NR3E receptors in cnidarians: A new family of steroid receptor relatives extends the possible mechanisms for ligand binding.
ABSTRACT: Steroid hormone receptors are important regulators of development and physiology in bilaterian animals, but the role of steroid signaling in cnidarians has been contentious. Cnidarians produce steroids, including A-ring aromatic steroids with a side-chain, but these are probably made through pathways different than the one used by vertebrates to make their A-ring aromatic steroids. Here we present comparative genomic analyses indicating the presence of a previously undescribed nuclear receptor family within medusozoan cnidarians, that we propose to call NR3E. This family predates the diversification of ERR/ER/SR in bilaterians, indicating that the first NR3 evolved in the common ancestor of the placozoan and cnidarian-bilaterian with lineage-specific loss in the anthozoans, even though multiple species in this lineage have been shown to produce aromatic steroids, whose function remain unclear. We discovered serendipitously that a cytoplasmic factor within epidermal cells of transgenic Hydra vulgaris can trigger the nuclear translocation of heterologously expressed human ER?. This led us to hypothesize that aromatic steroids may also be present in the medusozoan cnidarian lineage, which includes Hydra, and may explain the translocation of human ER?. Docking experiments with paraestrol A, a cnidarian A-ring aromatic steroid, into the ligand-binding pocket of Hydra NR3E indicates that, if an aromatic steroid is indeed the true ligand, which remains to be demonstrated, it would bind to the pocket through a partially distinct mechanism from the manner in which estradiol binds to vertebrate ER.
Project description:In the face of changing environmental conditions, the mechanisms underlying stress responses in diverse organisms are of increasing interest. In vertebrates, Drosophila, and Caenorhabditis elegans, FoxO transcription factors mediate cellular responses to stress, including oxidative stress and dietary restriction. Although FoxO genes have been identified in early-arising animal lineages including sponges and cnidarians, little is known about their roles in these organisms.We have examined the regulation of FoxO activity in members of the well-studied cnidarian genus Hydra. We find that Hydra FoxO is expressed at high levels in cells of the interstitial lineage, a cell lineage that includes multipotent stem cells that give rise to neurons, stinging cells, secretory cells and gametes. Using transgenic Hydra that express a FoxO-GFP fusion protein in cells of the interstitial lineage, we have determined that heat shock causes localization of the fusion protein to the nucleus. Our results also provide evidence that, as in bilaterian animals, Hydra FoxO activity is regulated by both Akt and JNK kinases.These findings imply that basic mechanisms of FoxO regulation arose before the evolution of bilaterians and raise the possibility that FoxO is involved in stress responses of other cnidarian species, including corals.
Project description:Cell lineages of cnidarians including Hydra represent the fundamental cell types of metazoans and provides us a unique opportunity to study the evolutionary diversification of cell type in the animal kingdom. Hydra contains epithelial cells as well as a multipotent interstitial cell (I-cell) that gives rise to nematocytes, nerve cells, gland cells, and germ-line cells. We used cDNA microarrays to identify cell type-specific genes by comparing gene expression in normal Hydra with animals lacking the I-cell lineage, so-called epithelial Hydra. We then performed in situ hybridization to localize expression to specific cell types. Eighty-six genes were shown to be expressed in specific cell types of the I-cell lineage. An additional 29 genes were expressed in epithelial cells and were down-regulated in epithelial animals lacking I-cells. Based on the above information, we constructed a database (http://hydra.lab.nig.ac.jp/hydra/), which describes the expression patterns of cell type-specific genes in Hydra. Most genes expressed specifically in either I-cells or epithelial cells have homologues in higher metazoans. By comparison, most nematocyte-specific genes and approximately half of the gland cell- and nerve cell-specific genes are unique to the cnidarian lineage. Because nematocytes, gland cells, and nerve cells appeared along with the emergence of cnidarians, this suggests that lineage-specific genes arose in cnidarians in conjunction with the evolution of new cell types required by the cnidarians.
