Acoel flatworms: earliest extant bilaterian Metazoans, not members of Platyhelminthes.
Because of their simple organization the Acoela have been considered to be either primitive bilaterians or descendants of coelomates through secondary loss of derived features. Sequence data of 18S ribosomal DNA genes from non-fast evolving species of acoels and other metazoans reveal that this group does not belong to the Platyhelminthes but represents the extant members of the earliest divergent Bilateria, an interpretation that is supported by recent studies on the embryonic cleavage pattern and nervous system of acoels. This study has implications for understanding the evolution of major body plans, and for perceptions of the Cambrian evolutionary explosion. (+info)
Phylogenetic analysis of the 5-aminolevulinate synthase gene.
The evolution of 5-aminolevulinate synthase (ALS) was studied by acquiring sequence data and generating phylogenetic trees. Gene sequences were already available for a variety of vertebrates (which have both a housekeeping and an erythroid form of the gene), fungi, alpha-proteobacteria, and one protist and one protostome. In order to generate representative trees, ALS sequence data were acquired from various deuterostomes and protostomes. The species and tissues selected for study were beluga whale liver, hagfish blood, sea urchin gonadal tissue, cuttlefish hepatopancreas, horseshoe crab hepatopancreas, and bloodworm blood. The new sequences and those previously published were examined for the presence of heme-regulatory motifs (HRMs) and iron-responsive elements (IREs). The HRMs are present in almost all eukaryotic species, which suggests their fundamental role in the regulation of ALS. The IREs are present in all vertebrate erythroid forms of ALS, which indicates that in those animals, expression of the erythroid form of the enzyme and, hence, hemoglobin production can be influenced by the intracellular content of iron. The new sequences were aligned with previously reported ALS sequences, and phylogenetic analyses were performed. The resulting trees provided evidence regarding the timing of the gene duplication event that led to the two forms of the ALS gene in vertebrates. It appears that the housekeeping and erythroid forms of ALS probably arose before the divergence of hagfish from the deuterostome line leading to the vertebrates. The data also add to the evidence indicating that alpha-proteobacteria are the nearest contemporary relatives of mitochondria. (+info)
Phylogenetic relationship of muscle tissues deduced from superimposition of gene trees.
Muscle tissues can be divided into six classes; smooth, fast skeletal, slow skeletal and cardiac muscle tissues for vertebrates, and striated and smooth muscle tissues for invertebrates. We reconstructed phylogenetic trees of six protein genes that are expressed in muscle tissues and, using a newly developed program, inferred the phylogeny of muscle tissues by superimposition of five of those gene trees. The proteins used are troponin C, myosin essential light chain, myosin regulatory light chain, myosin heavy chain, actin, and muscle regulatory factor (MRF) families. Our results suggest that the emergence of skeletal-cardiac muscle type tissues preceded the vertebrate/arthropod divergence (ca. 700 MYA), while vertebrate smooth muscle seemed to evolve independent of other muscles. In addition, skeletal muscle is not monophyletic, but cardiac and slow skeletal muscles make a cluster. Furthermore, arthropod striated muscle, urochordate smooth muscle, and vertebrate muscles except for smooth muscle share a common ancestor. On the other hand, arthropod nonmuscle and vertebrate smooth muscle and nonmuscle share a common ancestor. (+info)
Roots as a site of hydrogen sulfide uptake in the hydrocarbon seep vestimentiferan Lamellibrachia sp.
Vestimentiferan tubeworms have no mouth or gut, and the majority of their nutritional requirements are provided by endosymbiotic bacteria that utilize hydrogen sulfide oxidation to fix CO(2) into organic molecules. It has been assumed that all vestimentiferans obtain the sulfide, O(2) and CO(2) needed by the bacteria across the plume (gill) surface, but some live in locations where very little sulfide is available in the sea water surrounding the plume. We propose that at least some of these vestimentiferans can grow a posterior extension of their body and tube down into the sea-floor sediment, and that they can use this extension, which we call the 'root', to take up sulfide directly from the interstitial water. In this study of the vestimentiferan Lamellibrachia sp., found at hydrocarbon seeps in the Gulf of Mexico at depths of approximately 700 m, we measured seawater and interstitial sulfide concentrations in the hydrocarbon seep habitat, determined the structural characteristics of the root tube using transmission electron microscopy, characterized the biochemical composition of the tube wall, and measured the sulfide permeability of the root tube. We found that, while the sulfide concentration is less than 1 (micro)mol l(-)(1) in the sea water surrounding the gills, it can be over 1.5 mmol l(-)(1) at a depth of 10-25 cm in sediment beneath tubeworm bushes. The root tube is composed primarily of giant (&bgr;)-chitin crystallites (12-30 % of total mass) embedded in a protein matrix (50 % of total mass). Root tubes have a mean diameter of 1.4 mm, a mean wall thickness of 70 (micro)m and can be over 20 cm long. The tubeworm itself typically extends its body to the distal tip of the root tube. The root tube wall was quite permeable to sulfide, having a permeability coefficient at 20 degrees C of 0. 41x10(-)(3 )cm s(-)(1), with root tube being 2.5 times more permeable to sulfide than trunk tube of the same diameter. The characteristics of the root suggest that it reaches down to the higher sulfide levels present in the deeper sediment and that it functions to increase the surface area available for sulfide uptake in a manner analogous to a respiratory organ. (+info)
Intron-exon structures of eukaryotic model organisms.
