Organogenesis and metamorphosis require the intricate orchestration of multiple types of cellular interactions and signaling pathways. Glutamate (Glu) is an excitatory extracellular signaling molecule in the nervous system, while Ca 2+ is a major intracellular signaling molecule. The first Glu receptors to be cloned are Ca 2+ -permeable receptors in mammalian brains. Although recent studies have focused on Glu signaling in synaptic mechanisms of the mammalian central nervous system, it is unclear how this signaling functions in development. Our recent article demonstrated that Ca 2+ -permeable AMPA-type Glu receptors (GluAs) are essential for formation of a photosensitive organ, development of some neurons, and metamorphosis, including tail absorption and body axis rotation, in ascidian embryos. Based on findings in these embryos and mammalian brains, we formed several hypotheses regarding the evolution of GluAs, the non-synaptic function of Glu, the origin of GluA-positive neurons, and the neuronal network that controls metamorphosis in ascidians.
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