Wnt signaling and induction in the sponge aquiferous system: evidence for an ancient origin of the organizer


*Author for correspondence (email: pwindsor@ualberta.ca)


SUMMARY The importance of polarity—the possession of a primary body axis—is evident in the functional features of animals, such as feeding, and therefore must have arisen simultaneously with the evolution of multicellular animal body plans. Sponges are thought to represent the most ancient extant lineage of multicellular animals and whereas adult sponges do not possess obvious polarity, they are useful study organisms in which to examine the origin and evolution of body polarity. We tested the effect of pharmacological agents known to disrupt the polarity of a wide variety of animals on sponge organization during development. Lithium chloride and alsterpaullone, which mimic canonical Wnt signaling in other animals, caused formation of ectopic oscula and disrupted the ability of the sponge to feed. Transplanted oscula were able to attach to and induce canal reorganization in host sponges suggesting that the osulum has inductive capabilities. This work suggests that canonical Wnt signaling is responsible for setting up the aquiferous system, which acts as an organizing center polarizing the sponge.