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Musser, Jacob M.; Schippers, Klaske J.; Nickel, Michael; Mizzon, Giulia; Kohn, Andrea B.; Pape, Constantin; Ronchi, Paolo; Papadopoulos, Nikolaos; Tarashansky, Alexander J.; Hammel, Jörg U.; Wolf, Florian; Liang, Cong; Hernandez-Plaza, Ana; Cantalapiedra, Carlos P.; Achim, Kaia; Schieber, Nicole L.; Pan, Leslie; Ruperti, Fabian; Francis, Warren R.; Vargas, Sergio; Kling, Svenja; Renkert, Maike; Polikarpov, Maxim; Bourenkov, Gleb; Feuda, Roberto; Gaspar, Imre; Burkhardt, Pawel; Wang, Bo; Bork, Peer; Beck, Martin; Schneider, Thomas R.; Kreshuk, Anna; Wörheide, Gert; Huerta-Cepas, Jaime; Schwab, Yannick; Moroz, Leonid L. and Arendt, Detlev (2021): Profiling cellular diversity in sponges informs animal cell type and nervous system evolution. In: Science, Vol. 374, No. 6568: pp. 717-723

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The evolutionary origin of metazoan cell types such as neurons and muscles is not known. Using whole-body single-cell RNA sequencing in a sponge, an animal without nervous system and musculature, we identified 18 distinct cell types. These include nitric oxide-sensitive contractile pinacocytes, amoeboid phagocytes, and secretory neuroid cells that reside in close contact with digestive choanocytes that express scaffolding and receptor proteins. Visualizing neuroid cells by correlative x-ray and electron microscopy revealed secretory vesicles and cellular projections enwrapping choanocyte microvilli and cilia. Our data show a communication system that is organized around sponge digestive chambers, using conserved modules that became incorporated into the pre- and postsynapse in the nervous systems of other animals.

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