Wits boffin finds clues to origins of life in algae

[Japan, USA] For decades scientists have tried to understand how and why this happened.

Now a Wits researcher and fellow scientists in Japan and the US have added to the understanding of this transformation.

“From worms to insects, the dinosaurs, grasses, flowering plants, hadedas and humans, you just have to look around and see the extraordinary forms of multicellular existence,” said Pierre Durand of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits.

“It has been difficult to explain how this occurred because it was not an easy thing to have happened,” he said.

After two years of research the team has identified the genes responsible for helping volvocine algae cells divide, an essential step needed for cells to transform into multicellular structures.

They sequenced the algae’s genome, which contains unicellular and multicellular forms and is thus an ideal source to study, according to Durand.

“There are many members of the volvocines with varying degrees of complexity, so it is possible to examine different stages on the road to multicellularity.

“We still don’t know most of the answers, but this project has certainly filled one of the gaps in our current understanding,” he said.

The research was published in Nature Communications.

 

Photo: They sequenced the algae’s genome, which contains unicellular and multicellular forms and is thus an ideal source to study, according to Durand. Image by: Reuters

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