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Genetics. 2018 Oct;210(2):435-443. doi: 10.1534/genetics.118.301121. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

Establishment of Transgenesis in the Demosponge Suberites domuncula.

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Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Vienna BioCenter, 1030, Austria
Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Vienna BioCenter, 1030, Austria.
Research Platform "Rhythms of Life", University of Vienna, Vienna BioCenter, 1030, Austria.


Sponges (Porifera) represent one of the most basally branching animal clades with key relevance for evolutionary studies, stem cell biology, and development. Despite a long history of sponges as experimental model systems, however, functional molecular studies are still very difficult to perform in these animals. Here, we report the establishment of transgenic technology as a basic and versatile experimental tool for sponge research. We demonstrate that slice explants of the demosponge Suberites domuncula regenerate functional sponge tissue and can be cultured for extended periods of time, providing easy experimental access under controlled conditions. We further show that an engineered expression construct driving the enhanced green fluorescence protein (egfp) gene under control of the Suberites domuncula β-actin locus can be transfected into such tissue cultures, and that faithfully spliced transcripts are produced from such transfected DNA. Finally, by combining fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) with quantitative PCR, we validate that transfected cells can be specifically reisolated from tissue based on their fluorescence. Although the number of detected enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-expressing cells is still limited, our approach represents the first successful introduction and expression of exogenous DNA in a sponge. These results represent a significant advance for the use of transgenic technology in a cornerstone phylum, for instance for the use in lineage tracing experiments.


Porifera; Suberites domuncula; sponges; transgenics

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