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1.  Phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic parasite, Polypodium hydriforme, within the Phylum Cnidaria 
Polypodium hydriforme is a parasite with an unusual life cycle and peculiar morphology, both of which have made its systematic position uncertain. Polypodium has traditionally been considered a cnidarian because it possesses nematocysts, the stinging structures characteristic of this phylum. However, recent molecular phylogenetic studies using 18S rDNA sequence data have challenged this interpretation, and have shown that Polypodium is a close relative to myxozoans and together they share a closer affinity to bilaterians than cnidarians. Due to the variable rates of 18S rDNA sequences, these results have been suggested to be an artifact of long-branch attraction (LBA). A recent study, using multiple protein coding markers, shows that the myxozoan Buddenbrockia, is nested within cnidarians. Polypodium was not included in this study. To further investigate the phylogenetic placement of Polypodium, we have performed phylogenetic analyses of metazoans with 18S and partial 28S rDNA sequences in a large dataset that includes Polypodium and a comprehensive sampling of cnidarian taxa.
Analyses of a combined dataset of 18S and partial 28S sequences, and partial 28S alone, support the placement of Polypodium within Cnidaria. Removal of the long-branched myxozoans from the 18S dataset also results in Polypodium being nested within Cnidaria. These results suggest that previous reports showing that Polypodium and Myxozoa form a sister group to Bilateria were an artifact of long-branch attraction.
By including 28S rDNA sequences and a comprehensive sampling of cnidarian taxa, we demonstrate that previously conflicting hypotheses concerning the phylogenetic placement of Polypodium can be reconciled. Specifically, the data presented provide evidence that Polypodium is indeed a cnidarian and is either the sister taxon to Hydrozoa, or part of the hydrozoan clade, Leptothecata. The former hypothesis is consistent with the traditional view that Polypodium should be placed in its own cnidarian class, Polypodiozoa.
PMCID: PMC2396633  PMID: 18471296
2.  Agent of Whirling Disease Meets Orphan Worm: Phylogenomic Analyses Firmly Place Myxozoa in Cnidaria 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54576.
Myxozoa are microscopic obligate endoparasites with complex live cycles. Representatives are Myxobolus cerebralis, the causative agent of whirling disease in salmonids, and the enigmatic “orphan worm” Buddenbrockia plumatellae parasitizing in Bryozoa. Originally, Myxozoa were classified as protists, but later several metazoan characteristics were reported. However, their phylogenetic relationships remained doubtful. Some molecular phylogenetic analyses placed them as sister group to or even within Bilateria, whereas the possession of polar capsules that are similar to nematocysts of Cnidaria and of minicollagen genes suggest a close relationship between Myxozoa and Cnidaria. EST data of Buddenbrockia also indicated a cnidarian origin of Myxozoa, but were not sufficient to reject a closer relationship to bilaterians. Phylogenomic analyses of new genomic sequences of Myxobolus cerebralis firmly place Myxozoa as sister group to Medusozoa within Cnidaria. Based on the new dataset, the alternative hypothesis that Myxozoa form a clade with Bilateria can be rejected using topology tests. Sensitivity analyses indicate that this result is not affected by long branch attraction artifacts or compositional bias.
PMCID: PMC3559788  PMID: 23382916
3.  Cnidarian phylogenetic relationships as revealed by mitogenomics 
Cnidaria (corals, sea anemones, hydroids, jellyfish) is a phylum of relatively simple aquatic animals characterized by the presence of the cnidocyst: a cell containing a giant capsular organelle with an eversible tubule (cnida). Species within Cnidaria have life cycles that involve one or both of the two distinct body forms, a typically benthic polyp, which may or may not be colonial, and a typically pelagic mostly solitary medusa. The currently accepted taxonomic scheme subdivides Cnidaria into two main assemblages: Anthozoa (Hexacorallia + Octocorallia) – cnidarians with a reproductive polyp and the absence of a medusa stage – and Medusozoa (Cubozoa, Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa, Staurozoa) – cnidarians that usually possess a reproductive medusa stage. Hypothesized relationships among these taxa greatly impact interpretations of cnidarian character evolution.
