Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Choanoflagellates and the unicellular ancestry of animals


Nicole King, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.


All animals, as an assemblage of diverse multicellular organisms ranging from sponges to sea anemones to whales, share a unicellular common ancestor. Therefore, understanding the biology of the unicellular progenitor of animals and the transition to multicellularity are pivotal for investigating animal origins. Choanoflagellates, unicellular and colonial eukaryotes closely related to animals, are uniquely positioned to provide insights into animal origins and the transition to multicellularity. Indeed, homologs of diverse animal genes required for multicellularity are expressed by choanoflagellates. This raises questions about their ancestral functions in the unicellular common ancestor. By uniting comparative genomics, cell biology, and biochemistry in the study of choanoflagellates, we aim to reconstruct the biology of the unicellular progenitor of animals and choanoflagellates.


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