Environmental survey meta-analysis reveals hidden diversity among unicellular opisthokonts.
ABSTRACT: The Opisthokonta clade includes Metazoa, Fungi, and several unicellular lineages, such as choanoflagellates, filastereans, ichthyosporeans, and nucleariids. To date, studies of the evolutionary diversity of opisthokonts have focused exclusively on metazoans, fungi, and, very recently, choanoflagellates. Thus, very little is known about diversity among the filastereans, ichthyosporeans, and nucleariids. To better understand the evolutionary diversity and ecology of the opisthokonts, here we analyze published environmental data from nonfungal unicellular opisthokonts and report 18S ribosomal DNA phylogenetic analyses. Our data reveal extensive diversity among all unicellular opisthokonts, except for the filastereans. We identify several clades that consist exclusively of environmental sequences, especially among ichthyosporeans and choanoflagellates. Moreover, we show that the ichthyosporeans represent a significant percentage of overall unicellular opisthokont diversity, with a greater ecological role in marine environments than previously believed. Our results provide a useful phylogenetic framework for future ecological and evolutionary studies of these poorly known lineages.
Project description:The opisthokonts are one of the major super groups of eukaryotes. It comprises two major clades: (i) the Metazoa and their unicellular relatives and (ii) the Fungi and their unicellular relatives. There is, however, little knowledge of the role of opisthokont microbes in many natural environments, especially among non-metazoan and non-fungal opisthokonts. Here, we begin to address this gap by analysing high-throughput 18S rDNA and 18S rRNA sequencing data from different European coastal sites, sampled at different size fractions and depths. In particular, we analyse the diversity and abundance of choanoflagellates, filastereans, ichthyosporeans, nucleariids, corallochytreans and their related lineages. Our results show the great diversity of choanoflagellates in coastal waters as well as a relevant representation of the ichthyosporeans and the uncultured marine opisthokonts (MAOP). Furthermore, we describe a new lineage of marine fonticulids (MAFO) that appears to be abundant in sediments. Taken together, our work points to a greater potential ecological role for unicellular opisthokonts than previously appreciated in marine environments, both in water column and sediments, and also provides evidence of novel opisthokont phylogenetic lineages. This study highlights the importance of high-throughput sequencing approaches to unravel the diversity and distribution of both known and novel eukaryotic lineages.
Project description:The eukaryotic supergroup Opisthokonta includes animals (Metazoa), fungi, and choanoflagellates, as well as the lesser known unicellular lineages Nucleariidae, Fonticula alba, Ichthyosporea, Filasterea and Corallochytrium limacisporum. Whereas the evolutionary positions of the well-known opisthokonts are mostly resolved, the phylogenetic relationships among the more obscure lineages are not. Within the Unikonta (Opisthokonta and Amoebozoa), it has not been determined whether the Apusozoa (apusomonads and ancyromonads) or the Amoebozoa form the sister group to opisthokonts, nor to which side of the hypothesized unikont/bikont divide the Apusozoa belong. Aiming at elucidating the evolutionary tree of the unikonts, we have assembled a dataset with a large sampling of both organisms and genes, including representatives from all known opisthokont lineages. In addition, we include new molecular data from an additional ichthyosporean (Creolimax fragrantissima) and choanoflagellate (Codosiga botrytis). Our analyses show the Apusozoa as a paraphyletic assemblage within the unikonts, with the Apusomonadida forming a sister group to the opisthokonts. Within the Holozoa, the Ichthyosporea diverge first, followed by C. limacisporum, the Filasterea, the Choanoflagellata, and the Metazoa. With our data-enriched tree, it is possible to pinpoint the origin and evolution of morphological characters. As an example, we discuss the evolution of the unikont kinetid.
Project description:Cell-type specification through differential genome regulation is a hallmark of complex multicellularity. However, it remains unclear how this process evolved during the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms. To address this question, we investigated transcriptional dynamics in the ichthyosporean Creolimax fragrantissima, a relative of animals that undergoes coenocytic development. We find that Creolimax utilizes dynamic regulation of alternative splicing, long inter-genic non-coding RNAs and co-regulated gene modules associated with animal multicellularity in a cell-type specific manner. Moreover, our study suggests that the different cell types of the three closest animal relatives (ichthyosporeans, filastereans and choanoflagellates) are the product of lineage-specific innovations. Additionally, a proteomic survey of the secretome reveals adaptations to a fungal-like lifestyle. In summary, the diversity of cell types among protistan relatives of animals and their complex genome regulation demonstrates that the last unicellular ancestor of animals was already capable of elaborate specification of cell types.