We expanded the sampling of cnidarian mitochondrial genomes, particularly from Medusozoa, to reevaluate phylogenetic relationships within Cnidaria. Our phylogenetic analyses based on a mitochogenomic dataset support many prior hypotheses, including monophyly of Hexacorallia, Octocorallia, Medusozoa, Cubozoa, Staurozoa, Hydrozoa, Carybdeida, Chirodropida, and Hydroidolina, but reject the monophyly of Anthozoa, indicating that the Octocorallia + Medusozoa relationship is not the result of sampling bias, as proposed earlier. Further, our analyses contradict Scyphozoa [Discomedusae + Coronatae], Acraspeda [Cubozoa + Scyphozoa], as well as the hypothesis that Staurozoa is the sister group to all the other medusozoans.
Cnidarian mitochondrial genomic data contain phylogenetic signal informative for understanding the evolutionary history of this phylum. Mitogenome-based phylogenies, which reject the monophyly of Anthozoa, provide further evidence for the polyp-first hypothesis. By rejecting the traditional Acraspeda and Scyphozoa hypotheses, these analyses suggest that the shared morphological characters in these groups are plesiomorphies, originated in the branch leading to Medusozoa. The expansion of mitogenomic data along with improvements in phylogenetic inference methods and use of additional nuclear markers will further enhance our understanding of the phylogenetic relationships and character evolution within Cnidaria.
PMCID: PMC3598815  PMID: 23302374
Cnidaria; Medusozoa; Acraspeda; Anthozoa; mito-phylogenomics
4.  Polypodium leucotomos as an Adjunct Treatment of Pigmentary Disorders 
Introduction: Extracts of the tropical fern Polypodium leucotomos appear to possess beneficial properties for the skin attributed to the presence of numerous compounds within the extract that have antioxidant and photoprotective properties. Orally administered Polypodium leucotomos may provide protection against the detrimental photoaging effects of sunlight and can also help reduce the frequency and severity of polymorphous light eruption. Polypodium leucotomos has also been shown to be beneficial for the prevention and potential treatment of several aesthetically relevant conditions. Objective: The purpose of this review is to investigate the beneficial role of Polypodium leucotomos as an adjunct treatment for vitiligo, melasma, and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Results: Based on a review of relevant literature including the results of a randomized, placebo-controlled study, the oral administration of Polypodium leucotomos significantly improved the severity of melasma in women after 12 weeks. Three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated significant improvements in vitiligo when oral Polypodium leucotomos therapy was combined with psoralens plus ultraviolet A and narrowband ultraviolet B. No controlled studies have assessed the efficacy of Polypodium leucotomos for the treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation; however, its known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and demonstrated effectiveness for melasma support its use for treating this condition. No adverse events have been associated with the use of Polypodium leucotomos. Conclusion: In addition to preventing many harmful effects associated with sunlight exposure, orally administered Polypodium leucotomos also appears to provide adjunctive benefits in treating vitiligo, melasma, and may have the potential to help with postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
PMCID: PMC3970827
5.  Fast-Evolving Mitochondrial DNA in Ceriantharia: A Reflection of Hexacorallia Paraphyly? 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86612.
The low evolutionary rate of mitochondrial genes in Anthozoa has challenged their utility for phylogenetic and systematic purposes, especially for DNA barcoding. However, the evolutionary rate of Ceriantharia, one of the most enigmatic “orders” within Anthozoa, has never been specifically examined. In this study, the divergence of mitochondrial DNA of Ceriantharia was compared to members of other Anthozoa and Medusozoa groups. In addition, nuclear markers were used to check the relative phylogenetic position of Ceriantharia in relation to other Cnidaria members. The results demonstrated a pattern of divergence of mitochondrial DNA completely different from those estimated for other anthozoans, and phylogenetic analyses indicate that Ceriantharia is not included within hexacorallians in most performed analyses. Thus, we propose that the Ceriantharia should be addressed as a separate clade.
