Transcriptional regulation of a horizontally transferred gene from bacterium to chordate.
ABSTRACT: The horizontal transfer of genes between distantly related organisms is undoubtedly a major factor in the evolution of novel traits. Because genes are functionless without expression, horizontally transferred genes must acquire appropriate transcriptional regulations in their recipient organisms, although the evolutionary mechanism is not known well. The defining characteristic of tunicates is the presence of a cellulose containing tunic covering the adult and larval body surface. Cellulose synthase was acquired by horizontal gene transfer from Actinobacteria. We found that acquisition of the binding site of AP-2 transcription factor was essential for tunicate cellulose synthase to gain epidermal-specific expression. Actinobacteria have very GC-rich genomes, regions of which are capable of inducing specific expression in the tunicate epidermis as the AP-2 binds to a GC-rich region. Therefore, the actinobacterial cellulose synthase could have been potentiated to evolve its new function in the ancestor of tunicates with a higher probability than the evolution depending solely on a spontaneous event.
Project description:Tunicates are the only animals that perform cellulose biosynthesis. The tunicate gene for cellulose synthase, Ci-CesA, was likely acquired by horizontal transfer from bacteria and was a key innovation in the evolution of tunicates. Transposon-based mutagenesis in an ascidian, Ciona intestinalis, has generated a mutant, swimming juvenile (sj). Ci-CesA is the gene responsible for the sj mutant, in which a drastic reduction in cellulose was observed in the tunic. Furthermore, during metamorphosis, which in ascidians convert the vertebrate-like larva into a sessile filter feeder, sj showed abnormalities in the order of metamorphic events. In normal larvae, the metamorphic events in the trunk region are initiated after tail resorption. In contrast, sj mutant larvae initiated the metamorphic events in the trunk without tail resorption. Thus, sj larvae show a "swimming juvenile" phenotype, the juvenile-like trunk structure with a complete tail and the ability to swim. It is likely that ascidian cellulose synthase is required for the coordination of the metamorphic events in the trunk and tail in addition to cellulose biosynthesis.
Project description:Tunicates or urochordates-comprising ascidians, larvaceans, and salps-are the only metazoans that can synthesize cellulose, a biological function usually associated with bacteria and plants but not animals. Tunicate cellulose or tunicine is a major component of the outer acellular coverage (tunic) of the entire body of these organisms. Previous studies have suggested that the prokaryotic cellulose synthase gene (CesA) was horizontally transferred into the genome of a tunicate ancestor. However, no convenient tools have been devised to determine whether only tunicates harbor CesA. ORTHOSCOPE is a recently developed tool used to identify orthologous genes and to examine the phylogenic relationship of molecules within major metazoan taxa. The present analysis with this tool revealed the presence of CesA orthologs in all sequenced tunicate genomes but an absence in other metazoan genomes. This supports an evolutionary origin of animal cellulose and provides insights into the evolution of this animal taxon.
Project description:Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is the movement of genetic material between different species. Although HGT is less frequent in eukaryotes than in bacteria, several instances of HGT have apparently shaped animal evolution. One well-known example is the tunicate cellulose synthase gene, CesA, in which a gene, probably transferred from bacteria, greatly impacted tunicate evolution. A Glycosyl Hydrolase Family 6 (GH6) hydrolase-like domain exists at the C-terminus of tunicate CesA, but not in cellulose synthases of other organisms. The recent discovery of another GH6 hydrolase-like gene (GH6-1) in tunicate genomes further raises the question of how tunicates acquired GH6. To examine the probable origin of these genes, we analyzed the phylogenetic relationship of GH6 proteins in tunicates and other organisms. Our analyses show that tunicate GH6s, the GH6-1 gene, and the GH6 part of the CesA gene, form two independent, monophyletic gene groups. We also compared their sequence signatures and exon splice sites. All tunicate species examined have shared splice sites in GH6-containing genes, implying ancient intron acquisitions. It is likely that the tunicate CesA and GH6-1 genes existed in the common ancestor of all extant tunicates.
