Title

Analysis of a Vinculin Homolog in a Sponge (phylum Porifera) Reveals that Vertebrate-like Cell Adhesions Emerged Early in Animal Evolution

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-7-2018

Keywords

Adherens junction, Focal adhesion, Epithelium, Protein evolution, Evolution, Oscarella, Porifera, Sponge, Vinculin

Organizational Units

College of Natual Science and Mathematics, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Abstract

The evolution of cell-adhesion mechanisms in animals facilitated the assembly of organized multicellular tissues. Studies in traditional animal models have revealed two predominant adhesion structures, the adherens junction (AJ) and focal adhesions (FAs), which are involved in the attachment of neighboring cells to each other and to the secreted extracellular matrix (ECM), respectively. The AJ (containing cadherins and catenins) and FAs (comprising integrins, talin, and paxillin) differ in protein composition, but both junctions contain the actin-binding protein vinculin. The near ubiquity of these structures in animals suggests that AJ and FAs evolved early, possibly coincident with multicellularity. However, a challenge to this perspective is that previous studies of sponges—a divergent animal lineage—indicate that their tissues are organized primarily by an alternative, sponge-specific cell-adhesion mechanism called “aggregation factor.” In this study, we examined the structure, biochemical properties, and tissue localization of a vinculin ortholog in the sponge Oscarella pearsei (Op). Our results indicate that Op vinculin localizes to both cell–cell and cell–ECM contacts and has biochemical and structural properties similar to those of vertebrate vinculin. We propose that Op vinculin played a role in cell adhesion and tissue organization in the last common ancestor of sponges and other animals. These findings provide compelling evidence that sponge tissues are indeed organized like epithelia in other animals and support the notion that AJ- and FA-like structures extend to the earliest periods of animal evolution.

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