To investigate the distribution of intron-exon structures of eukaryotic genes, we have constructed a general exon database comprising all available intron-containing genes and exon databases from 10 eukaryotic model organisms: Homo sapiens, Mus musculus, Gallus gallus, Rattus norvegicus, Arabidopsis thaliana, Zea mays, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Aspergillus, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila. We purged redundant genes to avoid the possible bias brought about by redundancy in the databases. After discarding those questionable introns that do not contain correct splice sites, the final database contained 17 102 introns, 21 019 exons and 2903 independent or quasi-independent genes. On average, a eukaryotic gene contains 3.7 introns per kb protein coding region. The exon distribution peaks around 30-40 residues and most introns are 40-125 nt long. The variable intron-exon structures of the 10 model organisms reveal two interesting statistical phenomena, which cast light on some previous speculations. (i) Genome size seems to be correlated with total intron length per gene. For example, invertebrate introns are smaller than those of human genes, while yeast introns are shorter than invertebrate introns. However, this correlation is weak, suggesting that other factors besides genome size may also affect intron size. (ii) Introns smaller than 50 nt are significantly less frequent than longer introns, possibly resulting from a minimum intron size requirement for intron splicing. (+info)
Regulation of synaptic function by neurotrophic factors in vertebrates and invertebrates: implications for development and learning.
Recent studies have demonstrated that neurotrophic factors contribute to the molecular events involved in synaptic plasticity, both during vertebrate development and in the mature nervous system. Although it is well established that many of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity are conserved between invertebrates and vertebrates, there are, as yet, very few neurotrophic factors identified in invertebrate species. Nonetheless, vertebrate neurotrophins can influence invertebrate neuronal growth and plasticity. In addition, homologs of neurotrophic factor receptors have been identified in several invertebrate species. These studies may indicate that the roles of neurotrophins in both developmental and adult plasticity are highly conserved across diverse phyla. (+info)
Reverse homeosis in homeotically reconstructed ribbonworms.
Homeosis is the replacement of one body part by another, which may be caused by either developmental or genetic variations. It is particularly obvious in segmented animals, like insects, in which one body segment may be transformed into another. However, homeosis also occurs in animals without overt segmentation that also have detailed positional information specifying their body plan. By grafting, we have artificially generated homeotic ribbonworms of the species Lineus ruber with a duplicated ocellar region replacing the postocellar region anterior to the brain. Such chimeric animals are capable of complete morphogenetic regulation of the anterior-posterior (A-P) pattern. The missing postocellar region is restored by intercalary regeneration, and the anterior duplicated ocellar region is eliminated by a process called transgeneration. Thus, homeosis is reversed, and a completely normal pattern along the A-P axis is restored. This reverse homeosis involves the elimination of the syngeneic eyes and the survival of the grafted allogeneic eye region. LsPax-6, the Lineus sanguineus ortholog of the mammalian Pax-6 gene, which is considered to be a master control gene for eye morphogenesis, is expressed specifically in regenerating, regenerated, and intact eye regions. Our data show that ribbonworm eyes are either maintained or they regress according to their position along the A-P axis, even though there are no obvious segmental boundaries. This system allows us to test the function of LsPax-6 protein not only during eye regeneration but also during maintenance and regression of the eyes. (+info)
Intracellular fate mapping in a basal metazoan, the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, reveals the origins of mesoderm and the existence of indeterminate cell lineages.
Ctenophores are marine invertebrates that develop rapidly and directly into juvenile adults. They are likely to be the simplest metazoans possessing definitive muscle cells and are possibly the sister group to the Bilateria. All ctenophore embryos display a highly stereotyped, phylum-specific pattern of development in which every cell can be identified by its lineage history. We generated a cell lineage fate map for Mnemiopsis leidyi by injecting fluorescent lineage tracers into individual blastomeres up through the 60-cell stage. The adult ctenophore body plan is composed of four nearly identical quadrants organized along the oral-aboral axis. Each of the four quadrants is derived largely from one cell of the four-cell-stage embryo. At the eight-cell stage each quadrant contains a single E ("end") and M ("middle") blastomere. Subsequently, micromeres are formed first at the aboral pole and later at the oral pole. The ctene rows, apical organ, and tentacle apparatus are complex structures that are generated by both E and M blastomere lineages from all four quadrants. All muscle cells are derived from micromeres born at the oral pole of endomesodermal precursors (2M and 3E macromeres). While the development of the four quadrants is similar, diagonally opposed quadrants share more similarities than adjacent quadrants. Adult ctenophores possess two diagonally opposed endodermal anal canals that open at the base of the apical organ. These two structures are derived from the two diagonally opposed 2M/ macromeres. The two opposing 2M/ macromeres generated a unique set of circumpharyngeal muscle cells, but do not contribute to the anal canals. No other lineages displayed such diagonal asymmetries. Clones from each blastomere yielded regular, but not completely invariant patterns of descendents. Ectodermal descendents normally, but not always, remained within their corresponding quadrants. On the other hand, endodermal and mesodermal progeny dispersed throughout the body. The variability in the exact complements of adult structures, along with previously published cell deletion experiments, demonstrates that cell interactions are required for normal cell fate determination. Ctenophore embryos, like those of many bilaterian phyla (e.g., spiralians, nematodes, and echinoids), display a highly stereotyped cleavage program in which some, but not all, blastomeres are determined at the time of their birth. The results suggest that mesodermal tissues originally evolved from endoderm tissue. (+info)