Single-cell RNAseq identifies neural elements in a sponge

  • Date: Sep 23, 2019
  • Time: 11:00 - 12:00
  • Speaker: Dr. Jacob Musser
  • European Molecular Biology laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany
  • Location: Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie (MPIBPC)
  • Room: Seminar Room, Department of Meiosis
  • Host: Dr. Jochen Rink
  • Contact:
Single-cell RNAseq identifies neural elements in a sponge
Sponges are the sister group to nearly all other animals, and lack a nervous system, musculature, and gut. However, genes encoding important neuronal proteins, including key synaptic proteins, have been found in sponge genomes. Using single-cell RNAseq, single-molecule FISH, and Focused Ion Beam SEM (FIB-SEM) we provide the first deep molecular and morphological characterization of cell types in Spongilla lacustris, freshwater demosponge. We identify many specialized cell types bearing functional and regulatory signatures similar to those of other animals. This includes contractile epithelial cells, which we demonstrate experimentally are responsive to nitric oxide signaling, phagocytes involved in innate immunity, and digestive cells that express a nearly complete set of postsynaptic genes. Remarkably, we also find immune cells expressing presynaptic genes and show via FIB-SEM that they send neurite-like extensions that directly contact and enwrap microvilli on postsynaptic digestive cells. This reveals new evidence linking neuronal and immune function, and suggests a neuro-immune system may have predated the origins of true nervous and immune systems.
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