Project description:Phosphotyrosine (pTyr) signaling is involved in development and maintenance of metazoans' multicellular body through cell-to-cell communication. Tyrosine kinases (TKs), tyrosine phosphatases, and other proteins relaying the signal compose the cascade. Domain architectures of the pTyr signaling proteins are diverse in metazoans, reflecting their complex intercellular communication. Previous studies had shown that the metazoan-type TKs, as well as other pTyr signaling proteins, were already diversified in the common ancestor of metazoans, choanoflagellates, and filastereans (which are together included in the clade Holozoa) whereas they are absent in fungi and other nonholozoan lineages. However, the earliest-branching holozoans Ichthyosporea and Corallochytrea, as well as the two fungi-related amoebae Fonticula and Nuclearia, have not been studied. Here, we analyze the complete genome sequences of two ichthyosporeans and Fonticula, and RNAseq data of three additional ichthyosporeans, one corallochytrean, and Nuclearia. Both the ichthyosporean and corallochytrean genomes encode a large variety of receptor TKs (RTKs) and cytoplasmic TKs (CTKs), as well as other pTyr signaling components showing highly complex domain architectures. However, Nuclearia and Fonticula have no TK, and show much less diversity in other pTyr signaling components. The CTK repertoires of both Ichthyosporea and Corallochytrea are similar to those of Metazoa, Choanoflagellida, and Filasterea, but the RTK sets are totally different from each other. The complex pTyr signaling equipped with positive/negative feedback mechanism likely emerged already at an early stage of holozoan evolution, yet keeping a high evolutionary plasticity in extracellular signal reception until the co-option of the system for cell-to-cell communication in metazoans.
Project description:The Holozoa clade comprises animals and several unicellular lineages (choanoflagellates, filastereans, and teretosporeans). Understanding their full diversity is essential to address the origins of animals and other evolutionary questions. However, they are poorly known. To provide more insights into the real diversity of holozoans and check for undiscovered diversity, we here analyzed 18S rDNA metabarcoding data from the global Tara Oceans expedition. To overcome the low phylogenetic information contained in the metabarcoding data set (composed of sequences from the short V9 region of the gene), we used similarity networks by combining two data sets: unknown environmental sequences from Tara Oceans and known reference sequences from GenBank. We then calculated network metrics to compare environmental sequences with reference sequences. These metrics reflected the divergence between both types of sequences and provided an effective way to search for evolutionary relevant diversity, further validated by phylogenetic placements. Our results showed that the percentage of unicellular holozoan diversity remains hidden. We found novelties in several lineages, especially in Acanthoecida choanoflagellates. We also identified a potential new holozoan group that could not be assigned to any of the described extant clades. Data on geographical distribution showed that, although ubiquitous, each unicellular holozoan lineage exhibits a different distribution pattern. We also identified a positive association between new animal hosts and the ichthyosporean symbiont Creolimax fragrantissima, as well as for other holozoans previously reported as free-living. Overall, our analyses provide a fresh perspective into the diversity and ecology of unicellular holozoans, highlighting the amount of undescribed diversity.
Project description:To understand the mechanisms involved in the transition from protists to multicellular animals (metazoans), studying unicellular relatives of metazoans is as important as studying metazoans themselves. However, investigations remain poor on the closest unicellular (or colonial) relatives of Metazoa, i.e., choanoflagellates, filastereans and ichthyosporeans. Molecular-level analyses on these protists have been severely limited by the lack of transgenesis tools. Their genomes, however, contain several key genes encoding proteins important for metazoan development and multicellularity, including those involved in cell-cell communication, cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and tissue growth control. Tools to analyze their functions in a molecular level are awaited. Here we report techniques of cell transformation and gene silencing developed for the first time in a close relative of metazoans, the ichthyosporean Creolimax fragrantissima. We propose C. fragrantissima as a model organism to investigate the origin of metazoan multicellularity. By transgenesis, we demonstrate that its colony develops from a fully-grown multinucleate syncytium, in which nuclear divisions are strictly synchronized. It has been hypothesized that metazoan multicellular development initially occurred in the course of evolution through successive rounds of cell division, which were not necessarily be synchronized, or alternatively through cell aggregation. Our findings point to another possible mechanism for the evolution of animal multicellularity, namely, cellularization of a syncytium in which nuclear divisions are synchronized. We believe that further studies on the development of ichthyosporeans by the use of our methodologies will provide novel insights into the origin of metazoan multicellularity.
