Vetulicolians are a group of Cambrian metazoans whose distinctive bodyplan continues to present a major phylogenetic challenge. Thus, we see vetulicolians assigned to groups as disparate as deuterostomes and ecdysozoans. This divergence of opinions revolves around a strikingly arthropod-like body, but one that also bears complex lateral structures on its anterior section interpreted as pharyngeal openings. Establishing the homology of these structures is central to resolving where vetulicolians sit in metazoan phylogeny.
New material from the Chengjiang Lagerstätte helps to resolve this issue. Here, we demonstrate that these controversial structures comprise grooves with a series of openings. The latter are oval in shape and associated with a complex anatomy consistent with control of their opening and closure. Remains of what we interpret to be a musculature, combined with the capacity for the grooves to contract, indicate vetulicolians possessed a pumping mechanism that could process considerable volumes of seawater. Our observations suggest that food captured in the anterior cavity was transported to dorsal and ventral gutters, which then channeled material to the intestine. This arrangement appears to find no counterpart in any known fossil or extant arthropod (or any other ecdysozoan). Anterior lateral perforations, however, are diagnostic of deuterostomes.
If the evidence is against vetulicolians belonging to one or other group of ecdysozoan, then two phylogenetic options seem to remain. The first is that such features as vetulicolians possess are indicative of either a position among the bilaterians or deuterostomes but apart from the observation that they themselves form a distinctive and recognizable clade current evidence can permit no greater precision as to their phylogenetic placement. We argue that this is too pessimistic a view, and conclude that evidence points towards vetulicolians being members of the stem-group deuterostomes; a group best known as the chordates (amphioxus, tunicates, vertebrates), but also including the ambulacrarians (echinoderms, hemichordates), and xenoturbellids. If the latter, first they demonstrate that these members of the stem group show few similarities to the descendant crown group representatives. Second, of the key innovations that underpinned deuterostome success, the earliest and arguably most seminal was the evolution of openings that define the pharyngeal gill slits of hemichordates (and some extinct echinoderms) and chordates.
Evidence that conserved developmental gene-regulatory networks can change as a unit during deutersostome evolution emerges from a study published in BMC Biology. This shows that genes consistently expressed in anterior brain patterning in hemichordates and chordates are expressed in a similar spatial pattern in another deuterostome, an asteroid echinoderm (sea star), but in a completely different developmental context (the animal-vegetal axis). This observation has implications for hypotheses on the type of development present in the deuterostome common ancestor.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/143/abstract
While the broad framework of deuterostome evolution is now clear, the remarkable diversity of extant forms within this group has rendered the nature of the ancestral types problematic: what, for example, does the common ancestor of a sea urchin and lamprey actually look like? The answer to such questions can be addressed on the basis of remarkably well-preserved fossils from Cambrian Lagerstätten, not least the celebrated Chengjiang Lagerstätte (Yunnan, China). This deposit is particularly important because of its rich diversity of deuterostomes. These include some of the earliest known representatives, among which are the first vertebrates, as well as more enigmatic groups, notably the vetulicolians and yunnanozoans. The latter groups, in particular, have been the subject of some radical divergences in opinion as to their exact phylogenetic placements. Here, we both review the known diversity of Chengjiang deuterostomes and in particular argue that the vetulicolians and yunnanozoans represent very primitive deuterostomes. Moreover, in the latter case we present new data to indicate that the yunnanozoans are unlikely to be any sort of chordate.
Chengjiang; deuterostomes; yunnanozoans; vetulicolians; Cambrian; metazoan evolution
There have been notable advances in the scientific understanding of regeneration within the past year alone, including two recently published in BMC Biology. Increasingly, progress in the regeneration field is being inspired by comparisons with stem cell biology and enabled by newly developed techniques that allow simultaneous examination of thousands of genes and proteins.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/7/83 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/5.
The basis for transcriptional fidelity by RNA polymerase is not understood, but the 'trigger loop', a conserved structural element that is rearranged in the presence of correct substrate nucleotides, is thought to be critical. A study just published in BMC Biology sheds new light on the ways in which the trigger loop may promote selection of correct nucleotide triphosphate substrates.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/54
An international collaborative effort has recently uncovered the genome of the zebra finch, a songbird model that has provided unique insights into an array of biological phenomena.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/9/131, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/11/220/, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2202/11/46/ and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/28/
Daphnia pulex is the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced. Availability of the genome sequence will have implications for research in aquatic ecology and evolution in particular, as addressed by a series of papers published recently in BMC Evolutionary Biology and BMC Genomics.
See research articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/78, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/527, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/79, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/175, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/172, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/169, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/10/170 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/9/243.
A phylogeographic analysis of gene sequences important in determining body size in dogs, recently published in BMC Biology, traces the appearance of small body size to the Neolithic Middle East. This finding strengthens the association of this event with the development of sedentary societies, and perhaps even has implications for the inception of human social inequality.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/16/
Recent papers have demonstrated a role for Krüppel-like transcription factors 2, 4 and 5 in the control of mouse embryonic stem cell pluripotency. However, it is not clear whether each factor has a unique role or whether they are functionally redundant. A paper by Parisi and colleagues in BMC Biology now sheds light on the mechanism by which Klf5 regulates pluripotency.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/128
Current interest in proteasome inhibitors for cancer therapy has stimulated considerable research efforts to identify the molecular pathway to their cytotoxicity with a view to identifying the mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance as well as informing the development of new drugs. Zhao and Vuori describe this month in BMC Biology experiments indicating a novel role of the adaptor protein p130Cas in sensitivity to apoptosis induced not only by proteasome inhibitors but also by the unrelated drug doxorubicin.