Project description:Among animals, urochordates (e.g., ascidians) are unique in their ability to biosynthesize cellulose. In ascidians cellulose is synthesized in the epidermis and incorporated into a protective coat know as the tunic. A putative cellulose synthase-like gene was first identified in the genome sequences of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. We describe here a cellulose synthase gene from the ascidian Ciona savignyi that is expressed in the epidermis. The predicted C. savignyi cellulose synthase amino acid sequence showed conserved features found in all cellulose synthases, including plants, but was most similar to cellulose synthases from bacteria, fungi, and Dictyostelium discoidium. However, unlike other known cellulose synthases, the predicted C. savignyi polypeptide has a degenerate cellulase-like region near the carboxyl-terminal end. An expression construct carrying the C. savignyi cDNA was found to restore cellulose biosynthesis to a cellulose synthase (CelA) minus mutant of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, showing that the predicted protein has cellulose synthase activity. The lack of cellulose biosynthesis in all other groups of metazoans and the similarity of the C. savignyi cellulose synthase to enzymes from cellulose-producing organisms support the hypothesis that the urochordates acquired the cellulose biosynthetic pathway by horizontal transfer.
Project description:In order for sustainable nanomaterials such as cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) to be utilized in industrial applications, a large-scale production capacity for CNCs must exist. Currently the only CNCs available commercially in kilogram scale are obtained from wood pulp (W-CNCs). Scaling the production capacity of W-CNCs isolation has led to their use in broader applications and captured the interest of researchers, industries and governments alike. Another source of CNCs with potential for commercial scale production are tunicates, a species of marine animal. Tunicate derived CNCs (T-CNCs) are a high aspect ratio CNC, which can complement commercially available W-CNCs in the growing global CNC market. Herein we report the isolation and characterization of T-CNCs from the tunicate Styela clava, an invasive species currently causing significant harm to local aquaculture communities. The reported procedure utilizes scalable CNC processing techniques and is based on our experiences from laboratory scale T-CNC isolation and pilot scale W-CNC isolation. To our best knowledge, this study represents the largest scale where T-CNCs have been isolated from any tunicate species, under any reaction conditions. Demonstrating a significant step towards commercial scale isolation of T-CNCs, and offering a potential solution to the numerous challenges which invasive tunicates pose to global aquaculture communities.
Project description:Tunicates are invertebrate members of the chordate phylum, and are considered to be the sister group of vertebrates. Tunicates are composed of ascidians, thaliaceans, and appendicularians. With the advent of inexpensive high-throughput sequencing, the number of sequenced tunicate genomes is expected to rise sharply within the coming years. To facilitate comparative genomics within the tunicates, and between tunicates and vertebrates, standardized rules for the nomenclature of tunicate genetic elements need to be established. Here we propose a set of nomenclature rules, consensual within the community, for predicted genes, pseudogenes, transcripts, operons, transcriptional cis-regulatory regions, transposable elements, and transgenic constructs. In addition, the document proposes guidelines for naming transgenic and mutant lines.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Tunicates represent a key metazoan group as the sister-group of vertebrates within chordates. The six complete mitochondrial genomes available so far for tunicates have revealed distinctive features. Extensive gene rearrangements and particularly high evolutionary rates have been evidenced with regard to other chordates. This peculiar evolutionary dynamics has hampered the reconstruction of tunicate phylogenetic relationships within chordates based on mitogenomic data. RESULTS: In order to further understand the atypical evolutionary dynamics of the mitochondrial genome of tunicates, we determined the complete sequence of the solitary ascidian Herdmania momus. This genome from a stolidobranch ascidian presents the typical tunicate gene content with 13 protein-coding genes, 2 rRNAs and 24 tRNAs which are all encoded on the same strand. However, it also presents a novel gene arrangement, highlighting the extreme plasticity of gene order observed in tunicate mitochondrial genomes. Probabilistic phylogenetic inferences were conducted on the concatenation of the 13 mitochondrial protein-coding genes from representatives of major metazoan phyla. We show that whereas standard homogeneous amino acid models support an artefactual sister position of tunicates relative to all other bilaterians, the CAT and CAT+BP site- and time-heterogeneous mixture models place tunicates as the sister-group of vertebrates within monophyletic chordates. Moreover, the reference phylogeny indicates that tunicate mitochondrial genomes have experienced a drastic acceleration in their evolutionary rate that equally affects protein-coding and ribosomal-RNA genes. CONCLUSION: This is the first mitogenomic study supporting the new chordate phylogeny revealed by recent phylogenomic analyses. It illustrates the beneficial effects of an increased taxon sampling coupled with the use of more realistic amino acid substitution models for the reconstruction of animal phylogeny.