PMCID: PMC3903554  PMID: 24475157
6.  Global Diversity of the Placozoa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e57131.
The enigmatic animal phylum Placozoa holds a key position in the metazoan Tree of Life. A simple bauplan makes it appear to be the most basal metazoan known and genetic evidence also points to a position close to the last common metazoan ancestor. Trichoplax adhaerens is the only formally described species in the phylum to date, making the Placozoa the only monotypic phylum in the animal kingdom. However, recent molecular genetic as well as morphological studies have identified a high level of diversity, and hence a potential high level of taxonomic diversity, within this phylum. Different taxa, possibly at different taxonomic levels, are awaiting description. In this review we firstly summarize knowledge on the morphology, phylogenetic position and ecology of the Placozoa. Secondly, we give an overview of placozoan morphological and genetic diversity and finally present an updated distribution of placozoan populations. We conclude that there is great potential and need to erect new taxa and to establish a firm system for this taxonomic tabula rasa.
PMCID: PMC3614897  PMID: 23565136
7.  Development and myogenesis of the vermiform Buddenbrockia (Myxozoa) and implications for cnidarian body plan evolution 
EvoDevo  2012;3:10.
The enigmatic wormlike parasite Buddenbrockia plumatellae has recently been shown to belong to the Myxozoa, which are now supported as a clade within Cnidaria. Most myxozoans are morphologically extremely simplified, lacking major metazoan features such as epithelial tissue layers, gut, nervous system, body axes and gonads. This hinders comparisons to free-living cnidarians and thus an understanding of myxozoan evolution and identification of their cnidarian sister group. However, B. plumatellae is less simplified than other myxozoans and therefore is of specific significance for such evolutionary considerations.
We analyse and describe the development of major body plan features in Buddenbrockia worms using a combination of histology, electron microscopy and confocal microscopy.
Early developmental stages develop a primary body axis that shows a polarity, which is manifested as a gradient of tissue development, enabling distinction between the two worm tips. This polarity is maintained in adult worms, which, in addition, often develop a pore at the distal tip. The musculature comprises tetraradially arranged longitudinal muscle blocks consisting of independent myocytes embedded in the extracellular matrix between inner and outer epithelial tissue layers. The muscle fibres are obliquely oriented and in fully grown worms consistently form an angle of 12° with respect to the longitudinal axis of the worm in each muscle block and hence confer chirality. Connecting cells form a link between each muscle block and constitute four rows of cells that run in single file along the length of the worm. These connecting cells are remnants of the inner epithelial tissue layer and are anchored to the extracellular matrix. They are likely to have a biomechanical function.
The polarised primary body axis represents an ancient feature present in the last common ancestor of Cnidaria and Bilateria. The tetraradial arrangement of musculature is consistent with a medusozoan affinity for Myxozoa. However, the chiral pattern of muscle fibre orientation is apparently novel within Cnidaria and could thus be a specific adaptation. The presence of independent myocytes instead of Cnidaria-like epitheliomuscular cells can be interpreted as further support for the presence of mesoderm in cnidarians, or it may represent convergent evolution to a bilaterian condition.
PMCID: PMC3419630  PMID: 22594622
Cnidaria; Myxozoa; Buddenbrockia; Endoparasitism; Development; Body axes; Symmetry; Chirality; Musculature; Mesoderm
8.  9-Genes Reinforce the Phylogeny of Holometabola and Yield Alternate Views on the Phylogenetic Placement of Strepsiptera 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11887.
The extraordinary morphology, reproductive and developmental biology, and behavioral ecology of twisted wing parasites (order Strepsiptera) have puzzled biologists for centuries. Even today, the phylogenetic position of these enigmatic “insects from outer space” [1] remains uncertain and contentious. Recent authors have argued for the placement of Strepsiptera within or as a close relative of beetles (order Coleoptera), as sister group of flies (order Diptera), or even outside of Holometabola.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we combine data from several recent studies with new data (for a total of 9 nuclear genes and ∼13 kb of aligned data for 34 taxa), to help clarify the phylogenetic placement of Strepsiptera. Our results unequivocally support the monophyly of Neuropteroidea ( = Neuropterida + Coleoptera) + Strepsiptera, but recover Strepsiptera either derived from within polyphagan beetles (order Coleoptera), or in a position sister to Neuropterida. All other supra-ordinal- and ordinal-level relationships recovered with strong nodal support were consistent with most other recent studies.
These results, coupled with the recent proposed placement of Strepsiptera sister to Coleoptera, suggest that while the phylogenetic neighborhood of Strepsiptera has been identified, unequivocal placement to a specific branch within Neuropteroidea will require additional study.
