The Capsaspora genome reveals a complex unicellular prehistory of animals

Hiroshi Suga, Zehua Chen, Alex De Mendoza, Arnau Sebé-Pedrós, Matthew W. Brown, Eric Kramer, Martin Carr, Pierre Kerner, Michel Vervoort, Núria Sánchez-Pons, Guifré Torruella, Romain Derelle, Gerard Manning, B. Franz Lang, Carsten Russ, Brian J. Haas, Andrew J. Roger, Chad Nusbaum, Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Citations (Scopus)


To reconstruct the evolutionary origin of multicellular animals from their unicellular ancestors, the genome sequences of diverse unicellular relatives are essential. However, only the genome of the choanoflagellate Monosiga brevicollis has been reported to date. Here we completely sequence the genome of the filasterean Capsaspora owczarzaki, the closest known unicellular relative of metazoans besides choanoflagellates. Analyses of this genome alter our understanding of the molecular complexity of metazoans' unicellular ancestors showing that they had a richer repertoire of proteins involved in cell adhesion and transcriptional regulation than previously inferred only with the choanoflagellate genome. Some of these proteins were secondarily lost in choanoflagellates. In contrast, most intercellular signalling systems controlling development evolved later concomitant with the emergence of the first metazoans. We propose that the acquisition of these metazoan-specific developmental systems and the co-option of pre-existing genes drove the evolutionary transition from unicellular protists to metazoans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2325
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2013


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