A lamprey neural cell type atlas illuminates the origins of the vertebrate brain

Francesco Lamanna, Francisca Hervas-Sotomayor, A. Phillip Oel, David Jandzik, Daniel Sobrido-Cameán, Gabriel N. Santos-Durán, Megan L. Martik, Jan Stundl, Stephen A. Green, Thoomke Brüning, Katharina Mößinger, Julia Schmidt, Celine Schneider, Mari Sepp, Florent Murat, Jeramiah J. Smith, Marianne E. Bronner, María Celina Rodicio, Antón Barreiro-Iglesias, Daniel M. MedeirosDetlev Arendt, Henrik Kaessmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The vertebrate brain emerged more than ~500 million years ago in common evolutionary ancestors. To systematically trace its cellular and molecular origins, we established a spatially resolved cell type atlas of the entire brain of the sea lamprey—a jawless species whose phylogenetic position affords the reconstruction of ancestral vertebrate traits—based on extensive single-cell RNA-seq and in situ sequencing data. Comparisons of this atlas to neural data from the mouse and other jawed vertebrates unveiled various shared features that enabled the reconstruction of cell types, tissue structures and gene expression programs of the ancestral vertebrate brain. However, our analyses also revealed key tissues and cell types that arose later in evolution. For example, the ancestral brain was probably devoid of cerebellar cell types and oligodendrocytes (myelinating cells); our data suggest that the latter emerged from astrocyte-like evolutionary precursors in the jawed vertebrate lineage. Altogether, our work illuminates the cellular and molecular architecture of the ancestral vertebrate brain and provides a foundation for exploring its diversification during evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1714-1728
Number of pages15
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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