Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sodium channels evolved before animals' nervous systems

Date:
May 18, 2011
Source:
University of Texas at Austin
Summary:
An essential component of animal nervous systems -- sodium channels -- evolved prior to the evolution of those systems, researchers have discovered.

An essential component of animal nervous systems -- sodium channels -- evolved prior to the evolution of those systems, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have discovered.

"The first nervous systems appeared in jellyfish-like animals six hundred million years ago or so," says Harold Zakon, professor of neurobiology, "and it was thought that sodium channels evolved around that time. We have now discovered that sodium channels were around well before nervous systems evolved."

Zakon and his coauthors, Professor David Hillis and graduate student Benjamin Liebeskind, published their findings this week in PNAS.

Nervous systems and their component neuron cells were a key innovation in the evolution of animals, allowing for communication across vast distances between cells in the body and leading to sensory perception, behavior and the evolution of complex animal brains.

Sodium channels are an integral part of a neuron's complex machinery. The channels are like floodgates lodged throughout a neuron's levee-like cellular membrane. When the channels open, sodium floods through the membrane into the neuron, and this generates nerve impulses.

Zakon, Hillis and Liebeskind discovered the genes for such sodium channels hiding within an organism that isn't even made of multiple cells, much less any neurons. The single-celled organism is a choanoflagellate, and it is distantly related to multi-cellular animals such as jellyfish and humans.

The researchers then constructed evolutionary trees, or phylogenies, showing the relationship of those genes in the single-celled choanoflagellate to multi-cellular animals, including jellyfish, sponges, flies and humans.

Because the sodium channel genes were found in choanoflagellates, the scientists propose that the genes originated not only before the advent of the nervous system, but even before the evolution of multicellularity itself.

"These genes were then co-opted by the nervous systems evolving in multi-cellular animals," says Hillis, the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor in Natural Sciences. "This study shows how complex traits, such as the nervous system, can evolve gradually, often from parts that evolved for other purposes."

"Evolutionarily novel organs do not spring up from nowhere," adds Zakon, "but from pre-existing genes that were likely doing something else previously."

Liebeskind, a graduate student in the university's ecology, evolution and behavior program, is directing his next research efforts toward understanding what the sodium channels do in choanoflagellates.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. J. Liebeskind, D. M. Hillis, H. H. Zakon. Evolution of sodium channels predates the origin of nervous systems in animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1106363108

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Austin. "Sodium channels evolved before animals' nervous systems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517132644.htm>.
University of Texas at Austin. (2011, May 18). Sodium channels evolved before animals' nervous systems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517132644.htm
University of Texas at Austin. "Sodium channels evolved before animals' nervous systems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517132644.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins