Nagayasu Nakanishi

Nagayasu Nakanishi

Assistant Professor

J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences

(BISC)-Biological Sciences

Phone: 479-575-2031

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I am broadly interested in understanding early animal evolution. In particular, I combine descriptive and experimental approaches in marine invertebrates from early-diverging animal groups (e.g sea anemones, jellyfish and sponges) to determine key molecular, cellular and developmental factors underpinning the origin and early evolution of sensory and nervous systems.

Ph.D. Biology 2009 University of California, Los Angeles

B.S. Ecology, Behavior and Evolution 2002 University of California, San Diego

Refereed journal articles


Assessing the origin and evolution of gene regulatory mechanisms underlying sense organ development in Eumetazoa.


(15) Nakanishi, N., Camara, A., Yuan, D.C., Gold, D.A. and Jacobs, D.K. 2015b. Gene expression data from the moon jelly, Aurelia, provide insights into the evolution of the combinatorial code controlling animal sense organ development. PLoS ONE 10(7):e0132544.


(14) Nakanishi, N., Yuan, D., Hartenstein, V. and Jacobs, D.K. 2010. Evolutionary origin of rhopalia: insights from cellular-level analyses of Otx and POU expression patterns in the developing rhopalial nervous system. Evolution and Development. 12(4):404-415.


(13) Nakanishi, N., Hartenstein, V. and Jacobs, D.K. 2009. Development of the rhopalial nervous system in Aurelia sp.1 (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa). Development Genes and Evolution. 219(6):301-317.


(12) Jacobs, D.K., Nakanishi, N., Yuan, D., Camara, A., Nichols, S.A., and Hartenstein, V. 2007. Evolution of sensory structures in basal metazoa. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 47(5):712-723


Establishing the homology of neural developmental mechanisms in Eumetazoa.


(11) Nakanishi, N., Renfer, E., Technau, U. and Rentzsch, F. 2012. Nervous systems of the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis are generated by ectoderm and endoderm and shaped by distinct mechanisms. Development. 139(2):347-357

Faculty of 1000 article (rated Ffa6): 2012. F1000.com/13491985


(10) Nakanishi, N., Yuan, D., Jacobs, D.K., and Hartenstein, V. 2008. Early development, pattern and reorganization of the planula nervous system in Aurelia (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa). Development Genes and Evolution. 218(10):511-524.


Defining the basal condition from which eumetazoan sensory-neural systems may have arisen.


(9) Nakanishi, N., Stoupin, D., Degnan, S.M., and Degnan, B.M. 2015a. Sensory flask cells in sponge larvae regulate metamorphosis via calcium signaling. Integrative and Comparative Biology. DOI: 10.1093/icb/icv014. 


(8) Nakanishi, N., Sogabe, S. and Degnan, B.D. 2014. Evolutionary origin of gastrulation: insights from sponge development. BMC Biology. 12:26.


Developmental biology of basally-branching animals


(7) Gold, D.A., Nakanishi, N., Hensley, N., Hartenstein, V., and Jacobs, D.K. 2016. Cell tracking supports secondary gastrulation in the moon jellyfish Aurelia. Development Genes and Evolution. doi:10.1007/s00427-016-0559-y.


(6) Sogabe, S., Nakanishi, N., and Degnan, B. M. 2016. The ontogeny of choanocyte chambers during metamorphosis in the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica. Evodevo. 7:6.


(5) Gold, D.A., Nakanishi, N., Hensley, N., Cozzolino, K., Tabatabaee, M., Martin, M., Hartenstein, V., and Jacobs, D.K. 2015. Structural and developmental disparity in the tentacles of the jellyfish Aurelia sp.1. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0134741.


(4) Yuan, D., Nakanishi, N., Jacobs, D.K., and Hartenstein, V. 2008. Embryonic development and metamorphosis of the scyphozoan Aurelia. Development Genes and Evolution. 218(10):525-539.


Developmental transcriptomics of animals


(3) Levin, M., Anavy, L., Cole, A. G., Winter, E., Mostov, N., Khair, S., Senderovich, N., Kovalev, E., Silver, D. H., Feder, M., Fernandez-Valverde, S. L., Nakanishi, N., Simmons, D., Simakov, O., Larsson, T., Liu, S. Y., Jerafi-Vider, A., Yaniv, K., Ryan, J. F., Martindale, M. Q., Rink, J. C., Arendt, D., Degnan, S. M., Degnan, B. M., Hashimshony, T., and Yanai, I. 2016. The mid-developmental transition and the evolution of animal body plans. Nature. 531(7596):637-41.


(2) Gaiti, F., Fernandez-Valverde, S.L., Nakanishi, N., Calcino, A.D., Yanai, I., Tanurdzic, M., and Degnan, B.M. 2015. Dynamic and widespread lncRNA expression in the sponge and the origin of animal complexity. Molecular Biology and Evolution. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv117.


(1) Anavy, L., Levin, M., Khair, S., Nakanishi, N., Fernandez-Valverde, S.L., Degnan, B.M. and Yanai, I. 2014. BLIND ordering of large-scale transcriptomic developmental timecourses. Development. 141(5):1161-6.


Books/ book chapters


(3) Degnan, B.M., Adamska, M., Richards, G.S., Larroux, C., Leininger, S., Bergum, B., Calcino, A., Taylor, K., Nakanishi, N., and Degnan, S.M. 2015. Chapter 4: Porifera. In Evolutionary Developmental Biology of Invertebrates 1: Introduction, Non-Bilateria, Acoelomorpha, Xenoturbellida, Chaetognatha. A. Wanninger. Ed. Springer-Verlag. Wien.


(2) Jacobs, D.K., Gold, D.A., Nakanishi, N., Yuan, D., Camara, A., Nichols, S. A. and Hartenstein, V. 2010. Basal Metazoan Sensory Evolution. In Key Transitions in Animal Evolution. Rob Desalle and Bernd Scheirwater. Eds. CRC press.


(1) Nakanishi, N. 2009. Development of the Nervous System in Aurelia (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa). Ph.D. dissertation. ProQuest.