Project description:Tunic is a cellulosic, integumentary matrix found in tunicates (Subphylum Tunicata or Urochordata). The tunics of some ascidian species and pelagic tunicates, such as salps, are nearly transparent, which is useful in predator avoidance. Transparent materials can be detected visually using light reflected from their surfaces, with the different refractive indices between two media, i.e., tunic and seawater, being the measure of reflectance. A larger difference in refractive indices thus provides a larger measure of reflectance.We measured the refractive indices of the transparent tunic of Thetys vagina (salp: Thaliacea) and Rhopalaea sp. (ascidian: Ascidiacea) using an Abbe refractometer and an ellipsometer to estimate the light reflection at the tunic surface and evaluate the anti-reflection effect of the nipple array structure on the tunic surface of T. vagina. At D-line light (??=?589 nm), the refractive indices of the tunics were 0.002-0.004 greater than seawater in the measurements by Abbe refractometer, and 0.02-0.03 greater than seawater in the measurements by ellipsometer. The refractive indices of tunics were slightly higher than that of seawater. According to the simulation of light reflection based on rigorous coupled wave analysis (RCWA), light at a large angle of incidence will be completely reflected from a surface when its refractive indices are smaller than seawater. Therefore, the refractive index of integument is important for enabling transparent organisms to remain invisible in the water column.In order to minimize reflectance, the refractive index should be similar to, but never smaller than, that of the surrounding seawater. The simulation also indicated that the presence or absence of a nipple array does not cause significant difference in reflectance on the surface. The nipple array on the tunic of the diurnal salp may have another function, such as bubble repellence, other than anti-reflection.
Project description:Background: Ascidians, a tunicate class, use a mitochondrial genetic code that is distinct from vertebrates and other invertebrates. Though it has been used to translate the coding sequences from other tunicate species on a case-by-case basis, it is has not been investigated whether this can be done systematically. This is an important because a) some tunicate mitochondrial sequences are currently translated with the invertebrate code by repositories such as NCBI GenBank, and b) uncertainties about the genetic code to use can complicate or introduce errors in phylogenetic studies based on translated mitochondrial protein sequences. Methods: We collected publicly available nucleotide sequences for non-ascidian tunicates including appendicularians such as Oikopleura dioica, translated them using the ascidian mitochondrial code, and built multiple sequence alignments covering all tunicate classes. Results: All tunicates studied here appear to translate AGR codons to glycine instead of serine (invertebrates) or as a stop codon (vertebrates), as initially described in ascidians. Among Oikopleuridae, we suggest further possible changes in the use of the ATA (Ile ? Met) and TGA (Trp ? Arg) codons. Conclusions: We recommend using the ascidian mitochondrial code in automatic translation pipelines of mitochondrial sequences for all tunicates. Further investigation is required for additional species-specific differences.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Genomic analysis has upended chordate phylogeny, placing the tunicates as the sister group to the vertebrates. This taxonomic rearrangement raises questions about the emergence of a tunicate/vertebrate ancestor. RESULTS:Characterization of developmental genes uniquely shared by tunicates and vertebrates is one promising approach for deciphering developmental shifts underlying acquisition of novel, ancestral traits. The matrix glycoprotein Fibronectin (FN) has long been considered a vertebrate-specific gene, playing a major instructive role in vertebrate embryonic development. However, the recent computational prediction of an orthologous "vertebrate-like" Fn gene in the genome of a tunicate, Ciona savignyi, challenges this viewpoint suggesting that Fn may have arisen in the shared tunicate/vertebrate ancestor. Here we verify the presence of a tunicate Fn ortholog. Transgenic reporter analysis was used to characterize a Ciona Fn enhancer driving expression in the notochord. Targeted knockdown in the notochord lineage indicates that FN is required for proper convergent extension. CONCLUSIONS:These findings suggest that acquisition of Fn was associated with altered notochord morphogenesis in the vertebrate/tunicate ancestor.