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Experimental evolution of multicellularity
William Ratcliff, R. Ford Denison, Mark Borrello and Michael Travisano
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 109, No. 5 (January 31, 2012), pp. 1595-1600
Published by: National Academy of Sciences
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41477144
Page Count: 6
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Multicellularity was one of the most significant innovations in the history of life, but its initial evolution remains poorly understood. Using experimental evolution, we show that key steps in this transition could have occurred quickly. We subjected the unicellular yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to an environment in which we expected multicellularity to be adaptive. We observed the rapid evolution of clustering genotypes that display a novel multicellular life history characterized by reproduction via multicellular propagules, a juvenile phase, and determinate growth. The multicellular clusters are uniclonal, minimizing within-cluster genetic conflicts of interest. Simple among< ell division of labor rapidly evolved. Early multicellular strains were composed of physiologically similar cells, but these subsequently evolved higher rates of programmed cell death (apoptosis), an adaptation that increases propagule production. These results show that key aspects of multicellular complexity, a subject of central importance to biology, can readily evolve from unicellular eukaryotes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America © 2012 National Academy of Sciences