Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Gone, but not forgotten: Genome editing resurrects an ancestral cell type in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis
Abstract: Cnidocytes are the explosive stinging cells unique to cnidarians (corals, jellyfish, etc). Specialized for prey capture and defense, stinging cells comprise a group of over 30 morphologically and functionally distinct cell types. These unusual cells are among the most iconic examples of a biological novelty but the developmental mechanisms driving diversity of the stinging apparatus are poorly characterized, making it challenging to understand the evolutionary history of this novel cell type. Using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in the burrowing sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, we show that a single transcription factor (NvSox2) acts as a binary switch between two alternative stinging cell fates. Knockout of NvSox2 caused a complete transformation of piercing cells (nematocytes) into ensnaring cells (spirocytes). The type of ensnaring cell induced by NvSox2knockout (robust spirocyte) is common among sea anemones but is not typically found in N. vectensis. These results reveal how manipulation of a single gene can restore an ancestral trait, expanding our framework for understanding the evolution of cell type diversity.
Host: OEB Graduate Students
The hybrid seminar will take place in the Biological Laboratories, Room 1080. Registration is required to attend via Zoom. Please note, Zoom attendees are muted during the talk, but are able to ask questions during Q&A.