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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2008 Dec;18(6):472-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2008.09.004. Epub 2008 Oct 14.

The molecular origins of multicellular transitions.

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Vanderbilt University, Department of Biological Sciences, Nashville, TN 37235, USA.


Multicellularity has evolved multiple times independently from a variety of ancestral unicellular lineages. Past research on multicellularity was focused more on explaining why it was repeatedly invented and less so on the molecular foundations associated with each transition. Several recent comparative functional analyses of microbial unicellular and multicellular genomes have begun to throw considerable light on the molecular commonalities exhibited by independent multicellular transitions. These have enabled the delineation of the likely functional components of the genetic toolkit required for multicellular existence and to surprising discoveries, such as the presence of several toolkit components in unicellular lineages. The study of these toolkit proteins in a unicellular context has begun yielding insights into their ancestral functions and how they were coopted for multicellular development.

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