EMBLetc.? Browse our archive, going back 20 years.

EMBLetc. archive

Newsletter archive

Read past editions of our monthly e-newsletter

For press

Contact the Press Office