Ancestral Protein Reconstruction suggests origins of multicellular life

The evolution of organized multicellularity is one of the most important and least understood transitions in the history of plants and animals.  How is it that a single cell could divide and each of the daughter cells begin a separate differentiation process - the stalk rather than the root, or the head rather than the foot?

Many theories and experiments have explored aspects of this question - such as growth in a weightless environment to subtract out gravitational effects.  I had performed some such terrestrial experiments on frog embryos suspended and rotated equally along 3D spacial axises utilizing acoustic levitation (University of Utah, NSF grant, 1979).

A new study by Anderson et al., using a technique called "ancestral protein reconstruction", a single marker protein evolved through a series of “molecular exploitation” events to provide a scaffolding for differentiation.

Reference

Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals

Douglas P Anderson, Dustin S Whitney, Victor Hanson-Smith, Arielle Woznica, William Campodonico-Burnett, Brian F Volkman, Nicole King, Kenneth E PrehodaCorresponding Author, Joseph W ThorntonCorresponding Author
University of Oregon, United States; Medical College of Wisconsin, United States; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, Berkeley, United States; University of Chicago, United States
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.10147
Published January 7, 2016
- See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#.dpuf