Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Fluid Equilibrium in Prehistoric Organisms Sheds Light on a Turning Point in Evolution

Emergence of ENaC, sodium pump coincides with first appearance of multi-celled creatures

Maintaining fluid balance in the body is essential to survival, from the tiniest protozoa to the mightiest of mammals. By researching recent genomic data, Swiss researchers have found genetic evidence that links this intricate process to a turning point in evolution.

The study was led by Bernard Rossier, Professor Emeritus, University of Lausanne, along with colleagues Romain A. Studer, Emilie Person, and Marc Robinson-Rechavi. Dr. Rossier will discuss the team’s findings at the 7th International Symposium on Aldosterone and the ENaC/Degenerin Family of Ion Channels, sponsored by the American Physiological Society. Dr. Rossier’s presentation, “Evolution of ENaC and Na-K-ATPase as Limiting Factors of Aldosterone Action,” is based in part on the team’s recent article published in the journal Physiological Genomics.

Timing Is Everything
In humans, the hormone aldosterone affects fluid balance by controlling the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), a protein that traverses a cell’s membrane and facilitates the movement of salt into and out of the cell. By searching for genes that descended from a common ancestral DNA sequence (homologs), the researchers found that the emergence of ENaC and Na, K-ATPase (sodium pump), an enzyme that also plays a role in sodium transport, coincided with the emergence of multi-celled organisms.

Dr. Rossier and his team focused their analysis on eukaryotes—organisms whose cells contain complex structures within enclosed membranes¬—and sought to determine when and where on the eukaryotic family tree ENaC first appeared. When tracing the alpha, beta, and gamma subunits of ENaC back, the team found that the beta subunit appeared slightly before the emergence of Metazoans (multicellular animals with differentiated tissues) roughly 750 million years ago. “The alpha subunit is an old protein found everywhere, in any kind of organism, but the beta and gamma subunits appear much later in evolution,” said Dr. Rossier. “The appearance of the beta subunit is particularly significant because it is required for the function of the sodium pump. Without it, a functional sodium pump cannot be expressed at the cell surface. What is interesting is that it appeared right before the dividing point between unicellular organisms and multicellular organisms.”

The team also found homologs of ENaC in a single-celled organism, the Naegleria gruberi. Although N. gruberi is a eukaryote and shares a common ancestor with Metazoans, it is located on a different branch of the eukaryotic family tree, among the Excavates. At first glance it might make sense to assume that both Metazoans and Excavates got their ENaC from their common eukaryotic ancestor, but ENaC is absent in all other branches of the eukaryotic tree.

Dr. Rossier said that although it is possible that the genes for ENaC originated in the common ancestor of eukaryotes and were lost in all branches except the Metazoa and the Excavates, there is another possibility. There could have been a lateral transfer of genes between N. gruberi and a Metazoan ancestor, one that lived between the last common ancestor of all eukaryotes and the first Metazoans.

Whether a Metazoan transferred the genes for ENaC to N. gruberi or the other way around, Dr. Rossier is not sure. Either way, the fact that ENaC gene family appeared just before the emergence of Metazoans suggests it is somehow linked to the development of multi-celled organisms, he said.

About the Conference
The 7th International Symposium on Aldosterone and the ENaC/Degenerin Family of Ion Channels explores the relationship between fluid regulation and hypertension, the cardiovascular system and other organ systems. The American Physiological Society is sponsoring the conference which is being held September 18-22, 2011 in Pacific Grove, CA. Additional program information is online at

NOTE TO EDITORS: Dr. Rossier’s presentation, “Evolution of ENaC and Na-K-ATPase as Limiting Factors of Aldosterone Action,” is based in part on the team’s recent article published in the journal Physiological Genomics. To request an interview or a copy of the article, please contact Donna Krupa at 301.634.7209 or

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function to create health or disease. The American Physiological Society has been an integral part of the discovery process since it was established in 1887. To keep up with the science, follow @Phyziochick on Twitter.

Donna Krupa | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>