Project description:BACKGROUND: LIM homeobox (Lhx) transcription factors are unique to the animal lineage and have patterning roles during embryonic development in flies, nematodes and vertebrates, with a conserved role in specifying neuronal identity. Though genes of this family have been reported in a sponge and a cnidarian, the expression patterns and functions of the Lhx family during development in non-bilaterian phyla are not known. RESULTS: We identified Lhx genes in two cnidarians and a placozoan and report the expression of Lhx genes during embryonic development in Nematostella and the demosponge Amphimedon. Members of the six major LIM homeobox subfamilies are represented in the genomes of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, and the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens. The hydrozoan cnidarian, Hydra magnipapillata, has retained four of the six Lhx subfamilies, but apparently lost two others. Only three subfamilies are represented in the haplosclerid demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica. A tandem cluster of three Lhx genes of different subfamilies and a gene containing two LIM domains in the genome of T. adhaerens (an animal without any neurons) indicates that Lhx subfamilies were generated by tandem duplication. This tandem cluster in Trichoplax is likely a remnant of the original chromosomal context in which Lhx subfamilies first appeared. Three of the six Trichoplax Lhx genes are expressed in animals in laboratory culture, as are all Lhx genes in Hydra. Expression patterns of Nematostella Lhx genes correlate with neural territories in larval and juvenile polyp stages. In the aneural demosponge, A. queenslandica, the three Lhx genes are expressed widely during development, including in cells that are associated with the larval photosensory ring. CONCLUSIONS: The Lhx family expanded and diversified early in animal evolution, with all six subfamilies already diverged prior to the cnidarian-placozoan-bilaterian last common ancestor. In Nematostella, Lhx gene expression is correlated with neural territories in larval and juvenile polyp stages. This pattern is consistent with a possible role in patterning the Nematostella nervous system. We propose a scenario in which Lhx genes play a homologous role in neural patterning across eumetazoans.
Project description:The Notch signalling pathway is conserved in pre-bilaterian animals. In the Cnidarian Hydra it is involved in interstitial stem cell differentiation and in boundary formation during budding. Experimental evidence suggests that in Hydra Notch is activated by presenilin through proteolytic cleavage at the S3 site as in all animals. However, the endogenous ligand for HvNotch has not been described yet.We have cloned a cDNA from Hydra, which encodes a bona-fide Notch ligand with a conserved domain structure similar to that of Jagged-like Notch ligands from other animals. Hyjagged mRNA is undetectable in adult Hydra by in situ hybridisation but is strongly upregulated and easily visible at the border between bud and parent shortly before bud detachment. In contrast, HyJagged protein is found in all cell types of an adult hydra, where it localises to membranes and endosomes. Co-localisation experiments showed that it is present in the same cells as HvNotch, however not always in the same membrane structures.The putative Notch ligand HyJagged is conserved in Cnidarians. Together with HvNotch it may be involved in the formation of the parent-bud boundary in Hydra. Moreover, protein distribution of both, HvNotch receptor and HyJagged indicate a more widespread function for these two transmembrane proteins in the adult hydra, which may be regulated by additional factors, possibly involving endocytic pathways.
Project description:Background:Nicotinic and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors likely evolved in the cnidarian-bilaterian common ancestor. Both receptor families are best known for their role at chemical synapses in bilaterian animals, but they also have described roles as non-neuronal signaling receptors within the bilaterians. It is not clear when either of the functions for nicotinic or muscarinic receptors evolved. Previous studies in cnidarians suggest that acetylcholine's neuronal role existed prior to the cnidarian-bilaterian divergence, but did not address potential non-neuronal functions. To determine the origins of neuronal and non-neuronal functions of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, we investigated the phylogenetic position of cnidarian acetylcholine receptors, characterized the spatiotemporal expression patterns of nicotinic receptors in N. vectensis, and compared pharmacological studies in N. vectensis to the previous work in other cnidarians. Results:Consistent with described activity in other cnidarians, treatment with acetylcholine-induced tentacular contractions in the cnidarian sea anemone N. vectensis. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that the N. vectensis genome encodes 26 nicotinic (nAChRs) and no muscarinic (mAChRs) acetylcholine receptors and that nAChRs independently radiated in cnidarian and bilaterian linages. The namesake nAChR agonist, nicotine, induced tentacular contractions similar to those observed with acetylcholine, and the nAChR antagonist mecamylamine suppressed tentacular contractions induced by both acetylcholine and nicotine. This indicated that tentacle contractions are in fact mediated by nAChRs. Nicotine also induced the contraction of radial muscles, which contract as part of the peristaltic waves that propagate along the oral-aboral axis of the trunk. Radial contractions and peristaltic waves were suppressed by mecamylamine. The ability of nicotine to mimic acetylcholine responses, and of mecamylamine to suppress acetylcholine and nicotine-induced contractions, supports a neuronal function for acetylcholine in cnidarians. Examination of the spatiotemporal expression of N. vectensis nAChRs (NvnAChRs) during development and in juvenile polyps identified that NvnAChRs are expressed in neurons, muscles, gonads, and large domains known to be consistent with a role in developmental patterning. These patterns are consistent with nAChRs functioning in both a neuronal and non-neuronal capacity in N. vectensis. Conclusion:Our data suggest that nAChR receptors functioned at chemical synapses in N. vectensis to regulate tentacle contraction. Similar responses to acetylcholine are well documented in cnidarians, suggesting that the neuronal function represents an ancestral role for nAChRs. Expression patterns of nAChRs are consistent with both neuronal and non-neuronal roles for acetylcholine in cnidarians. Together, these observations suggest that both neuronal and non-neuronal functions for the ancestral nAChRs were present in the cnidarian-bilaterian common ancestor. Thus, both roles described in bilaterian species likely arose at or near the base of nAChR evolution.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Nuclear receptors are a superfamily of metazoan transcription factors that regulate diverse developmental and physiological processes. Sequenced genomes from an increasing number of bilaterians have provided a more complete picture of duplication and loss of nuclear receptors in protostomes and deuterostomes but have left open the question of which nuclear receptors were present in the cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor. In addition, nuclear receptor expression and function are largely uncharacterized within cnidarians, preventing determination of conserved and novel nuclear receptor functions in the context of animal evolution. RESULTS: Here we report the first complete set of nuclear receptors from a cnidarian, the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Genomic searches using conserved DNA- and ligand-binding domains revealed seventeen nuclear receptors in N. vectensis. Phylogenetic analyses support N. vectensis orthologs of bilaterian nuclear receptors in four nuclear receptor subfamilies within nuclear receptor family 2 (COUP-TF, TLL, HNF4, TR2/4) and one putative ortholog of GCNF (nuclear receptor family 6). Other N. vectensis genes grouped well with nuclear receptor family 2 but represented lineage-specific duplications somewhere within the cnidarian lineage and were not clear orthologs of bilaterian genes. Three nuclear receptors were not well-supported within any particular nuclear receptor family. The seventeen nuclear receptors exhibited distinct developmental expression patterns, with expression of several nuclear receptors limited to a subset of developmental stages. CONCLUSION: N. vectensis contains a diverse complement of nuclear receptors including orthologs of several bilaterian nuclear receptors. Novel nuclear receptors in N. vectensis may be ancient genes lost from triploblastic lineages or may represent cnidarian-specific radiations. Nuclear receptors exhibited distinct developmental expression patterns, which are consistent with diverse regulatory roles for these genes. Understanding the evolutionary relationships and developmental expression of the N. vectensis nuclear receptor complement provides insight into the evolution of the nuclear receptor superfamily and a foundation for mechanistic characterization of cnidarian nuclear receptor function.
Project description:Genome sequencing has revealed examples of horizontally transferred genes, but we still know little about how such genes are incorporated into their host genomes. We have previously reported the identification of a gene (flp) that appears to have entered the Hydra genome through horizontal transfer. Here we provide additional evidence in support of our original hypothesis that the transfer was from a unicellular organism, and we show that the transfer occurred in an ancestor of two medusozoan cnidarian species. In addition we show that the gene is part of a bicistronic operon in the Hydra genome. These findings identify a new animal phylum in which trans-spliced leader addition has led to the formation of operons, and define the requirements for evolution of an operon in Hydra. The identification of operons in Hydra also provides a tool that can be exploited in the construction of transgenic Hydra strains.