PMCID: PMC2912379  PMID: 20686704
9.  Convergent Evolution of Sodium Ion Selectivity in Metazoan Neuronal Signaling 
Cell Reports  2012;2(2):242-248.
Ion selectivity of metazoan voltage-gated Na+ channels is critical for neuronal signaling and has long been attributed to a ring of four conserved amino acids that constitute the ion selectivity filter (SF) at the channel pore. Yet, in addition to channels with a preference for Ca2+ ions, the expression and characterization of Na+ channel homologs from the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, a member of the early-branching metazoan phylum Cnidaria, revealed a sodium-selective channel bearing a noncanonical SF. Mutagenesis and physiological assays suggest that pore elements additional to the SF determine the preference for Na+ in this channel. Phylogenetic analysis assigns the Nematostella Na+-selective channel to a channel group unique to Cnidaria, which diverged >540 million years ago from Ca2+-conducting Na+ channel homologs. The identification of Cnidarian Na+-selective ion channels distinct from the channels of bilaterian animals indicates that selectivity for Na+ in neuronal signaling emerged independently in these two animal lineages.
Graphical Abstract
► Na+ channel homologs that conduct Ca2+ appeared more than a billion years ago ► Na+ selectivity evolved separately in Cnidaria and Bilateria ► Na+ selectivity is conferred by structural differences at the channel pore
Moran and colleagues have now characterized sodium channel homologs from a sea anemone, revealing four members with a preference for calcium ion conductance, as well as a sodium-selective channel. Sodium selectivity in this channel is conferred by a selectivity filter and pore structure that differ from those of higher animals (Bilateria). A phylogenetic analysis indicates that sodium selectivity in Cnidaria (sea anemones, corals, and jellyfish) evolved independently from that in Bilateria >540 million years ago, reflecting requirements for improved neuronal signaling in a changing environment.
PMCID: PMC3809514  PMID: 22854023
10.  LineageSpecificSeqgen: generating sequence data with lineage-specific variation in the proportion of variable sites 
Correction to Shavit Grievink L, Penny D, Hendy MD, Holland BR: LineageSpecificSeqgen: generating sequence data with lineage-specific variation in the proportion of variable sites. BMC Evol Biol 2008, 8(1):317.
PMCID: PMC2731753
11.  Correction: Molecular evolution of the keratin associated protein gene family in mammals, role in the evolution of mammalian hair 
Correction to Wu DD, Irwin DM, Zhang YP: Molecular evolution of the keratin associated protein gene family in mammals, role in the evolution of mammalian hair. BMC Evol Biol 2008, 8:241.
PMCID: PMC2745387
12.  The draft genome of the parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis 
Nature genetics  2011;43(3):228-235.
Genome-based studies of metazoan evolution are most informative when phylogenetically diverse species are incorporated in the analysis. As such, evolutionary trends within and outside the phylum Nematoda have been less revealing by focusing only on comparisons involving Caenorhabditis elegans. Herein, we present a draft of the 64 megabase nuclear genome of Trichinella spiralis, containing 15,808 protein coding genes. This parasitic nematode is an extant member of a clade that diverged early in the evolution of the phylum enabling identification of archetypical genes and molecular signatures exclusive to nematodes. Comparative analyses support intrachromosomal rearrangements across the phylum, disproportionate numbers of protein family deaths over births in parasitic vs. a non-parasitic nematode, and a preponderance of gene loss and gain events in nematodes relative to Drosophila melanogaster. This sequence and the panphylum characteristics identified herein will advance evolutionary studies and strategies to combat global parasites of humans, food animals and crops.
PMCID: PMC3057868  PMID: 21336279
13.  Genomic organization, evolution, and expression of photoprotein and opsin genes in Mnemiopsis leidyi: a new view of ctenophore photocytes 
BMC Biology  2012;10:107.
Calcium-activated photoproteins are luciferase variants found in photocyte cells of bioluminescent jellyfish (Phylum Cnidaria) and comb jellies (Phylum Ctenophora). The complete genomic sequence from the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, a representative of the earliest branch of animals that emit light, provided an opportunity to examine the genome of an organism that uses this class of luciferase for bioluminescence and to look for genes involved in light reception. To determine when photoprotein genes first arose, we examined the genomic sequence from other early-branching taxa. We combined our genomic survey with gene trees, developmental expression patterns, and functional protein assays of photoproteins and opsins to provide a comprehensive view of light production and light reception in Mnemiopsis.
