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Scientific context

In animals, neuropeptides working either as neuromodulators or neurohormones play a crucial role in the elaboration of adapted physiological and behavioural responses to environmental constrains. The present project aims to investigate the evolution of neuroendocrine systems and to explore their role in the regulation and the plasticity of biological cycles and reproduction in marine non-conventional animal models (a coral, two mollusc representatives and two eel species) of phylogenetic, ecological and economical relevance. This project will bring together, physiologists, molecular and evolutionary biologists, structural biochemists and chemists. It is based on the development of cutting edge methodologies to allow the comparison of the structure and the functionality of key neuroendocrine pathway components regulating reproduction and associated processes. It will provide the bases of their responses to environmental factors.

This multidisciplinary and integrated study will lead to the production of significant knowledge on:

(1) The structure and diversity of neuroendocrine systems in phylogenetically distant marine species. (2) The origin and evolution of neuroendocrine systems in Bilateria and Eumetazoa. (3) The co-evolution of functional neuropeptide/receptor pairs. (4) The three-dimensional structure of neuropeptides in the vicinity of membranes. (5) The Structure-activity relationships of some relevant ligand/receptor pairs. (6) The nature, the expression and the role of neuropeptides involved in the control of reproduction in different marine species, the conservation or divergence of these regulatory pathways during evolution. (7) The influence of global changes in particular of temperature on the structure of endocrine pathways, their potential consequences in terms of physiological adaptation of the species studied.

Besides the acquisition of fundamental knowledge about the regulation of physiological functions in marine species of economic interest, such research may open interesting perspectives in subjects related to aquaculture, fisheries and environment.