Light Entrained Rhythmic Gene Expression in the Sea Anemone Nematostella vectensis: The Evolution of the Animal Circadian Clock

Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.53). 09/2010; 5(9):e12805. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012805
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Circadian rhythms in behavior and physiology are the observable phenotypes from cycles in expression of, interactions between, and degradation of the underlying molecular components. In bilaterian animals, the core molecular components include Timeless-Timeout, photoreceptive cryptochromes, and several members of the basic-loop-helix-Per-ARNT-Sim (bHLH-PAS) family. While many of core circadian genes are conserved throughout the Bilateria, their specific roles vary among species. Here, we identify and experimentally study the rhythmic gene expression of conserved circadian clock members in a sea anemone in order to characterize this gene network in a member of the phylum Cnidaria and to infer critical components of the clockwork used in the last common ancestor of cnidarians and bilaterians.
We identified homologs of circadian regulatory genes in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, including a gene most similar to Timeout, three cryptochromes, and several key bHLH-PAS transcription factors. We then maintained N. vectensis either in complete darkness or in a 12 hour light: 12 hour dark cycle in three different light treatments (blue only, full spectrum, blue-depleted). Gene expression varied in response to light cycle and light treatment, with a particularly strong pattern observed for NvClock. The cryptochromes more closely related to the light-sensitive clade of cryptochromes were upregulated in light treatments that included blue wavelengths. With co-immunoprecipitation, we determined that heterodimerization between CLOCK and CYCLE is conserved within N. vectensis. Additionally, we identified E-box motifs, DNA sequences recognized by the CLOCK:CYCLE heterodimer, upstream of genes showing rhythmic expression.
This study reveals conserved molecular and functional components of the circadian clock that were in place at the divergence of the Cnidaria and Bilateria, suggesting the animal circadian clockwork is more ancient than previous data suggest. Characterizing circadian regulation in a cnidarian provides insight into the early origins of animal circadian rhythms and molecular regulation of environmentally cued behaviors.


Available from: Lars Behrendt, Jun 02, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Ecological developmental biology (eco-devo) explores the mechanistic relationships between the processes of individual development and environmental factors. Recent studies imply that some of these relationships have deep evolutionary origins, and may even pre-date the divergences of the simplest extant animals, including cnidarians and sponges. Development of these early diverging metazoans is often sensitive to environmental factors, and these interactions occur in the context of conserved signaling pathways and mechanisms of tissue homeostasis whose detailed molecular logic remain elusive. Efficient methods for transgenesis in cnidarians together with the ease of experimental manipulation in cnidarians and sponges make them ideal models for understanding causal relationships between environmental factors and developmental mechanisms. Here, we identify major questions at the interface between animal evolution and development and outline a road map for research aimed at identifying the mechanisms that link environmental factors to developmental mechanisms in early diverging metazoans.Also watch the Video Abstract.
    BioEssays 12/2014; 36(12). DOI:10.1002/bies.201400065 · 4.84 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The Cryptochrome/Photolyase Family (CPF) represents an ancient group of widely distributed UV-A/blue-light sensitive proteins sharing common structures and chromophores. During the course of evolution, different CPFs acquired distinct functions in DNA repair, light perception and circadian clock regulation. Previous phylogenetic analyses of the CPF have allowed reconstruction of the evolution and distribution of the different CPF super-classes in the tree of life. However, so far only limited information is available from the CPF orthologs in aquatic organisms that evolved in environments harboring great diversity of life forms and showing peculiar light distribution and rhythms. To gain new insights into the evolutionary and functional relationships within the CPF family, we performed a detailed study of CPF members from marine (diatoms, sea urchin and annelid) and freshwater organisms (teleost) that populate diverse habitats and exhibit different life strategies. In particular, we first extended the CPF family phylogeny by including genes from aquatic organisms representative of several branches of the tree of life. Our analysis identifies four major super-classes of CPF proteins and importantly singles out the presence of a plant-like CRY in diatoms and in metazoans. Moreover, we show a dynamic evolution of Cpf genes in eukaryotes with various events of gene duplication coupled to functional diversification and gene loss, which have shaped the complex array of Cpf genes in extant aquatic organisms. Second, we uncover clear rhythmic diurnal expression patterns and light-dependent regulation for the majority of the analyzed Cpf genes in our reference species. Our analyses reconstruct the molecular evolution of the CPF family in eukaryotes and provide a solid foundation for a systematic characterization of novel light activated proteins in aquatic environments.
    Marine Genomics 04/2014; 14. DOI:10.1016/j.margen.2014.02.001 · 1.97 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background The primary hormone of the vertebrate pineal gland, melatonin, has been identified broadly throughout the eukaryotes. While the role for melatonin in cyclic behavior via interactions with the circadian clock has only been reported in vertebrates, comparative research has shown that the transcription-translation loops of the animal circadian clock likely date to the cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor, leaving open significant questions about the evolutionary origin of melatonin signaling in circadian behavior by interacting with the molecular clock. Results Expression of melatonin in adult anemones showed peak expression at the end of light period (zeitgeber time (ZT) = 12) when cultured under diel conditions, coinciding with expression of genes and enzyme activity for members of the melatonin synthesis pathway (tryptophan hydroxylase and hydroxyindol-O-methyltransferase), which also showed rhythmic expression. During embryogenesis and juvenile stages, melatonin showed cyclic oscillations in concentration, peaking in midday. Spatial (in situ hybridization) and quantitative (real-time PCR) transcription of clock genes during development of N. vectensis showed these ‘clock’ genes are expressed early in the development, prior to rhythmic oscillations, suggesting functions independent of a function in the circadian clock. Finally, time-course studies revealed that animals transferred from diel conditions to constant darkness lose circadian expression for most of the clock genes within 4 days, which can be reset by melatonin supplementation. Conclusions Our results support an ancient role for melatonin in the circadian behavior of animals by showing cyclic expression of this hormone under diel conditions, light-dependent oscillations in genes in the melatonin synthesis pathway, and the function of melatonin in initiating expression of circadian clock genes in the cnidarian N. vectensis. The differences in expression melatonin and the circadian clock gene network in the adult stage when compared with developmental stages of N. vectensis suggests new research directions to characterize stage-specific mechanisms of circadian clock function in animals.
    EvoDevo 08/2014; 5(26). DOI:10.1186/2041-9139-5-26 · 3.10 Impact Factor