Project description:Animals have evolved different foraging strategies in which some animals forage independently and others forage in groups. The evolution of social feeding does not necessarily require cooperation; social feeding can be a beneficial individual-level strategy if it provides mutualistic benefits, for example though increasing the efficiency of resource extraction or processing. We found that Trichoplax adhaerens, the simplest multicellular animal ever described, engages in social feeding behavior. T. adhaerens lacks muscle tissue, nervous and digestive systems - yet is capable of aggregating and forming groups of closely connected individuals who collectively feed. The tight physical interactions between the animals are transitory and appear to serve the goal of staying connected to neighbors during the external digestion of algae when enzymes are released on the biofilm and nutrients are absorbed through the ventral epithelium. We found that T. adhaerens are more likely to engage in social feeding when the concentrations of algae are high - both in a semi-natural conditions and in vitro. It is surprising that T. adhaerens - an organism without a nervous system - is able to engage in this social feeding behavior. Whether this behavior is cooperative is still an open question. Nevertheless, the social feeding behavior of T. adhaerens, an early multicellular animal, suggests that sociality may have played an important role in the early evolution of animals. It also suggests that T. adhaerens could be used as a simple model organism for exploring questions regarding ecology and sociobiology.
Project description:Protein O-GlcNAcylation is a reversible post-translational signaling modification of nucleocytoplasmic proteins that is essential for embryonic development in bilateria. In a search for a reductionist model to study O-GlcNAc signaling, we discovered the presence of functional O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT), O-GlcNAcase (OGA), and nucleocytoplasmic protein O-GlcNAcylation in the most basal extant animal, the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens. We show via enzymatic characterization of Trichoplax OGT/OGA and genetic rescue experiments in Drosophila melanogaster that these proteins possess activities/functions similar to their bilaterian counterparts. The acquisition of O-GlcNAc signaling by metazoa may have facilitated the rapid and complex signaling mechanisms required for the evolution of multicellular organisms.
Project description:Trichoplax adhaerens is the simplest multicellular animal with tissue differentiation and somatic cell turnover. Like all other multicellular organisms, it should be vulnerable to cancer, yet there have been no reports of cancer in T. adhaerens or any other placozoan. We investigated the cancer resistance of T. adhaerens, discovering that they are able to tolerate high levels of radiation damage (218.6 Gy). To investigate how T. adhaerens survive levels of radiation that are lethal to other animals, we examined gene expression after the X-ray exposure, finding overexpression of genes involved in DNA repair and apoptosis including the MDM2 gene. We also discovered that T. adhaerens extrudes clusters of inviable cells after X-ray exposure. T. adhaerens is a valuable model organism for studying the molecular, genetic, and tissue-level mechanisms underlying cancer suppression.
Project description:A detailed annotation of non-protein coding RNAs is typically missing in initial releases of newly sequenced genomes. Here we report on a comprehensive ncRNA annotation of the genome of Trichoplax adhaerens, the presumably most basal metazoan whose genome has been published to-date. Since blast identified only a small fraction of the best-conserved ncRNAs--in particular rRNAs, tRNAs and some snRNAs--we developed a semi-global dynamic programming tool, GotohScan, to increase the sensitivity of the homology search. It successfully identified the full complement of major and minor spliceosomal snRNAs, the genes for RNase P and MRP RNAs, the SRP RNA, as well as several small nucleolar RNAs. We did not find any microRNA candidates homologous to known eumetazoan sequences. Interestingly, most ncRNAs, including the pol-III transcripts, appear as single-copy genes or with very small copy numbers in the Trichoplax genome.
Project description:The hypoxic response in humans is mediated by the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF), for which prolyl hydroxylases (PHDs) act as oxygen-sensing components. The evolutionary origins of the HIF system have been previously unclear. We demonstrate a functional HIF system in the simplest animal, Trichoplax adhaerens: HIF targets in T. adhaerens include glycolytic and metabolic enzymes, suggesting a role for HIF in the adaptation of basal multicellular animals to fluctuating oxygen levels. Characterization of the T. adhaerens PHDs and cross-species complementation assays reveal a conserved oxygen-sensing mechanism. Cross-genomic analyses rationalize the relative importance of HIF system components, and imply that the HIF system is likely to be present in all animals, but is unique to this kingdom.
