Author(s): Dayraud C, Ali A, Jager M, Chang P, Le Guyader H,
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Myosin II (or Myosin Heavy Chain II, MHCII) is a family of molecular motors involved in the contractile activity of animal muscle cells but also in various other cellular processes in non-muscle cells. Previous phylogenetic analyses of bilaterian MHCII genes identified two main clades associated respectively with smooth/non-muscle cells (MHCIIa) and striated muscle cells (MHCIIb). Muscle cells are generally thought to have originated only once in ancient animal history, and decisive insights about their early evolution are expected to come from expression studies of Myosin II genes in the two non-bilaterian phyla that possess muscles, the Cnidaria and Ctenophora. RESULTS: We have uncovered three MHCII paralogues in the ctenophore species Pleurobrachia pileus. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the MHCIIa / MHCIIb duplication is more ancient than the divergence between extant metazoan lineages. The ctenophore MHCIIa gene (PpiMHCIIa) has an expression pattern akin to that of "stem cell markers" (Piwi, Vasa…) and is expressed in proliferating cells. We identified two MHCIIb genes that originated from a ctenophore-specific duplication. PpiMHCIIb1 represents the exclusively muscular form of myosin II in ctenophore, while PpiMHCIIb2 is expressed in non-muscle cells of various types. In parallel, our phalloidin staining and TEM observations highlight the structural complexity of ctenophore musculature and emphasize the experimental interest of the ctenophore tentacle root, in which myogenesis is spatially ordered and strikingly similar to striated muscle formation in vertebrates. CONCLUSION: MHCIIa expression in putative stem cells/proliferating cells probably represents an ancestral trait, while specific involvement of some MHCIIa genes in smooth muscle fibres is a uniquely derived feature of the vertebrates. That one ctenophore MHCIIb paralogue (PpiMHCIIb2) has retained MHCIIa-like expression features furthermore suggests that muscular expression of the other paralogue, PpiMHCIIb1, was the result of neofunctionalisation within the ctenophore lineage, making independent origin of ctenophore muscle cells a likely option.
This article was published in BMC Evol Biol
and referenced in Biological Systems: Open Access