Carr, Martin, Leadbeater, Barry S.C. and Baldauf, Sandra L. (2010) Conserved Meiotic Genes Point to Sex in the Choanoflagellates. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, 57 (1). pp. 56-62. ISSN 10665234

The choanoflagellates are a widespread group of heterotrophic aquatic nanoflagellates, which have recently been confirmed as the sister-group to Metazoa. Asexual reproduction is the only mode of cell division that has been observed within the group; at present the range of reproductive modes, as well as the ploidy level, within choanoflagellates are unknown. The recent discovery of long terminal repeat retrotransposons within the genome of Monosiga brevicollis suggests that this species also has sexual stages in its life cycle because asexual organisms cannot tolerate retrotransposons due to the rapid accumulation of deleterious mutations caused by their transposition. We screened the M. brevicollis genome for known eukaryotic meiotic genes, using a recently established “meiosis detection toolkit” of 19 genes. Eighteen of these genes were identified, none of which appears to be a pseudogene. Four of the genes were also identified in expressed sequence tag data from the distantly related Monosiga ovata. The presence of these meiosis-specific genes provides evidence for meiosis, and by implication sex, within this important group of protists.

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