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Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Sep;30(9):2013-23. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst110. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Insights into the origin of metazoan filopodia and microvilli.

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  • 1Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


Filopodia are fine actin-based cellular projections used for both environmental sensing and cell motility, and they are essential organelles for metazoan cells. In this study, we reconstruct the origin of metazoan filopodia and microvilli. We first report on the evolutionary assembly of the filopodial molecular toolkit and show that homologs of many metazoan filopodial components, including fascin and myosin X, were already present in the unicellular or colonial progenitors of metazoans. Furthermore, we find that the actin crosslinking protein fascin localizes to filopodia-like structures and microvilli in the choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta. In addition, homologs of filopodial genes in the holozoan Capsaspora owczarzaki are upregulated in filopodia-bearing cells relative to those that lack them. Therefore, our findings suggest that proteins essential for metazoan filopodia and microvilli are functionally conserved in unicellular and colonial holozoans and that the last common ancestor of metazoans bore a complex and specific filopodial machinery.


Capsaspora; Cdc42; choanoflagellate; fascin; filopodia; formin evolution; gelsolin evolution; pseudopodia

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