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    Division of labor and establishment of the spatial pattern of different cell types of multicellular organisms require cell type-specific transcription factor modules that control cellular phenotypes and proteins that mediate the interactions of cells with other cells. Recent studies indicate that, although constituent protein domains of numerous components of the genetic toolkit of the multicellular body plan of Metazoa were present in the unicellular ancestor of animals, the repertoire of multidomain proteins that are indispensable for the arrangement of distinct body parts in a reproducible manner evolved only in Metazoa. We have shown that the majority of the multidomain proteins involved in cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions of Metazoa have been assembled by exon shuffling, but there is no evidence for a similar role of exon shuffling in the evolution of proteins of metazoan transcription factor modules. A possible explanation for this difference in the intracellular and intercellular toolkits is that evolution of the transcription factor modules preceded the burst of exon shuffling that led to the creation of the proteins controlling spatial patterning in Metazoa. This explanation is in harmony with the temporal-to-spatial transition hypothesis of multicellularity that proposes that cell differentiation may have predated spatial segregation of cell types in animal ancestors.


    Laszlo Patthy. Exon Shuffling Played a Decisive Role in the Evolution of the Genetic Toolkit for the Multicellular Body Plan of Metazoa. Genes. 2021 Mar 08;12(3)

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    PMID: 33800339

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