Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 616960
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Spain

Mid-Term Report Summary - PREMETAZOANEVOLUTION (Unravelling the unicellular prehistory of metazoans with functional analyses and single-cell genomics)

The goal of the project is to unravel how unicellular organisms became at some point the first multicellular animals. To this end, the grant focuses on analyzing the extant closest unicellular relatives of animals to try to infer how the last unicellular ancestor that gave rise to animals was. Thanks to a previous ERC grant, we had learnt that the unicellular ancestor of animals already had a lot of genes that are key to animal multicellularity and development. Now, thanks to this grant, we have learnt that this ancestor also had a complex way to regulate the expression of genes and to differentiate cells into different cell types. Indeed, our new data show that the unicellular ancestor used the same molecular mechanisms that animals use to have different cell types within the organism. Those mechanisms of cell differentiation are used in these unicellular organisms to switch from one life stage to another within their life cycles. An important difference that we have observed between animals and their unicellular relatives is the lack of distal regulation in animal relatives. That means that the capacity that animals have to regulate gens that are far way in the genome from the regulatory region itself might have been important for the emergence of the complex body forms of animals. Overall, we are unravelling the specific genetic mechanisms that allowed unicellular protists become animals, an event that transformed life’s history.

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