Project description:Animals are evolutionarily related to fungi and to the predominantly unicellular protozoan phylum Choanozoa, together known as opisthokonts. To establish the sequence of events when animals evolved from unicellular ancestors, and understand those key evolutionary transitions, we need to establish which choanozoans are most closely related to animals and also the evolutionary position of each choanozoan group within the opisthokont phylogenetic tree. Here we focus on Ministeria vibrans, a minute bacteria-eating cell with slender radiating tentacles. Single-gene trees suggested that it is either the closest unicellular relative of animals or else sister to choanoflagellates, traditionally considered likely animal ancestors. Sequencing thousands of Ministeria protein genes now reveals about 14 with domains of key significance for animal cell biology, including several previously unknown from deeply diverging Choanozoa, e.g. domains involved in hedgehog, Notch and tyrosine kinase signaling or cell adhesion (cadherin). Phylogenetic trees using 78 proteins show that Ministeria is not sister to animals or choanoflagellates (themselves sisters to animals), but to Capsaspora, another protozoan with thread-like (filose) tentacles. The Ministeria/Capsaspora clade (new class Filasterea) is sister to animals and choanoflagellates, these three groups forming a novel clade (filozoa) whose ancestor presumably evolved filose tentacles well before they aggregated as a periciliary collar in the choanoflagellate/sponge common ancestor. Our trees show ichthyosporean choanozoans as sisters to filozoa; a fusion between ubiquitin and ribosomal small subunit S30 protein genes unifies all holozoa (filozoa plus Ichthyosporea), being absent in earlier branching eukaryotes. Thus, several successive evolutionary innovations occurred among their unicellular closest relatives prior to the origin of the multicellular body-plan of animals.
Project description:How animals emerged from their unicellular ancestor remains a major evolutionary question. New genome data from the closest unicellular relatives of animals have provided important insights into the evolution of animal multicellularity. We know that the unicellular ancestor of animals had an unexpectedly complex genetic repertoire, including many genes that are key to animal development and multicellularity. Thus, assessing the function of these genes among unicellular relatives of animals is key to understanding how they were co-opted at the onset of the Metazoa. However, such analyses have been hampered by the lack of genetic tools. Progress has been made in choanoflagellates and teretosporeans, two of the three lineages closely related to animals, whereas no tools are yet available for functional analysis in the third lineage: the filastereans. Importantly, filastereans have a striking repertoire of genes involved in transcriptional regulation and other developmental processes. Here, we describe a reliable transfection method for the filasterean Capsaspora owczarzaki We also provide a set of constructs for visualising subcellular structures in live cells. These tools convert Capsaspora into a unique experimentally tractable organism to use to investigate the origin and evolution of animal multicellularity.
Project description:Developmental transcription factors are key players in animal multicellularity, being members of the T-box family that are among the most important. Until recently, T-box transcription factors were thought to be exclusively present in metazoans. Here, we report the presence of T-box genes in several nonmetazoan lineages, including ichthyosporeans, filastereans, and fungi. Our data confirm that Brachyury is the most ancient member of the T-box family and establish that the T-box family diversified at the onset of Metazoa. Moreover, we demonstrate functional conservation of a homolog of Brachyury of the protist Capsaspora owczarzaki in Xenopus laevis. By comparing the molecular phenotype of C. owczarzaki Brachyury with that of homologs of early branching metazoans, we define a clear difference between unicellular holozoan and metazoan Brachyury homologs, suggesting that the specificity of Brachyury emerged at the origin of Metazoa. Experimental determination of the binding preferences of the C. owczarzaki Brachyury results in a similar motif to that of metazoan Brachyury and other T-box classes. This finding suggests that functional specificity between different T-box classes is likely achieved by interaction with alternative cofactors, as opposed to differences in binding specificity.
Project description:Communication among cells was paramount to the evolutionary increase in cell type diversity and, ultimately, the origin of large body size. Across the diversity of Metazoa, there are only few conserved cell signalling pathways known to orchestrate the complex cell and tissue interactions regulating development; thus, modification to these few pathways has been responsible for generating diversity during the evolution of animals. Here, we summarize evidence for the origin and putative function of the intracellular, membrane-bound and secreted components of seven metazoan cell signalling pathways with a special focus on early branching metazoans (ctenophores, poriferans, placozoans and cnidarians) and basal unikonts (amoebozoans, fungi, filastereans and choanoflagellates). We highlight the modular incorporation of intra- and extracellular components in each signalling pathway and suggest that increases in the complexity of the extracellular matrix may have further promoted the modulation of cell signalling during metazoan evolution. Most importantly, this updated view of metazoan signalling pathways highlights the need for explicit study of canonical signalling pathway components in taxa that do not operate a complete signalling pathway. Studies like these are critical for developing a deeper understanding of the evolution of cell signalling.This article is part of the themed issue 'Evo-devo in the genomics era, and the origins of morphological diversity'.