Striated muscles are present in bilaterian animals (for example, vertebrates, insects and annelids) and some non-bilaterian eumetazoans (that is, cnidarians and ctenophores). The considerable ultrastructural similarity of striated muscles between these animal groups is thought to reflect a common evolutionary origin1, 2. Here we show that a muscle protein core set, including a type II myosin heavy chain (MyHC) motor protein characteristic of striated muscles in vertebrates, was already present in unicellular organisms before the origin of multicellular animals. Furthermore, ‘striated muscle’ and ‘non-muscle’ myhc orthologues are expressed differentially in two sponges, compatible with a functional diversification before the origin of true muscles and the subsequent use of striated muscle MyHC in fast-contracting smooth and striated muscle. Cnidarians and ctenophores possess striated muscle myhc orthologues but lack crucial components of bilaterian striated muscles, such as genes that code for titin and the troponin complex, suggesting the convergent evolution of striated muscles. Consistently, jellyfish orthologues of a shared set of bilaterian Z-disc proteins are not associated with striated muscles, but are instead expressed elsewhere or ubiquitously. The independent evolution of eumetazoan striated muscles through the addition of new proteins to a pre-existing, ancestral contractile apparatus may serve as a model for the evolution of complex animal cell types.
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- Supplementary Information (16M)
This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-11 comprising: the evolutionary origin of muscle components (Supplementary Figure 1); supporting molecular phylogenies (Supplementary Figures 2 and 7) and protein domain analyses of muscle components (Supplementary Figure 8); SEM pictures of T. wilhelma apopyle cells (Supplementary Figure 4) and additional myhc (Supplementary Figures 3, 5, 6) and z-disc gene orthologs expression data (Supplementary Figures 9-11). Supplementary References are also included.
- Supplementary Table 1 (90K)
This Excel file contains accession numbers, gene model names, fully spelled species names and the sequences of DNA oligonucleotides used to clone genes.