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Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Feb 22;278(1705):546-53. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1301. Epub 2010 Sep 1.

A novel minicollagen gene links cnidarians and myxozoans.

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  • 1Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre, Aberdeen University, , Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK.


Myxozoans are enigmatic endoparasitic organisms sharing morphological features with bilateria, protists and cnidarians. This, coupled with their highly divergent gene sequences, has greatly obscured their phylogenetic affinities. Here we report the sequencing and characterization of a minicollagen homologue (designated Tb-Ncol-1) in the myxozoan Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae. Minicollagens are phylum-specific genes encoding cnidarian nematocyst proteins. Sequence analysis revealed a cysteine-rich domain (CRD) architecture and genomic organization similar to group 1 minicollagens. Homology modelling predicted similar three-dimensional structures to Hydra CRDs despite deviations from the canonical pattern of group 1 minicollagens. The discovery of this minicollagen gene strongly supports myxozoans as cnidarians that have radiated as endoparasites of freshwater, marine and terrestrial hosts. It also reveals novel protein sequence variation of relevance to understanding the evolution of nematocyst complexity, and indicates a molecular/morphological link between myxozoan polar capsules and cnidarian nematocysts. Our study is the first to illustrate the power of using genes related to a taxon-specific novelty for phylogenetic inference within the Metazoa, and it exemplifies how the evolutionary relationships of other metazoans characterized by extreme sequence divergence could be similarly resolved.

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