News from IBE (CSIC-UPF) and CRG
The first animals evolved from their single-celled ancestors around 800 million years ago, but new evidence suggests that this leap to multi-celled organisms in the tree of life may not have been quite as dramatic as scientists once assumed. In a Developmental Cell paper , researchers demonstrate that the single-celled ancestor of animals likely already had some of the mechanisms that animal cells use today to develop into different tissue types.
The researchers studied a single-celled amoeba called Capsaspora owczarzaki, which is a close relative of today’s multi-celled animals. Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo, an ICREA researcher at the IBE, and his team sequenced the Capsaspora genome in an earlier project and discovered that the amoeba contained many genes that, in animals, are related to multicellular functions. As a single-celled organism, Capsaspora can’t have multiple different cell types at the same time like humans can. However, a single Capsaspora does change its cell type over time, transitioning from a lone amoeba to an aggregated colony of cells to a hardy cystic form during its life cycle. This new study explored whether Capsaspora uses the same mechanisms to control cell differentiation over time as animals use to control cell development across different tissues.
In collaboration with the team of Eduard Sabidó at the Proteomics Unit of the CRG and UPF, the researchers analyzed the proteins in Capsaspora to determine how the organism might be regulating its internal cell processes at different life stages.
Sebé-Pedrós et al. (2016). High-Throughput Proteomics Reveals the Unicellular Roots of Animal Phosphosignaling and Cell Differentiation. Developmental Cell