Evolution of a novel cell type in Dictyostelia required gene duplication of a cudA-like transcription factor

Koryu Kin, Zhi-Hui Chen, Gillian Forbes, Pauline Schaap (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    2 Citations (Scopus)
    28 Downloads (Pure)


    The evolution of novel cell types has been proposed to result from duplication of gene regulatory networks, but proven examples are rare. In addition to stalk cells and spores that make up the fruiting bodies of three major groups of Dictyostelia, those in group 4 additionally evolved basal disc and cup cells that respectively anchor the stalk to the substratum and the spore mass to the stalk. We noted a putative group-4-specific duplication of a cudA-like transcription factor (TF) in a comparative analysis of group-representative genomes. Using increased taxon sampling, we here confirmed that this TF, cdl1, duplicated into cdl1a and cdl1b in the common ancestor to group 4. cdl1a, but not cdl1b, showed signatures of positive selection, indicative of functional innovation. Deletion of cdl1a in Dictyostelium discoideum resulted in fruiting bodies with sagging spore heads that lacked the supporting cup cells and expression of cup-specific genes. Deletion of cdl1b resulted in thinner fruiting body stalks, while a cdl1b−cdl1a− double knockout showed more severe stalk defects, suggesting an ancestral role of cdl1 in stalk formation. This was confirmed in a closely related non-group 4 species, Polysphondylium violaceum, where cdl1 knockout caused defective stalk formation. These data indicate that the group-specific duplication of cdl1 and subsequent diversification of cdl1a played a pivotal role in the evolution of a novel somatic cell type in group 4 Dictyostelia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)428-437.E4
    Number of pages14
    JournalCurrent Biology
    Issue number2
    Early online date8 Dec 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2022


    • Dictyostelia
    • Polysphondylia
    • RNA-seq
    • cell-type specialization
    • cup gene expression
    • evolution of soma
    • gene duplication
    • phylogenetics
    • stalk morphogenesis
    • transcription factor evolution

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Neuroscience
    • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
    • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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