Regulatory RNA and the origin of animal multicellularity
Sphaeroeca, a colony of choanoflagellates (aproximately 230 individuals). Photo: Dhzanette. Wikimedia Commons
This is a project in the field of evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biology. The overall aim is to greatly improve our understanding of the transition from unicellular eukaryotes to multicellular animals. This represents a mega-leap in the evolution of eukaryote genome and cell organisation that hence of fundamental importance in biology and medicine.
We will in this project focus on the unicellular relatives of animals termed Choanozoa. On the basis of current status in the field we aim toward bringing the field of evo-devo a step further by rigorous examination of the role of non-coding and regulatory RNA in the evolution of animal multicellularity. This will be achieved by studying selected Choanozoa species and using bioinformatics and high-throughput sequencing approaches.
Objectives of the project
In this project we will investigate:
- RNAi machinery losses and gains in the genomes of single-celled ancestors of animals
- The miRNA pathway evolution in animals compared to other eukaryotic supergroups
- Whether the miRNA and piRNA pathways have been essential for development of multicellularity
- Regulatory RNAs in single celled Choanoza that are not derived from RNAi precursors
- Evolution and function of the RNAi protein machinery
- Whether genetic processes, such as gene duplications, lineage-specific gene loss or horizontal gene transfer took part in shaping the regulatory RNA machinery in Choanozoa