The Mnemiopsis genome has 10 full-length photoprotein genes situated within two genomic clusters with high sequence conservation that are maintained due to strong purifying selection and concerted evolution. Photoprotein-like genes were also identified in the genomes of the non-luminescent sponge Amphimedon queenslandica and the non-luminescent cnidarian Nematostella vectensis, and phylogenomic analysis demonstrated that photoprotein genes arose at the base of all animals. Photoprotein gene expression in Mnemiopsis embryos begins during gastrulation in migrating precursors to photocytes and persists throughout development in the canals where photocytes reside. We identified three putative opsin genes in the Mnemiopsis genome and show that they do not group with well-known bilaterian opsin subfamilies. Interestingly, photoprotein transcripts are co-expressed with two of the putative opsins in developing photocytes. Opsin expression is also seen in the apical sensory organ. We present evidence that one opsin functions as a photopigment in vitro, absorbing light at wavelengths that overlap with peak photoprotein light emission, raising the hypothesis that light production and light reception may be functionally connected in ctenophore photocytes. We also present genomic evidence of a complete ciliary phototransduction cascade in Mnemiopsis.
This study elucidates the genomic organization, evolutionary history, and developmental expression of photoprotein and opsin genes in the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, introduces a novel dual role for ctenophore photocytes in both bioluminescence and phototransduction, and raises the possibility that light production and light reception are linked in this early-branching non-bilaterian animal.
PMCID: PMC3570280  PMID: 23259493
Bioluminescence; ctenophore; Mnemiopsis leidyi; opsin; photocyte; photoprotein; photoreception; phototransduction
14.  Pre-Bilaterian Origins of the Hox Cluster and the Hox Code: Evidence from the Sea Anemone, Nematostella vectensis 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(1):e153.
Hox genes were critical to many morphological innovations of bilaterian animals. However, early Hox evolution remains obscure. Phylogenetic, developmental, and genomic analyses on the cnidarian sea anemone Nematostella vectensis challenge recent claims that the Hox code is a bilaterian invention and that no “true” Hox genes exist in the phylum Cnidaria.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Phylogenetic analyses of 18 Hox-related genes from Nematostella identify putative Hox1, Hox2, and Hox9+ genes. Statistical comparisons among competing hypotheses bolster these findings, including an explicit consideration of the gene losses implied by alternate topologies. In situ hybridization studies of 20 Hox-related genes reveal that multiple Hox genes are expressed in distinct regions along the primary body axis, supporting the existence of a pre-bilaterian Hox code. Additionally, several Hox genes are expressed in nested domains along the secondary body axis, suggesting a role in “dorsoventral” patterning.
A cluster of anterior and posterior Hox genes, as well as ParaHox cluster of genes evolved prior to the cnidarian-bilaterian split. There is evidence to suggest that these clusters were formed from a series of tandem gene duplication events and played a role in patterning both the primary and secondary body axes in a bilaterally symmetrical common ancestor. Cnidarians and bilaterians shared a common ancestor some 570 to 700 million years ago, and as such, are derived from a common body plan. Our work reveals several conserved genetic components that are found in both of these diverse lineages. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that a set of developmental rules established in the common ancestor of cnidarians and bilaterians is still at work today.
PMCID: PMC1779807  PMID: 17252055
15.  Phylogeny Drives Large Scale Patterns in Australian Marine Bioactivity and Provides a New Chemical Ecology Rationale for Future Biodiscovery 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73800.
