Extreme adaptations of species often cause such significant changes that their evolutionary history is difficult to reconstruct.
Zoologists at the University of Basel in Switzerland have now discovered a new parasite species that represents the missing link between fungi and an extreme group of parasites. Researches are now able to understand for the first time the evolution of these parasites, causing disease in humans and animals. The study has been published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The water flea (Daphnia magna) serves as the host of the newly described parasite. The animal measures about 4mm in length. Dieter Eber, University of Basel
Parasites use their hosts to simplify their own lives. In order to do so, they evolved features that are so extreme that it is often impossible to compare them to other species. The evolution of these extreme adaptations is often impossible to reconstruct.
The research group lead by Prof. Dieter Ebert from the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Basel has now discovered the missing link that explains how this large group of extreme parasites, the microsporidia, has evolved. The team was supported in their efforts by scientists from Sweden and the U.S.
Microsporidia are a large group of extreme parasites that invade humans and animals and cost great damage for health care systems and in agriculture; over 1,200 species are known. They live inside their host's cells and have highly specialized features:
They are only able to reproduce inside the host's cells, they have the smallest known genome of all organisms with a cell nucleus (eukaryotes) and they posses no mitochondria of their own (the cell's power plant). In addition, they developed a specialized infection apparatus, the polar tube, which they use to insert themselves into the cells of their host. Due to their phenomenal high molecular evolution rate, genome analysis has so far been rather unsuccessful: Their great genomic divergence from all other known organisms further complicates the study of their evolutionary lineage.
Between fungi and parasite
The team of zoologists lead by Prof. Dieter Ebert has been studying the evolution of microsporidia for years. When they discovered a new parasite in water fleas a couple of years ago, they classified this undescribed species as a microsporidium, mostly because it possessed the unique harpoon-like infection apparatus (the polar-tube), one of the hallmarks of microsporidia.
The analysis of the entire genome had several surprises in store for them: The genome resembles more that of a fungi than a microsporidium and, in addition, also has a mitochondrial genome. The new species, now named Mitosporidium daphniae, thus represents the missing link between fungi and microsporidia.
With the help of scientists in Sweden and the U.S., the Basel researchers rewrote the evolutionary history of microsporidia. First, they showed that the new species derives from the ancestors of all known microsporidians and further, that the microsporidians derive from the most ancient fungi; thus its exact place in the tree of life has finally been found.
Further research confirms that the new species does in fact have a microsporidic, intracellular and parasitic lifestyle, but that its genome is rather atypical for a microsporidium. It resembles much more the genome of their fungal ancestors.
The scientists thus conclude that the microsporidia adopted intracellular parasitism first and only later changed their genome significantly. These genetic adaptations include the loss of mitochondria, as well as extreme metabolic and genomic simplification. “Our results are not only a milestone for the research on microsporidia, but they are also of great interest to the study of parasite-specific adaptations in evolution in general”, explains Ebert the findings.
Haag, K.L., James, T.Y., Pombert, J.-F., Larsson, R., Schaer, T.M.M., Refardt, D. & Ebert, D. 2014.
Evolution of a morphological novelty occurred before genome compaction in a lineage of extreme parasites
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 13. Oktober 2014) www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1410442111
Prof. Dieter Ebert, Department for Environmental Science, Zoological Institute, phone: +41 (0)61 267 03 60, fax +41 (0)61 267 03 60, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Poisson | Universität Basel
Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington
The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy