Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 206883
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

The genomes of our single-celled ancestors

Researchers have sequenced the genomes of several single-celled relatives of modern multicellular organisms. This will provide a new opportunity to study how multicellularity evolved.
The genomes of our single-celled ancestors
Evolution of multicellularity was a key event in our evolutionary history, but the details remain shrouded in mystery. Studying single-celled opisthokonts (the group that includes animals and fungi) offers a chance to better understand this occurrence.

The EU-funded MULTICELLGENOME (A comparative genomic analysis into the origin of metazoan multicellularity) initiative aimed to use genomics to compare single- and multi-celled opisthokonts. Researchers hoped that this would shed light on how multicellularity occurred in this group.

The major result of project work was the sequencing of three single-celled opisthokonts: Capsaspora owczarzaki, Sphaeroforma arctica and Creolimax fragrantissima. These represent the first full-genome sequences of a filasterean and ichthyosporeans.

Using these genomes, MULTICELLGENOME then compared these organisms with multicellular relatives – the metazoans. Genes involved in cell adhesion, cell signalling and cell communication, once thought to be unique to animals, have now been shown to predate the transition.

Overall, these findings suggest that primitive multicellular organisms co-opted ancestral genes to play new roles.

MULTICELLGENOME also created tools to help study these single-celled organisms in more detail in the future. The project has yielded important information about the history of multicellular organisms while providing new tools for further study.

Related information


Genomes, single-celled, multicellularity, evolution, opisthokonts, MULTICELLGENOME, metazoan
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