Author(s): Ryan JF, Pang K NISC Comparative, Mullikin JC, Martindale MQ, Baxevanis AD
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The much-debated phylogenetic relationships of the five early branching metazoan lineages (Bilateria, Cnidaria, Ctenophora, Placozoa and Porifera) are of fundamental importance in piecing together events that occurred early in animal evolution. Comparisons of gene content between organismal lineages have been identified as a potentially useful methodology for phylogenetic reconstruction. However, these comparisons require complete genomes that, until now, did not exist for the ctenophore lineage. The homeobox superfamily of genes is particularly suited for these kinds of gene content comparisons, since it is large, diverse, and features a highly conserved domain. RESULTS: We have used a next-generation sequencing approach to generate a high-quality rough draft of the genome of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi and subsequently identified a set of 76 homeobox-containing genes from this draft. We phylogenetically categorized this set into established gene families and classes and then compared this set to the homeodomain repertoire of species from the other four early branching metazoan lineages. We have identified several important classes and subclasses of homeodomains that appear to be absent from Mnemiopsis and from the poriferan Amphimedon queenslandica. We have also determined that, based on lineage-specific paralog retention and average branch lengths, it is unlikely that these missing classes and subclasses are due to extensive gene loss or unusually high rates of evolution in Mnemiopsis. CONCLUSIONS: This paper provides a first glimpse of the first sequenced ctenophore genome. We have characterized the full complement of Mnemiopsis homeodomains from this species and have compared them to species from other early branching lineages. Our results suggest that Porifera and Ctenophora were the first two extant lineages to diverge from the rest of animals. Based on this analysis, we also propose a new name - ParaHoxozoa - for the remaining group that includes Placozoa, Cnidaria and Bilateria.
This article was published in Evodevo
and referenced in Cell & Developmental Biology