Biology | Life Sciences
The advent of multicellularity was a watershed event in the history of life, yet the transition from unicellularity to multicellularity is not well understood. Multicellularity opens up opportunities for innovations in intercellular communication, cooperation, and specialization, which can provide selective advantages under certain ecological conditions. The unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has never had a multicellular ancestor yet it is closely related to the volvocine algae, a clade containing taxa that range from simple unicells to large, specialized multicellular colonies. Simple multicellular structures have been observed to evolve in C. reinhardtii in response to predation or to settling rate-based selection. Structures formed in response to predation consist of individual cells confined within a shared transparent extracellular matrix. Evolved isolates form such structures obligately under culture conditions in which their wild type ancestors do not, indicating that newly-evolved multicellularity is heritable. C. reinhardtii is capable of photosynthesis, and possesses an eyespot and two flagella with which it moves towards or away from light in order to optimize input of radiant energy. Motility contributes to C. reinhardtii fitness because it allows cells or colonies to achieve this optimum. Utilizing phototaxis to assay motility, we determined that newly evolved multicellular strains do not exhibit significant directional movement, even though the flagellae of their constituent unicells are present and active. In C. reinhardtii the first steps towards multicellularity in response to predation appear to result in a trade-off between motility and differential survivorship, a trade-off that must be overcome by further genetic change to ensure long-term success of the new multicellular organism.
© 2018 Boyd et al.
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Boyd, Margrethe; Rosenzweig, Frank; and Herron, Matthew D., "Analysis of motility in multicellular Chlamydomonas reinhardtii evolved under predation" (2018). Biological Sciences Faculty Publications. 431.