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Mol Biol Evol. 2009 Dec;26(12):2699-709. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msp185. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Phylogeny of the "forgotten" cellular slime mold, Fonticula alba, reveals a key evolutionary branch within Opisthokonta.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas.


The shared ancestry between Fungi and animals has been unequivocally demonstrated by abundant molecular and morphological data for well over a decade. Along with the animals and Fungi, multiple protists have been placed in the supergroup Opisthokonta making it exceptionally diverse. In an effort to place the cellular slime mold Fonticula alba, an amoeboid protist with aggregative, multicellular fruiting, we sequenced five nuclear encoded genes; small subunit ribosomal RNA, actin, beta-tubulin, elongation factor 1-alpha, and the cytosolic isoform of heat shock protein 70 for phylogenetic analyses. Molecular trees demonstrate that Fonticula is an opisthokont that branches sister to filose amoebae in the genus Nuclearia. Fonticula plus Nuclearia are sister to Fungi. We propose a new name for this well-supported clade, Nucletmycea, incorporating Nuclearia, Fonticula, and Fungi. Fonticula represents the first example of a cellular slime mold morphology within Opisthokonta. Thus, there are four types of multicellularity in the supergroup-animal, fungal, colonial, and now aggregative. Our data indicate that multicellularity in Fonticula evolved independent of that found in the fungal and animal radiations. With the rapidly expanding sequence and genomic data becoming available from many opisthokont lineages, Fonticula may be fundamental to understanding opisthokont evolution as well as any possible commonalities involved with the evolution of multicellularity.

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