To Be or Not to Be a Flatworm: The Acoel Controversy
ABSTRACT Since first described, acoels were considered members of the flatworms (Platyhelminthes). However, no clear synapomorphies among the three large flatworm taxa -- the Catenulida, the Acoelomorpha and the Rhabditophora -- have been characterized to date. Molecular phylogenies, on the other hand, commonly positioned acoels separate from other flatworms. Accordingly, our own multi-locus phylogenetic analysis using 43 genes and 23 animal species places the acoel flatworm Isodiametra pulchra at the base of all Bilateria, distant from other flatworms. By contrast, novel data on the distribution and proliferation of stem cells and the specific mode of epidermal replacement constitute a strong synapomorphy for the Acoela plus the major group of flatworms, the Rhabditophora. The expression of a piwi-like gene not only in gonadal, but also in adult somatic stem cells is another unique feature among bilaterians. These two independent stem-cell-related characters put the Acoela into the Platyhelminthes-Lophotrochozoa clade and account for the most parsimonious evolutionary explanation of epidermal cell renewal in the Bilateria. Most available multigene analyses produce conflicting results regarding the position of the acoels in the tree of life. Given these phylogenomic conflicts and the contradiction of developmental and morphological data with phylogenomic results, the monophyly of the phylum Platyhelminthes and the position of the Acoela remain unresolved. By these data, both the inclusion of Acoela within Platyhelminthes, and their separation from flatworms as basal bilaterians are well-supported alternatives.
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ABSTRACT: Proseriates (Proseriata, Platyhelminthes) are free-living, mostly marine, flatworms measuring at most a few millimetres. In common with many flatworms, they are known to be capable of regeneration; however, few studies have been done on the details of regeneration in proseriates, and none cover cellular dynamics. We have tested the regeneration capacity of the proseriate Monocelis sp. by pre-pharyngeal amputation and provide the first comprehensive picture of the F-actin musculature, serotonergic nervous system and proliferating cells (S-phase in pulse and pulse-chase experiments and mitoses) in control animals and in regenerates. F-actin staining revealed a strong body wall, pharynx and dorsoventral musculature, while labelling of the serotonergic nervous system showed an orthogonal pattern and a well developed subepidermal plexus. Proliferating cells were distributed in two broad lateral bands along the anteroposterior axis and their anterior extension was delimited by the brain. No proliferating cells were detected in the pharynx or epidermis. Monocelis sp. was able to regenerate the pharynx and adhesive organs at the tip of the tail plate within 2 or 3 days of amputation, and genital organs within 8 to 10 days. Posterior pieces were not able to regenerate a head. The posterior regeneration blastema was found to be a centre of cell proliferation, whereas within the pharynx primordium, little or no proliferation was detected. The pharynx regenerated outside of the blastema and was largely, but not solely formed by cells that were proliferating at the time of amputation. Our findings suggest that proliferating cells or their offspring migrated to the place of organ differentiation and then stopped proliferating at that site. This mode of rebuilding organs resembles the mode of regeneration of the genital organs in another flatworm, Macrostomum lignano. Pharynx regeneration resembles embryonic development in Monocelis fusca and hints at the vertically directed pharynx being plesiomorphic in proseriates. Proliferation within the regeneration blastema has been detected in anterior and posterior blastemas of other flatworms, but is notably missing in triclads. The phylogenetic relationships of the flatworms studied indicate that proliferation within the blastema is the plesiomorphic condition in Platyhelminthes.EvoDevo 10/2014; 5:37. DOI:10.1186/2041-9139-5-37 · 3.10 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Hox and ParaHox genes are involved in patterning the anterior-posterior body axis in metazoans during embryo development. Body plan evolution and diversification are affected by variations in the number and sequence of Hox and ParaHox genes, as well as by their expression patterns. For this reason Hox and ParaHox gene investigation in the phylum Mollusca is of great interest, as this is one of the most important taxa of protostomes, characterized by a high morphological diversity. The comparison of the works reviewed here indicates that species of molluscs, belonging to different classes, share a similar composition of Hox and ParaHox genes. Therefore evidence suggests that the wide morphological diversity of this taxon could be ascribed to differences in Hox gene interactions and expressions and changes in the Hox downstream genes rather than to Hox cluster composition. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.genesis 12/2014; 52(12). DOI:10.1002/dvg.22839 · 2.04 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A remarkable example of biological engineering is the capability of some marine animals to take advantage of photosynthesis by hosting symbiotic algae. This capacity, referred to as photosymbiosis, is based on structural and functional complexes that involve two distantly unrelated organisms. These stable photosymbiotic associations between metazoans and photosynthetic protists play fundamental roles in marine ecology as exemplified by reef communities and their vulnerability to global changes threats. Here we introduce a photosymbiotic tidal acoel flatworm, Symsagittifera roscoffensis, and its obligatory green algal photosymbiont, Tetraselmis convolutae (Lack of the algal partner invariably results in acoel lethality emphasizing the mandatory nature of the photosymbiotic algae for the animal’s survival.) Together they form a composite photosymbiotic unit, which can be reared in controlled conditions that provide easy access to key life-cycle events ranging from early embryogenesis through the induction of photosymbiosis in aposymbiotic juveniles to the emergence of a functional “solar-powered” mature stage. Since it is possible to grow both algae and host under precisely controlled culture conditions, it is now possible to design a range of new experimental protocols that address the mechanisms and evolution of photosymbiosis. S. roscoffensis thus represents an emerging model system with experimental advantages that complement those of other photosymbiotic species, in particular corals. The basal taxonomic position of S. roscoffensis (and acoels in general) also makes it a relevant model for evolutionary studies of development, stem cell biology and regeneration. Finally, its autotrophic lifestyle and lack of calcification make S. roscoffensis a favorable system to study the role of symbiosis in the response of marine organisms to climate change (e.g. ocean warming and acidification). In this article we summarize the state of knowledge of the biology of S. roscoffensis and its algal partner from studies dating back over a century, and provide an overview of ongoing research efforts that take advantage of this unique system.Frontiers in Microbiology 09/2014; 5. DOI:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00498 · 3.94 Impact Factor