Sex as a response to oxidative stress: the effect of antioxidants on sexual induction in a facultatively sexual lineage.
The evolution of sex is one of the long-standing unsolved problems in biology. Although in many lineages sex is an obligatory part of the life cycle and is associated with reproduction, in prokaryotes and many lower eukaryotes, sex is facultative, occurs in response to stress and often involves the formation of a stress-resistant dormant form. The proximate and ultimate causes of the connection between stress and sex in facultatively sexual lineages are unclear. Because most forms of stress result in the overproduction of cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), we address the hypothesis that this connection involves ROS and possibly reflects the ancestral role of sex as an adaptive response to the damaging effects of stress-induced ROS (i.e. oxidative stress). Here, we report that two antioxidants inhibit sexual induction in a facultatively sexual species - the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri. Furthermore, the nature of the sex response and the effect of an iron chelator on sexual induction are consistent with sex being a response to the DNA-damaging effects of ROS. In addition, we present preliminary data to suggest that sex, cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis are alternative responses to increased levels of oxidative stress. (+info)
Sex as a response to oxidative stress: a twofold increase in cellular reactive oxygen species activates sex genes.
Organisms are constantly subjected to factors that can alter the cellular redox balance and result in the formation of a series of highly reactive molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). As ROS can be damaging to biological structures, cells evolved a series of mechanisms (e.g. cell-cycle arrest, programmed cell death) to respond to high levels of ROS (i.e. oxidative stress). Recently, we presented evidence that in a facultatively sexual lineage--the multicellular green alga Volvox carteri--sex is an additional response to increased levels of stress, and probably ROS and DNA damage. Here we show that, in V. carteri, (i) sex is triggered by an approximately twofold increase in the level of cellular ROS (induced either by the natural sex-inducing stress, namely heat, or by blocking the mitochondrial electron transport chain with antimycin A), and (ii) ROS are responsible for the activation of sex genes. As most types of stress result in the overproduction of ROS, we believe that our findings will prove to extend to other facultatively sexual lineages, which could be indicative of the ancestral role of sex as an adaptive response to stress and ROS-induced DNA damage. (+info)
Hsp70A and GlsA interact as partner chaperones to regulate asymmetric division in Volvox.
GlsA, a J-protein chaperone, is required for the asymmetric divisions that set aside germ and somatic cell precursors during embryogenesis in Volvox carteri, and previous evidence indicated that this function requires an intact Hsp70-binding site. To determine if Hsp70A, the only known cytoplasmic Hsp70 in V. carteri, is the chaperone partner of GlsA, we investigated the localization of the two proteins during critical stages of embryogenesis and tested their capacity to interact. We found that a substantial fraction of Hsp70A co-localizes with GlsA, both in interphase and mitotic blastomeres. In addition, Hsp70A coimmunoprecipitated with GlsA, and co-expression of GlsA and Hsp70A variants partially rescued the Gls phenotype of a glsA mutant, whereas neither variant by itself rescued the mutant phenotype. Immunofluorescence analysis demonstrated that GlsA is about equally abundant in all blastomeres at all cleavage stages examined but that Hsp70A is more abundant in anterior (asymmetrically dividing) blastomeres than in posterior (symmetrically dividing) blastomeres during the period of asymmetric division. We conclude that Hsp70A and GlsA function as chaperone partners that regulate asymmetric division and that the relative abundance of Hsp70A in asymmetrically dividing embryos may determine which blastomeres divide asymmetrically and which do not. (+info)
Sex as a response to oxidative stress: stress genes co-opted for sex.
Despite a great deal of interest, the evolutionary origins and roles of sex remain unclear. Recently, we showed that in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri, sex is a response to increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which could be indicative of the ancestral role of sex as an adaptive response to stress-induced ROS. To provide additional support for the suggestion that sex evolved as a response to oxidative stress, this study addresses the hypothesis that genes involved in sexual induction are evolutionarily related to genes associated with various stress responses. In particular, this study investigates the evolutionary history of genes specific to the sexual induction process in V. carteri--including those encoding the sexual inducer (SI) and several SI-induced extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Surprisingly, (i) a highly diversified multigene family with similarity to the V. carteri SI and SI-induced pherophorin family is present in its unicellular relative, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (which lacks both a SI and an ECM) and (ii) at least half of the 12 identified gene members are induced (as inferred from reported expressed sequence tags) under various stress conditions. These findings suggest an evolutionary connection between sex and stress at the gene level, via duplication and/or co-option. (+info)
Multicellularity and the functional interdependence of motility and molecular transport.
