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Origins of coloniality: Developmental mechanisms and directionality of colonial coalescence in ascidians

Grant number: 15/14052-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2015
Effective date (End): November 30, 2019
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology
Principal Investigator:Federico David Brown Almeida
Grantee:Laurel Sky Hiebert
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):18/05923-3 - Cells and tissues of dormancy in ascidians: underlying developmental mechanisms and evolutionary origins, BE.EP.PD


Coloniality evolved numerous times within the metazoans, leading to many convergent ecological and developmental features that differ from those associated with a solitary lifestyle. Colonial animals - those having the capacity to asexually reproduce and remain connected - not only grow and occupy space differently from their solitary relatives, but they also show extensive regeneration abilities, have unique allorecognition systems and display systematized senescence. Many of these features are linked to the fact that colonial species posses tissues besides the germline that remain pluripotent. In order to determine the origins of coloniality and the traits associated with the colonial life style, I plan to examine the evolutionary origins and functions of these pluripotent cells. Along with collaborators, I will examine stem cells in the vascular system of ascidians (subphylum Tunicata), which are essential for asexual budding and regeneration in colonial species. We will focus on the family Styelidae since they exhibit broad variation in the degree of "coalescence", i.e. some are solitary, some clone and remain only loosely connected, and others are highly integrated, sharing a tunic and vasculature. We will compare stem cell populations in styelids to test the hypothesis that more highly coalesced species have more abundant and more diverse stem cell types. We will reconstruct the phylogenetic origins of the stem cell types and degree of coalescence within the styelids. We will focus on transcriptome-based tree reconstruction. I will determine if abundances of particular stem cell types correlates to life history phases (i.e. sexually reproducing vs. asexually proliferating). Results from this study will be essential to our understanding of how blood stem cells function and how they originated and diversified. These findings will reveal key mechanisms of colonial coalescence and contribute to reconstruct the evolution of coloniality in ascidians.

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Scientific publications (5)
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
ALIE, ALEXANDRE; HIEBERT, LAUREL SKY; SIMION, PAUL; SCELZO, MARTA; PRUNSTER, MARIA MANDELA; LOTITO, SONIA; DELSUC, FREDERIC; DOUZERY, EMMANUEL J. P.; DANTEC, CHRISTELLE; LEMAIRE, PATRICK; et al. Convergent Acquisition of Nonembryonic Development in Styelid Ascidians. Molecular Biology and Evolution, v. 35, n. 7, p. 1728-1743, . (15/14052-8, 15/50164-5)
HIEBERT, LAUREL S.; VIEIRA, LEANDRO M.; TIOZZO, STEFANO; SIMPSON, CARL; GROSBERG, RICHARD K.; MIGOTTO, ALVARO E.; MORANDINI, ANDRE C.; BROWN, FEDERICO D.. From the individual to the colony: Marine invertebrates as models to understand levels of biological organization. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ZOOLOGY PART B-MOLECULAR AND DEVELOPMENTAL EVOLUTION, v. 336, n. 3, . (18/05923-3, 15/50164-5, 19/06927-5, 18/50017-0, 15/14052-8)
HIEBERT, LAUREL S.; SIMPSON, CARL; TIOZZO, STEFANO. Coloniality, clonality, and modularity in animals: The elephant in the room. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ZOOLOGY PART B-MOLECULAR AND DEVELOPMENTAL EVOLUTION, v. 336, n. 3, p. 198-211, . (15/14052-8, 18/05923-3)
HIEBERT, LAUREL SKY; VIEIRA, EDSON A.; DIAS, GUSTAVO M.; TIOZZO, STEFANO; BROWN, FEDERICO D.. Colonial ascidians strongly preyed upon, yet dominate the substrate in a subtropical fouling community. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, v. 286, n. 1899, . (15/50164-5, 15/14052-8, 16/17647-5)
JIMENEZ-MERINO, JUAN; DE ABREU, ISADORA SANTOS; HIEBERT, LAUREL S.; ALLODI, SILVANA; TIOZZO, STEFANO; DE BARROS, CINTIA M.; BROWN, FEDERICO D.. Putative stem cells in the hemolymph and in the intestinal submucosa of the solitary ascidian Styela plicata. EVODEVO, v. 10, n. 1, . (19/06927-5, 16/07607-6, 15/50164-5, 15/14052-8, 18/05923-3)

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