See research article: http:// http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/73
The THO complex is a key component in the co-transcriptional formation of messenger ribonucleoparticles that are competent to be exported from the nucleus, yet its precise function is unknown. A recent study in BMC Biology on the role of the THOC5 subunit in cell physiology and mouse development provides new clues to the role of the THO complex in cell differentiation.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/1.
Two recent studies in BMC Biology and Evolution raise important questions about a textbook case of frequency-dependent selection in scale-eating cichlid fishes. They also suggest a fascinating new line of research testing the effects of handed behavior on morphological asymmetry.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/8.
Oestrogen exerts a robust yet imperfectly understood effect on sexual development in vertebrate embryos. New work by Pask and colleagues in BMC Biology indicates that it may interfere with male development by preventing nuclear localization of SOX9, a master regulator of the testis differentiation pathway.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/113
The RNA polymerase 'bridge helix' is a metastable α-helix that spans the leading edge of the enzyme active-site cleft. A new study published in BMC Biology reveals surprising tolerance to helix-disrupting changes in a region previously thought crucial for translocation, and suggests roles for two hinge-like segments of the bridge helix in coordinating modules that move during the nucleotide-addition cycle.
See Research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/134
Vertebrates are the result of an ancient double duplication of the genome. A new study published in BMC Biology explores the selective retention of genes after this event, finding an extensive enrichment of signaling proteins and transcription factors. Analysis of their expression patterns, interactions and subsequent history reflect the forces that drove their evolution, and with it the evolution of vertebrate complexity.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/146/abstract
GINS is an essential eukaryotic DNA replication factor that is found in a simplified form in Archaea. A new study in this issue of BMC Biology reveals the first structure of the archaeal GINS complex. The structure reveals the anticipated similarity to the previously determined eukaryotic complex but also has some intriguing differences in the relative disposition of subunit domains.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/28
The combination of molecular sequence data and bioinformatics has revolutionized phylogenetic inference over the past decade, vastly increasing the scope of the evolutionary trees that we are able to infer. A recent paper in BMC Biology describing a new phylogenomic pipeline to help automate the inference of evolutionary trees from public sequence databases provides another important tool in our efforts to derive the Tree of Life.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/55
Replicate adaptive radiations occur when lineages repeatedly radiate and fill new but similar niches and converge phenotypically. While this is commonly seen in traditional island systems, it may also be present in host-parasite relationships, where hosts serve as islands. In a recent article in BMC Biology, Johnson and colleagues have produced the most extensive phylogeny of the avian lice (Ischnocera) to date, and find evidence for this pattern. This study opens the door to exploring adaptive radiations from a novel host-parasite perspective.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/52
ParaHox genes, and their evolutionary sisters the Hox genes, are integral to patterning the anterior-posterior axis of most animals. Like the Hox genes, ParaHox genes can be clustered and exhibit the phenomenon of colinearity - gene order within the cluster matching gene activation. Two new instances of ParaHox clustering provide the first examples of intact clusters outside chordates, with gene expression lending weight to the argument that temporal colinearity is the key to understanding clustering.
See research articles:
This article is a response to Klütsch and Crapon de Caprona
See correspondence article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/119 and our original research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/16.
This article is a response to Wang and Luo.
See correspondence article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/30/ [WEBCITE] and the original research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/24 [WEBCITE].
This article is a response to Wang and Luo.
See correspondence article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/30 and the original research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/24.
This article is a response to Vibranovski et al.
See correspondence article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/49 and the original research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/29
We have previously reported a high propensity of testis-expressed X-linked genes to activation in meiotic cells, a similarity in global gene expression between the X chromosome and autosomes in meiotic germline, and under-representation of various types of tissue-specific genes on the X chromosome. Based on our findings and a critical review of the current literature, we believe that there is no global and severe silencing of the X chromosome in the meiotic male germline of Drosophila. The term 'meiotic sex chromosome inactivation' (MSCI) therefore seems misleading when used to describe the minor underexpression of the X chromosome in the testis of Drosophila, because this term erroneously implies a profound and widespread silencing of the X-linked genes, by analogy to the well-studied MSCI system in mammals, and therefore distracts from identification and analysis of the real mechanisms that orchestrate gene expression and evolution in this species.
A recent article in BMC Biology illustrates the use of a systems-biology approach to integrate data across the transcriptome, proteome and metabolome of budding yeast in order to dissect the relationship between nutrient conditions and cell growth.
See research article http://jbiol.com/content/6/2/4 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/68
In a paper in BMC Biology Virk et al. show that Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan is extended in response to a diet of folate-deficient Escherichia coli. The deficiencies in folate biosynthesis were due to an aroD mutation, or treatment of E. coli with sulfa drugs, which are mimics of the folate precursor para-aminobenzoic acid. This study suggests that pharmacological manipulation of the gut microbiome folate status may be a viable approach to slow animal aging, and raises questions about folate supplementation.
See research article http://www.http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/67