Benefits, costs, and requirements accompany the transition from motile totipotent unicellular organisms to multicellular organisms having cells specialized into reproductive (germ) and vegetative (sterile soma) functions such as motility. In flagellated colonial organisms such as the volvocalean green algae, organized beating by the somatic cells' flagella yields propulsion important in phototaxis and chemotaxis. It has not been generally appreciated that for the larger colonies flagellar stirring of boundary layers and remote transport are fundamental for maintaining a sufficient rate of metabolite turnover, one not attainable by diffusive transport alone. Here, we describe experiments that quantify the role of advective dynamics in enhancing productivity in germ soma-differentiated colonies. First, experiments with suspended deflagellated colonies of Volvox carteri show that forced advection improves productivity. Second, particle imaging velocimetry of fluid motion around colonies immobilized by micropipette aspiration reveals flow fields with very large characteristic velocities U extending to length scales exceeding the colony radius R. For a typical metabolite diffusion constant D, the associated Peclet number Pe = 2UR/D >> 1, indicative of the dominance of advection over diffusion, with striking augmentation at the cell division stage. Near the colony surface, flows generated by flagella can be chaotic, exhibiting mixing due to stretching and folding. These results imply that hydrodynamic transport external to colonies provides a crucial boundary condition, a source for supplying internal diffusional dynamics. (+info)
Evidence for p53-like-mediated stress responses in green algae.
The tumor suppressor protein, p53, plays a major role in cellular responses to stress and DNA damage in animals; despite its critical function, p53 homologs have not been identified in any algal or plant lineage. This study employs a functional and evolutionary approach to test for a p53 functional equivalent in green algae. Specifically, the study: (i) investigated the effect of two synthetic compounds known to interfere with p53 activity; (ii) searched for sequences with similarity to known p53-induced genes; and (iii) analyzed the expression pattern of one such sequence. The findings reported here suggest that a p53 functional equivalent is present and mediates cellular responses to stress in green algae. (+info)
The evolutionary origin of an altruistic gene.
Although the conditions favoring altruism are being increasingly understood, the evolutionary origins of the genetic basis for this behavior remain elusive. Here, we show that reproductive altruism (i.e., a sterile soma) in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri, evolved via the co-option of a life-history gene whose expression in the unicellular ancestor was conditioned on an environmental cue (as an adaptive strategy to enhance survival at an immediate cost to reproduction) through shifting its expression from a temporal (environmentally induced) into a spatial (developmental) context. The gene belongs to a diverged and structurally heterogeneous multigene family sharing a SAND-like domain (a DNA-binding module involved in gene transcription regulation). To our knowledge, this is the first example of a social gene specifically associated with reproductive altruism, whose origin can be traced back to a solitary ancestor. These findings complement recent proposals that the differentiation of sterile castes in social insects involved the co-option of regulatory networks that control sequential shifts between phases in the life cycle of solitary insects. (+info)
Translational control of regA, a key gene controlling cell differentiation in Volvox carteri.
The complete division of labour between the reproductive and somatic cells of the green alga Volvox carteri is controlled by three types of genes. One of these is the regA gene, which controls terminal differentiation of the somatic cells. Here, we examined translational control elements located in the 5' UTR of regA, particularly the eight upstream start codons (AUGs) that have to be bypassed by the translation machinery before regA can be translated. The results of our systematic mutational, structural and functional analysis of the 5' UTR led us to conclude that a ribosome-shunting mechanism--rather than leaky scanning, ribosomal reinitiation, or internal ribosome entry site (IRES)-mediated initiation--controls the translation of regA mRNA. This mechanism, which involves dissociation of the 40S initiation complex from the message, followed by reattachment downstream, in order to bypass a secondary structure block in the mRNA, was validated by deleting the predicted ;landing site' (which prevented regA expression) and inserting a stable 64 nucleotide hairpin just upstream of this site (which did not prevent regA expression). We believe that this is the first report suggesting that translation of an mRNA in a green eukaryote is controlled by ribosome shunting. (+info)