Project description:Simple telomeres were identified in the genome assembly of the basal placozoan animal Trichoplax adhaerens. They have 1-2 kb of TTAGGG telomeric repeats, which are preceded by a subtelomeric region of 1.5-13 kb. Unlike subtelomeric regions in most animals examined, these subtelomeric regions are unique to each telomere.
Project description:Mitochondrial genomes of multicellular animals are typically 15- to 24-kb circular molecules that encode a nearly identical set of 12-14 proteins for oxidative phosphorylation and 24-25 structural RNAs (16S rRNA, 12S rRNA, and tRNAs). These genomes lack significant intragenic spacers and are generally without introns. Here, we report the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens, a metazoan with the simplest known body plan of any animal, possessing no organs, no basal membrane, and only four different somatic cell types. Our analysis shows that the Trichoplax mitochondrion contains the largest known metazoan mtDNA genome at 43,079 bp, more than twice the size of the typical metazoan mtDNA. The mitochondrion's size is due to numerous intragenic spacers, several introns and ORFs of unknown function, and protein-coding regions that are generally larger than those found in other animals. Not only does the Trichoplax mtDNA have characteristics of the mitochondrial genomes of known metazoan outgroups, such as chytrid fungi and choanoflagellates, but, more importantly, it shares derived features unique to the Metazoa. Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial proteins provide strong support for the placement of the phylum Placozoa at the root of the Metazoa.
Project description:The aim of this work was to test and analyse the bioeffects of <i>Prunus spinosa</i> L. (Rosacaee) fruit ethanol extract on <i>Trichoplax adhaerens</i> Schulze, 1883 (Placozoa) laboratory cultures which-for the first time-were employed as <i>in vivo</i> biological model to assess the bioactivity of a natural extract. The ethanol extract of <i>P. spinosa</i> was administrated during a 46 day experimental period; ultrastructural (by optical, confocal, TEM and SEM microscopy) and morphometric analyses indicated that treated <i>Trichoplax adhaerens</i> showed significant differences in viability, reproductive modalities, body shape and colour with respect to the control group. Finally, <i>P. spinosa</i> bioactive compounds seem to exert profound protective effects on <i>T. adhaerens</i> reproduction and phenotype. Our results may support additional investigations related to other bioactive compounds properties useful for nutraceutical preparations to be used as food supplements.
Project description:Trichoplax adhaerens is a flat, millimeter-sized marine animal that adheres to surfaces and grazes on algae. Trichoplax displays a repertoire of different feeding behaviors despite the apparent absence of a true nervous system with electrical or chemical synapses. It glides along surfaces to find food, propelled by beating cilia on cells at its ventral surface, and pauses during feeding by arresting ciliary beating. We found that when endomorphin-like peptides are applied to an animal, ciliary beating is arrested, mimicking natural feeding pauses. Antibodies against these neuropeptides label cells that express the neurosecretory proteins and voltage-gated calcium channels implicated in regulated secretion. These cells are embedded in the ventral epithelium, where they comprise only 4% of the total, and are concentrated around the edge of the animal. Each bears a cilium likely to be chemosensory and used to detect algae. Trichoplax pausing during feeding or spontaneously in the absence of food often induce their neighbors to pause as well, even neighbors not in direct contact. Pausing behavior propagates from animal to animal across distances much greater than the signal that diffuses from just one animal, so we presume that the peptides secreted from one animal elicit secretion from nearby animals. Signal amplification by peptide-induced peptide secretion explains how a small number of sensory secretory cells lacking processes and synapses can evoke a wave of peptide secretion across the entire animal to globally arrest ciliary beating and allow pausing during feeding.