Biologists Determine The Evolutionary Age Of Individual Cell Types Providing Critical Insights For Animal Development
Published:17 May2023    Source:The University of Hong Kong
A research team has recently made a significant discovery about the evolutionary age of different type of cells in a small animal called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). By using single-cell transcriptomic data and refined phylostratigraphy, the team determines the transcriptomic age of individual cells, which means they are able to estimate the evolutionary origin of different cells based on the age of the genes expressed in the cells.
Their findings shed light on the cellular basis of the 'hourglass' pattern of animal development, revealing significant variation in the transcriptome age of different cell types. “Using C. elegans as an example, we showcase how the transcriptome age at the single-cell level can provide insight into the cellular basis of developmental innovation and help understand the functional diversity and evolutionary origin of cell types, said Dr Fuqiang MA, a Postdoctoral Fellow of HKU School of Biological Sciences and the first author of the paper.
Dr Zheng, the supervisor of the research project, highlighted that 'this study serves as an example of using the cutting-edge single-cell transcriptomics to study old problems in evolutionary biology.' Dr Zheng envisions that the possibility of determining the evolutionary age of individual cell types at the transcriptome level can open up new research directions and advance our understanding of the genetic mechanisms that drive the evolution of species.