Twenty-five years of Australian marine bioresources collecting and research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has explored the breadth of latitudinally and longitudinally diverse marine habitats that comprise Australia’s ocean territory. The resulting AIMS Bioresources Library and associated relational database integrate biodiversity with bioactivity data, and these resources were mined to retrospectively assess biogeographic, taxonomic and phylogenetic patterns in cytotoxic, antimicrobial, and central nervous system (CNS)-protective bioactivity. While the bioassays used were originally chosen to be indicative of pharmaceutically relevant bioactivity, the results have qualified ecological relevance regarding secondary metabolism. In general, metazoan phyla along the deuterostome phylogenetic pathway (eg to Chordata) and their ancestors (eg Porifera and Cnidaria) had higher percentages of bioactive samples in the assays examined. While taxonomy at the phylum level and higher-order phylogeny groupings helped account for observed trends, taxonomy to genus did not resolve the trends any further. In addition, the results did not identify any biogeographic bioactivity hotspots that correlated with biodiversity hotspots. We conclude with a hypothesis that high-level phylogeny, and therefore the metabolic machinery available to an organism, is a major determinant of bioactivity, while habitat diversity and ecological circumstance are possible drivers in the activation of this machinery and bioactive secondary metabolism. This study supports the strategy of targeting phyla from the deuterostome lineage (including ancestral phyla) from biodiverse marine habitats and ecological niches, in future biodiscovery, at least that which is focused on vertebrate (including human) health.
PMCID: PMC3763996  PMID: 24040076
16.  Analysis of Soluble Protein Contents from the Nematocysts of a Model Sea Anemone Sheds Light on Venom Evolution 
The nematocyst is one of the most complex intracellular structures found in nature and is the defining feature of the phylum Cnidaria (sea anemones, corals, jellyfish, and hydroids). This miniature stinging organelle contains and delivers venom into prey and foe yet little is known about its toxic components. In the present study, we identified by tandem mass spectrometry 20 proteins released upon discharge from the nematocyst of the model sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. The availability of genomic and transcriptomic data for this species enabled accurate identification and phylogenetic study of these components. Fourteen of these proteins could not be identified in other animals suggesting that they might be the products of taxonomically restricted genes, a finding which fits well their origin from a taxon-specific organelle. Further, we studied by in situ hybridization the localization of two of the transcripts encoding the putative nematocyst venom proteins: a metallopeptidase related to the Tolloid family and a cysteine-rich protein. Both transcripts were detected in nematocytes, which are the cells containing nematocysts, and the metallopeptidase was found also in pharyngeal gland cells. Our findings reveal for the first time the possible venom components of a sea anemone nematocyst and suggest their evolutionary origins.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10126-012-9491-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3627010  PMID: 23151943
Nematocyst; Toxin; Cnidaria; Nematostella; Venom
17.  On the origins of arrestin and rhodopsin 
G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most numerous proteins in mammalian genomes, and the most common targets of clinical drugs. However, their evolution remains enigmatic. GPCRs are intimately associated with trimeric G proteins, G protein receptor kinases, and arrestins. We conducted phylogenetic studies to reconstruct the history of arrestins. Those findings, in turn, led us to investigate the origin of the photosensory GPCR rhodopsin.
We found that the arrestin clan is comprised of the Spo0M protein family in archaea and bacteria, and the arrestin and Vps26 families in eukaryotes. The previously known animal arrestins are members of the visual/beta subfamily, which branched from the founding "alpha" arrestins relatively recently. Curiously, we identified both the oldest visual/beta arrestin and opsin genes in Cnidaria (but not in sponges). The arrestin clan has 14 human members: 6 alphas, 4 visual/betas, and 4 Vps26 genes. Others recently showed that the 3D structure of mammalian Vps26 and the biochemical function of the yeast alpha arrestin PalF are similar to those of beta arrestins. We note that only alpha arrestins have PY motifs (known to bind WW domains) in their C-terminal tails, and only visual/betas have helix I in the Arrestin N domain.
We identified ciliary opsins in Cnidaria and propose this subfamily is ancestral to all previously known animal opsins. That finding is consistent with Darwin's theory that eyes evolved once, and lends some support to Parker's hypothesis that vision triggered the Cambrian explosion of life forms. Our arrestin findings have implications on the evolution of GPCR signaling, and on the biological roles of human alpha arrestins.
PMCID: PMC2515105  PMID: 18664266
18.  Reticulamoeba Is a Long-Branched Granofilosean (Cercozoa) That Is Missing from Sequence Databases 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49090.
