Origin and evolution of animal multicellularity in the light of phylogenomics and cancer genetics

Florian Jacques, Etienne Baratchart, Kenneth J. Pienta, Emma U. Hammarlund

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review


The rise of animals represents a major but enigmatic event in the evolutionary history of life. In recent years, numerous studies have aimed at understanding the genetic basis of this transition. However, genome comparisons of diverse animal and protist lineages suggest that the appearance of gene families that were previously considered animal specific indeed preceded animals. Animals’ unicellular relatives, such as choanoflagellates, ichthyosporeans, and filastereans, demonstrate complex life cycles including transient multicellularity as well as genetic toolkits for temporal cell differentiation, cell-to-cell communication, apoptosis, and cell adhesion. This has warranted further exploration of the genetic basis underlying transitions in cellular organization. An alternative model for the study of transitions in cellular organization is tumors, which exploit physiological programs that characterize both unicellularity and multicellularity. Tumor cells, for example, switch adhesion on and off, up- or downregulate specific cell differentiation states, downregulate apoptosis, and allow cell migration within tissues. Here, we use insights from both the fields of phylogenomics and tumor biology to review the evolutionary history of the regulatory systems of multicellularity and discuss their overlap. We claim that while evolutionary biology has contributed to an increased understanding of cancer, broad investigations into tissue—normal and transformed—can also contribute the framework for exploring animal evolution.

TidskriftMedical Oncology
StatusPublished - 2022

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Cell- och molekylärbiologi


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