Convergent Acquisition of Nonembryonic Development in Styelid Ascidians

Abstract : Asexual propagation and whole body regeneration are forms of nonembryonic development (NED) widespread across animal phyla and central in life history and evolutionary diversification of metazoans. Whereas it is challenging to reconstruct the gains or losses of NED at large phylogenetic scale, comparative studies could benefit from being conducted at more restricted taxonomic scale, in groups for which phylogenetic relationships are well established. The ascidian family of Styelidae encompasses strictly sexually reproducing solitary forms as well as colonial species that combine sexual reproduction with different forms of NED. To date, the phylogenetic relationships between colonial and solitary styelids remain controversial and so is the pattern of NED evolution. In this study, we built an original pipeline to combine eight genomes with 18 de novo assembled transcriptomes and constructed data sets of unambiguously orthologous genes. Using a phylogenomic super-matrix of 4,908 genes from these 26 tunicates we provided a robust phylogeny of this family of chordates, which supports two convergent acquisitions of NED. This result prompted us to further describe the budding process in the species Polyandrocarpa zorritensis, leading to the discovery of a novel mechanism of asexual development. Whereas the pipeline and the data sets produced can be used for further phylogenetic reconstructions in tunicates, the phylogeny provided here sets an evolutionary framework for future experimental studies on the emergence and disappearance of complex characters such as asexual propagation and whole body regeneration.
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Alexandre Alié, Laurel Hiebert, Paul Simion, Marta Scelzo, Maria Prünster, et al.. Convergent Acquisition of Nonembryonic Development in Styelid Ascidians. Molecular Biology and Evolution, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018, 35 (7), pp.1728 - 1743. ⟨10.1093/molbev/msy068⟩. ⟨hal-01879150⟩

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