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In Search of the Molecular Signs of Sex in Amoebozoa

PI(s): Yonas Tekle (Spelman College (Atlanta,GA))
Start Date: 1-Sep-2014
End Date: 31-Oct-2014
Keywords: evolutionary genetics, life histories, systematics, database, phylogenetics

Microbial eukaryotes display diverse life histories ranging from simple to complex and often exhibit nonconventional behaviors. For centuries they have been considered primitive and omitted from discussions of the origins of some key cellular processes such as sexual reproduction. Recent studies including whole genome explorations demonstrate that microbes including amoeboids, the focus of this proposal, engage in sex or sex-like (parasexual) behavior. However, the exact mechanisms how microbes engage in sex leading to genetic exchange remains an enigma. This is mainly due to the diverse quality and limited knowledge of their life cycle. Over a dozen amoebozoans including the well-studied model organism cellular slime mold, Dictyostelium, are directly or indirectly implicated to have sexual reproductive stages, but all lack important details of sexual stages such as meiosis, which is usually assumed rather than observed. Most amoeboids are believed to undergo meiosis during cyst stage, which creates technical difficulty for live observation experiment. In this proposal available genomic and newly generated trascriptome data of ~10 amoebae representing major lineages within the Amoebozoa will be analyzed for molecular signatures of sex. Unraveling molecular signs of sex in these lineages will aid in our understanding of the diverse and cryptic nature of sexual behavior in microbial eukaryotes.