Universal genome in the origin of metazoa: Thoughts about evolution

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Recent advances in paleontology, genome analysis, genetics and embryology raise a number of questions about the origin of Animal Kingdom. These questions include: (1) seemingly simultaneous appearance of diverse Metazoan phyla in Cambrian period, (2) similarities of genomes among Metazoan phyla of diverse complexity, (3) seemingly excessive complexity of genomes of lower taxons and (4) similar genetic switches of functionally similar but non-homologous developmental programs. Here I propose an experimentally testable hypothesis of Universal Genome that addresses these questions. According to this model, (a) the Universal Genome that encodes all major developmental programs essential for various phyla of Metazoa emerged in a unicellular or a primitive multicellular organism shortly before the Cambrian period; (b) The Metazoan phyla, all having similar genomes, are nonetheless so distinct because they utilize specific combinations of developmental programs. This model has two major predictions, first that a significant fraction of genetic information in lower taxons must be functionally useless but becomes useful in higher taxons, and second that one should be able to turn on in lower taxons some of the complex latent developmental programs, e.g., a program of eye development or antibody synthesis in sea urchin. An example of natural turning on of a complex latent program in a lower taxon is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1877
Number of pages5
JournalCell Cycle
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Darwinism
  • Development
  • Evolution
  • Genome


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