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Germer, Juliane; Mann, Karlheinz; Wörheide, Gert ORCID: 0000-0002-6380-7421; Jackson, Daniel John (2015): The Skeleton Forming Proteome of an Early Branching Metazoan: A Molecular Survey of the Biomineralization Components Employed by the Coralline Sponge Vaceletia Sp.
In: PLOS ONE 10(11), e0140100


The ability to construct a mineralized skeleton was a major innovation for the Metazoa during their evolution in the late Precambrian/early Cambrian. Porifera (sponges) hold an informative position for efforts aimed at unraveling the origins of this ability because they are widely regarded to be the earliest branching metazoans, and are among the first multi-cellular animals to display the ability to biomineralize in the fossil record. Very few biomineralization associated proteins have been identified in sponges so far, with no transcriptome or proteome scale surveys yet available. In order to understand what genetic repertoire may have been present in the last common ancestor of the Metazoa (LCAM),and that may have contributed to the evolution of the ability to biocalcify, we have studied the skeletal proteome of the coralline demosponge Vaceletia sp. and compare this to other metazoan biomineralizing proteomes. We bring some spatial resolution to this analysis by dividing Vaceletia's aragonitic calcium carbonate skeleton into "head" and "stalk" regions. With our approach we were able to identify 40 proteins from both the head and stalk regions, with many of these sharing some similarity to previously identified gene products from other organisms. Among these proteins are known biomineralization compounds, such as carbonic anhydrase, spherulin, extracellular matrix proteins and very acidic proteins. This report provides the first proteome scale analysis of a calcified poriferan skeletal proteome, and its composition clearly demonstrates that the LCAM contributed several key enzymes and matrix proteins to its descendants that supported the metazoan ability to biocalcify. However, lineage specific evolution is also likely to have contributed significantly to the ability of disparate metazoan lineages to biocalcify.