Genetic basis for soma is present in undifferentiated volvocine green algae

Z. I. Grochau-Wright, E. R. Hanschen, P. J. Ferris, T. Hamaji, H. Nozaki, B. J.S.C. Olson, R. E. Michod

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Abstract

Somatic cellular differentiation plays a critical role in the transition from unicellular to multicellular life, but the evolution of its genetic basis remains poorly understood. By definition, somatic cells do not reproduce to pass on genes and so constitute an extreme form of altruistic behaviour. The volvocine green algae provide an excellent model system to study the evolution of multicellularity and somatic differentiation. In Volvox carteri, somatic cell differentiation is controlled by the regA gene, which is part of a tandem duplication of genes known as the reg cluster. Although previous work found the reg cluster in divergent Volvox species, its origin and distribution in the broader group of volvocine algae has not been known. Here, we show that the reg cluster is present in many species without somatic cells and determine that the genetic basis for soma arose before the phenotype at the origin of the family Volvocaceae approximately 200 million years ago. We hypothesize that the ancestral function was involved in regulating reproduction in response to stress and that this function was later co-opted to produce soma. Determining that the reg cluster was co-opted to control somatic cell development provides insight into how cellular differentiation, and with it greater levels of complexity and individuality, evolves.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages1205-1218
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume30
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Fingerprint

somatic cells
Chlorophyta
green alga
gene
Volvox
genes
algae
Volvocaceae
Carterus
gene duplication
cell differentiation
stress response
phenotype
alga
family
distribution

Keywords

  • gene duplication
  • germ-soma differentiation
  • major transitions
  • multicellularity
  • VARL domain
  • volvocine algae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Grochau-Wright, Z. I., Hanschen, E. R., Ferris, P. J., Hamaji, T., Nozaki, H., Olson, B. J. S. C., & Michod, R. E. (2017). Genetic basis for soma is present in undifferentiated volvocine green algae. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 30(6), 1205-1218. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13100

Genetic basis for soma is present in undifferentiated volvocine green algae. / Grochau-Wright, Z. I.; Hanschen, E. R.; Ferris, P. J.; Hamaji, T.; Nozaki, H.; Olson, B. J.S.C.; Michod, R. E.

In: Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Vol. 30, No. 6, 01.06.2017, p. 1205-1218.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Grochau-Wright, ZI, Hanschen, ER, Ferris, PJ, Hamaji, T, Nozaki, H, Olson, BJSC & Michod, RE 2017, 'Genetic basis for soma is present in undifferentiated volvocine green algae' Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol 30, no. 6, pp. 1205-1218. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13100
Grochau-Wright ZI, Hanschen ER, Ferris PJ, Hamaji T, Nozaki H, Olson BJSC et al. Genetic basis for soma is present in undifferentiated volvocine green algae. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 2017 Jun 1;30(6):1205-1218. Available from, DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13100
Grochau-Wright, Z. I. ; Hanschen, E. R. ; Ferris, P. J. ; Hamaji, T. ; Nozaki, H. ; Olson, B. J.S.C. ; Michod, R. E./ Genetic basis for soma is present in undifferentiated volvocine green algae. In: Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 2017 ; Vol. 30, No. 6. pp. 1205-1218
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