Morphological studies suggest that insects and crustaceans of the Class Malacostraca (such as crayfish) share a set of homologous neurons. However, expression of molecular markers in these neurons has not been investigated, and the homology of insect and malacostracan neuroblasts, the neural stem cells that produce these neurons, has been questioned. Furthermore, it is not known whether crustaceans of the Class Branchiopoda (such as brine shrimp) or arthropods of the Order Collembola (springtails) possess neurons that are homologous to those of other arthropods. Assaying expression of molecular markers in the developing nervous systems of various arthropods could resolve some of these issues. Here, we examine expression of Even-skipped and Engrailed, two transcription factors that serve as insect embryonic CNS markers, across a number of arthropod species. This molecular analysis allows us to verify the homology of previously identified malacostracan neurons and to identify additional homologous neurons in malacostracans, collembolans and branchiopods. Engrailed expression in the neural stem cells of a number of crustaceans was also found to be conserved. We conclude that despite their distant phylogenetic relationships and divergent mechanisms of neurogenesis, insects, malacostracans, branchiopods and collembolans share many common CNS components.

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