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Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 13;7(1):15383. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-15557-5.

Animal multicellularity and polarity without Wnt signaling.

Author information

1
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, IMBE UMR 7263, Avignon Université, Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Ecologie marine et continentale, Station Marine d'Endoume, Marseille, France. quentin.schenkelaars@unige.ch.
2
Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, Sciences III, 30 Quai Ernest Ansermet, CH-1211, Geneva 4, Switzerland. quentin.schenkelaars@unige.ch.
3
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, IMBE UMR 7263, Avignon Université, Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Ecologie marine et continentale, Station Marine d'Endoume, Marseille, France.
4
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, Centrale Marseille, I2M, Equipe Evolution Biologique et Modélisation, Marseille, France.
5
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, Institute of Developmental Biology of Marseille (IBDM), case 907, 13288, Marseille cedex 09, France.
6
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, Institute of Developmental Biology of Marseille (IBDM), case 907, 13288, Marseille cedex 09, France. andre.le-bivic@univ-amu.fr.
7
Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, IMBE UMR 7263, Avignon Université, Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Ecologie marine et continentale, Station Marine d'Endoume, Marseille, France. carole.borchiellini@imbe.fr.

Abstract

Acquisition of multicellularity is a central event in the evolution of Eukaryota. Strikingly, animal multicellularity coincides with the emergence of three intercellular communication pathways - Notch, TGF-β and Wnt - all considered as hallmarks of metazoan development. By investigating Oopsacas minuta and Aphrocallistes vastus, we show here that the emergence of a syncytium and plugged junctions in glass sponges coincides with the loss of essential components of the Wnt signaling (i.e. Wntless, Wnt ligands and Disheveled), whereas core components of the TGF-β and Notch modules appear unaffected. This suggests that Wnt signaling is not essential for cell differentiation, polarity and morphogenesis in glass sponges. Beyond providing a comparative study of key developmental toolkits, we define here the first case of a metazoan phylum that maintained a level of complexity similar to its relatives despite molecular degeneration of Wnt pathways.

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