Decoding bristle formation in worms
Segmented worms have bristle-like projections on their surface known as chaetae. These extracellular structures can display a diverse array of complex shapes and are formed following an interplay between the cytoskeleton and controlled polymerisation of chitin, a glucose-based polymer. The EU-funded CHAETA project aims to advance knowledge of this process by investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying chaetae synthesis, focussing on chitin synthases. Scientists will use the bone-eating worm Osedax japonicus as a model organism, and by combining gene-editing, microscopy and cutting-edge transcriptomic techniques they will unveil the genetic network regulating chaetogenesis. Since the process is comparable to 3D printing, the results of the study extend beyond biology and could be exploited by scientists studying biomechanics and biomineralisation.