Project description:Cnidarians (for example, sea anemones and jellyfish) develop from an outer ectodermal and inner endodermal germ layer, whereas bilaterians (for example, vertebrates and flies) additionally have a mesodermal layer as intermediate germ layer. Currently, cnidarian endoderm (that is, 'mesendoderm') is considered homologous to both bilaterian endoderm and mesoderm. Here we test this hypothesis by studying the fate of germ layers, the localization of gut cell types, and the expression of numerous 'endodermal' and 'mesodermal' transcription factor orthologues in the anthozoan sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Surprisingly, we find that the developing pharyngeal ectoderm and its derivatives display a transcription-factor expression profile (foxA, hhex, islet, soxB1, hlxB9, tbx2/3, nkx6 and nkx2.2) and cell-type combination (exocrine and insulinergic) reminiscent of the developing bilaterian midgut, and, in particular, vertebrate pancreatic tissue. Endodermal derivatives, instead, display cell functions and transcription-factor profiles similar to bilaterian mesoderm derivatives (for example, somatic gonad and heart). Thus, our data supports an alternative model of germ layer homologies, where cnidarian pharyngeal ectoderm corresponds to bilaterian endoderm, and the cnidarian endoderm is homologous to bilaterian mesoderm.
Project description:Hedgehog signaling is an important component of cell-cell communication during bilaterian development, and abnormal Hedgehog signaling contributes to disease and birth defects. Hedgehog genes are composed of a ligand ("hedge") domain and an autocatalytic intein ("hog") domain. Hedgehog (hh) ligands bind to a conserved set of receptors and activate downstream signal transduction pathways terminating with Gli/Ci transcription factors. We have identified five intein-containing genes in the anthozoan cnidarian Nematostella vectensis, two of which (NvHh1 and NvHh2) contain definitive hedgehog ligand domains, suggesting that to date, cnidarians are the earliest branching metazoan phylum to possess definitive Hh orthologs. Expression analysis of NvHh1 and NvHh2, the receptor NvPatched, and a downstream transcription factor NvGli (a Gli3/Ci ortholog) indicate that these genes may have conserved roles in planar and trans-epithelial signaling during gut and germline development, while the three remaining intein-containing genes (NvHint1,2,3) are expressed in a cell-type-specific manner in putative neural precursors. Metazoan intein-containing genes that lack a hh ligand domain have previously only been identified within nematodes. However, we have identified intein-containing genes from both Nematostella and in two newly annotated lophotrochozoan genomes. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that while nematode inteins may be derived from an ancestral true hedgehog gene, the newly identified cnidarian and lophotrochozoan inteins may be orthologous, suggesting that both true hedgehog and hint genes may have been present in the cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor. Genomic surveys of N. vectensis suggest that most of the components of both protostome and deuterostome Hh signaling pathways are present in anthozoans and that some appear to have been lost in ecdysozoan lineages. Cnidarians possess many bilaterian cell-cell signaling pathways (Wnt, TGFbeta, FGF, and Hh) that appear to act in concert to pattern tissues along the oral-aboral axis of the polyp. Cnidarians represent a diverse group of animals with a predominantly epithelial body plan, and perhaps selective pressures to pattern epithelia resulted in the ontogeny of the hedgehog pathway in the common ancestor of the Cnidaria and Bilateria.
Project description:Bilaterian animals differ from other metazoans in their apparent bilateral symmetry and the development of a third germ layer. Both might have facilitated the evolution of the diverse and complex bilaterian body plans. The first cnidarian genome sequence revealed that despite their morphological simplicity, this sister group to all bilaterians shares an immense genomic complexity with vertebrates. This suggested that it might have been the complexity of gene regulation which increased during the evolution of bilaterians. We compared the gene regulatory landscape of cnidarians and bilaterians. To this end we generated the first genome-wide prediction of gene regulatory elements and profiled five epigenetic marks in a non-bilaterian animal, the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis. We found that the location of chromatin modifications relative to genes and distal enhancers is conserved among eumetazoans. Surprisingly, the genomic landscape of gene regulatory elements is highly similar between Nematostella and bilaterian model organisms. This suggests that complex regulation of developmental gene expression evolved in eumetazoans without a major increase in complexity in bilaterians. ChIP-seq of p300, RNA Pol2, and five histone modifications in Nematostella vectensis.