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Bioessays. 2000 Oct;22(10):947-53.

Redox control and the evolution of multicellularity.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA.


Redox chemistry, involving the transfer of electrons and hydrogen atoms, is central to energy conversion in respiration; in addition, control of gene expression by redox state commonly occurs in bacteria, allowing a rapid response to environmental changes, such as altered food supply. Colonial metazoans often encrust surfaces over which the food supply varies in time or space; hence, in these organisms redox control of the development of feeding structures and gastrovascular connections could be similarly adaptive, allowing colonies to adjust the timing of development and spacing of structures in response to a variable food supply and other environmental factors. Experimental perturbations of redox state in colonial hydroids support this notion of adaptive redox control, and redox signaling in metazoans may have evolved in this ecological context. At the same time, redox signaling has important consequences for the evolutionary transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms. Unlike protein or peptide signaling, redox signaling acting in concert with programmed cell death may automatically inflict a cost on those cells that "defect," that is, selfishly favor their own replication rate over that of the multicellular group. In this way, redox signaling may have allowed multicellular individuality to evolve and more easily be maintained.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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