We sequenced the 18S ribosomal RNA gene of seven isolates of the enigmatic marine amoeboflagellate Reticulamoeba Grell, which resolved into four genetically distinct Reticulamoeba lineages, two of which correspond to R. gemmipara Grell and R. minor Grell, another with a relatively large cell body forming lacunae, and another that has similarities to both R. minor and R. gemmipara but with a greater propensity to form cell clusters. These lineages together form a long-branched clade that branches within the cercozoan class Granofilosea (phylum Cercozoa), showing phylogenetic affinities with the genus Mesofila. The basic morphology of Reticulamoeba is a roundish or ovoid cell with a more or less irregular outline. Long and branched reticulopodia radiate from the cell. The reticulopodia bear granules that are bidirectionally motile. There is also a biflagellate dispersal stage. Reticulamoeba is frequently observed in coastal marine environmental samples. PCR primers specific to the Reticulamoeba clade confirm that it is a frequent member of benthic marine microbial communities, and is also found in brackish water sediments and freshwater biofilm. However, so far it has not been found in large molecular datasets such as the nucleotide database in NCBI GenBank, metagenomic datasets in Camera, and the marine microbial eukaryote sampling and sequencing consortium BioMarKs, although closely related lineages can be found in some of these datasets using a highly targeted approach. Therefore, although such datasets are very powerful tools in microbial ecology, they may, for several methodological reasons, fail to detect ecologically and evolutionary key lineages.
PMCID: PMC3514243  PMID: 23226495
19.  CnidBase: The Cnidarian Evolutionary Genomics Database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(1):159-163.
CnidBase, the Cnidarian Evolutionary Genomics Database, is a tool for investigating the evolutionary, developmental and ecological factors that affect gene expression and gene function in cnidarians. In turn, CnidBase will help to illuminate the role of specific genes in shaping cnidarian biodiversity in the present day and in the distant past. CnidBase highlights evolutionary changes between species within the phylum Cnidaria and structures genomic and expression data to facilitate comparisons to non-cnidarian metazoans. CnidBase aims to further the progress that has already been made in the realm of cnidarian evolutionary genomics by creating a central community resource which will help drive future research and facilitate more accurate classification and comparison of new experimental data with existing data. CnidBase is available at
PMCID: PMC165563  PMID: 12519972
20.  Cnidarian internal stinging mechanism 
Stinging mechanisms generally deliver venomous compounds to external targets. However, nematocysts, the microscopic stinging organelles that are common to all members of the phylum Cnidaria, occur and act in both external and internal tissue structures. This is the first report of such an internal piercing mechanism. This mechanism identifies prey items within the body cavity of the sea anemone and actively injects them with cytolytic venom compounds. Internal tissues isolated from sea anemones caused the degradation of live Artemia salina nauplii in vitro. When examined, the nauplii were found to be pierced by discharged nematocysts. This phenomenon is suggested to aid digestive phagocytic processes in a predator otherwise lacking the means to masticate its prey.
PMCID: PMC2679079  PMID: 19129118
nematocyst; sea anemone; internal stinging mechanism; venom; digestion
21.  A photoactivatable green-fluorescent protein from the phylum Ctenophora 
Genes for the family of green-fluorescent proteins (GFPs) have been found in more than 100 species of animals, with some species containing six or more copies producing a variety of colours. Thus far, however, these species have all been within three phyla: Cnidaria, Arthropoda and Chordata. We have discovered GFP-type fluorescent proteins in the phylum Ctenophora, the comb jellies. The ctenophore proteins share the xYG chromophore motif of all other characterized GFP-type proteins. These proteins exhibit the uncommon property of reversible photoactivation, in which fluorescent emission becomes brighter upon exposure to light, then gradually decays to a non-fluorescent state. In addition to providing potentially useful optical probes with novel properties, finding a fluorescent protein in one of the earliest diverging metazoans adds further support to the possibility that these genes are likely to occur throughout animals.
PMCID: PMC2842807  PMID: 20018790
comb jelly; GFP; bioluminescence; fluorescence; photoactivation
22.  Transdermal Delivery of Scopolamine by Natural Submicron Injectors: In-Vivo Study in Pig 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31922.
