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Brown algae and land plants: the power of strength

Brown algae and land plants are two groups of multicellular organisms that have been evolving independently for over a billion years from a single cell common ancestor. Comparing brown algae and land plants therefore helps the understanding of the rules that guide how multicellular organisms evolve from single-celled ancestors.

The recently published work from Arun, Coelho et al. is based on the genetic analyses of two mutants of the brown alga Ectocarpus that produce gametophytes when the wild-type alga would have made sporophytes. The IPS2’s Translational Research Platform (EPITRANS) is pleased to have contributed to this work by helping to identify causal genes encoding TALE HD transcription factors.

This work demonstrates that TALE HD transcription factors were originally tasked with controlling life cycles, and then have been independently harnessed in both land plants and brown algae to govern the formation of sporophytes. This means that, regardless of lineage, the same fundamental forces may be shaping the evolutionary paths that lead to multicellular organisms. It now remains to be explored whether transcription factors similar to TALE HD regulate life cycles and developmental programs in other multicellular organisms, such as animals.

Convergent recruitment of TALE homeodomain life cycle regulators to direct sporophyte development in land plants and brown algae. Arun A, Coelho SM, Peters AF, Bourdareau S, Pérès L, Scornet D, Strittmatter M, Lipinska AP, Yao H, Godfroy O, Montecinos GJ, Avia K, Macaisne N, Troadec C, Bendahmane A, Cock JM

Elife. 2019 Jan 15;8. pii: e43101. doi: 10.7554/eLife.43101.