Transdermal drug delivery has made a notable contribution to medical practice, but has yet to fully achieve its potential as an alternative to oral delivery and hypodermic injections. While transdermal delivery systems would appear to provide an attractive solution for local and systemic drug delivery, only a limited number of drugs can be delivered through the outer layer of the skin. The most difficult to deliver in this way are hydrophilic drugs. The aquatic phylum Cnidaria, which includes sea anemones, corals, jellyfish and hydra, is one of the most ancient multicellular phyla that possess stinging cells containing organelles (cnidocysts), comprising a sophisticated injection system. The apparatus is folded within collagenous microcapsules and upon activation injects a thin tubule that immediately penetrates the prey and delivers its contents. Here we show that this natural microscopic injection system can be adapted for systemic transdermal drug delivery once it is isolated from the cells and uploaded with the drug. Using a topically applied gel containing isolated natural sea anemone injectors and the muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine, we found that the formulated injectors could penetrate porcine skin and immediately deliver this hydrophilic drug. An in-vivo study in pigs demonstrated, for the first time, rapid systemic delivery of scopolamine, with Tmax of 30 minutes and Cmax 5 times higher than in controls treated topically with a scopolamine-containing gel without cnidocysts. The ability of the formulated natural injection system to penetrate a barrier as thick as the skin and systemically deliver an exogenous compound presents an intriguing and attractive alternative for hydrophilic transdermal drug delivery.
PMCID: PMC3283710  PMID: 22363770
23.  Biomass of Scyphozoan Jellyfish, and Its Spatial Association with 0-Group Fish in the Barents Sea 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33050.
An 0-group fish survey is conducted annually in the Barents Sea in order to estimate fish population abundance. Data on jellyfish by-catch have been recorded since 1980, although this dataset has never been analysed. In recent years, however, the ecological importance of jellyfish medusae has become widely recognized. In this paper the biomass of jellyfish (medusae) in 0–60 m depths is calculated for the period 1980–2010. During this period the climate changed from cold to warm, and changes in zooplankton and fish distribution and abundance were observed. This paper discusses the less well known ecosystem component; jellyfish medusae within the Phylum Cnidaria, and their spatial and temporal variation. The long term average was ca. 9×108 kg, with some years showing biomasses in excess of 5×109 kg. The biomasses were low during 1980s, increased during 1990s, and were highest in early 2000s with a subsequent decline. The bulk of the jellyfish were observed in the central parts of the Barents Sea, which is a core area for most 0-group fishes. Jellyfish were associated with haddock in the western area, with haddock and herring in the central and coastal area, and with capelin in the northern area of the Barents Sea. The jellyfish were present in the temperature interval 1°C
PMCID: PMC3310840  PMID: 22457732
Vertical transmission (VT) and associated manipulation of host reproduction are widely reported among prokaryotic endosymbionts. Here, we present evidence for widespread use of VT and associated sex-ratio distortion in a eukaryotic phylum. The Microspora are an unusual and diverse group of eukaryotic parasites that infect all animal phyla. Following our initial description of a microsporidian that feminizes its crustacean host, we survey the diversity and distribution of VT within the Microspora. We find that vertically transmitted microsporidia are ubiquitous in the amphipod hosts sampled and that they are also diverse, with 11 species of microsporidia detected within 16 host species. We found that infections were more common in females than males, suggesting that host sex-ratio distortion occurs in five out of eight parasite species tested. Phylogenetic reconstruction demonstrates that VT occurs in all major lineages of the phylum Microspora and that sex-ratio distorters are found on multiple branches of the phylogenetic tree. We propose that VT is either an ancestral trait or evolves with peculiar frequency in this phylum. If the association observed here between VT and host sex-ratio distortion holds true across other host taxa, these eukaryotic parasites may join the bacterial endosymbionts in their importance as sex-ratio distorters.
PMCID: PMC1691802  PMID: 15315893
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2010;2(2):220-227.
Sebaldella termitidis (Sebald 1962) Collins and Shah 1986, is the only species in the genus Sebaldella within the fusobacterial family ‘Leptotrichiaceae’. The sole and type strain of the species was first isolated about 50 years ago from intestinal content of Mediterranean termites. The species is of interest for its very isolated phylogenetic position within the phylum Fusobacteria in the tree of life, with no other species sharing more than 90% 16S rRNA sequence similarity. The 4,486,650 bp long genome with its 4,210 protein-coding and 54 RNA genes is part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project.
PMCID: PMC3035275  PMID: 21304705
anaerobic; mesophile; nonmotile; non-sporeforming; Gram-negative; termite intestine; ‘Fusobacteria’; ‘Leptotrichiaceae’; GEBA

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