Mechano-biochemical marine stimulation of inversion, gastrulation, and endomesoderm specification in multicellular Eukaryota
The evolutionary emergence of the primitive gut in Metazoa is one of the decisive events that conditioned the major evolutionary transition, leading to the origin of animal development. It is thought to have been induced by the specification of the endomesoderm (EM) into the multicellular tissue and its invagination (i.e., gastrulation). However, the biochemical signals underlying the evolutionary emergence of EM specification and gastrulation remain unknown. Herein, we find that hydrodynamic mechanical strains, reminiscent of soft marine flow, trigger active tissue invagination/gastrulation or curvature reversal via a Myo-II-dependent mechanotransductive process in both the metazoan Nematostella vectensis (cnidaria) and the multicellular choanoflagellate Choanoeca flexa. In the latter, our data suggest that the curvature reversal is associated with a sensory-behavioral feeding response. Additionally, like in bilaterian animals, gastrulation in the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis is shown to participate in the biochemical specification of the EM through mechanical activation of the β-catenin pathway via the phosphorylation of Y654-βcatenin. Choanoflagellates are considered the closest living relative to metazoans, and the common ancestor of choanoflagellates and metazoans dates back at least 700 million years. Therefore, the present findings using these evolutionarily distant species suggest that the primitive emergence of the gut in Metazoa may have been initiated in response to marine mechanical stress already in multicellular pre-Metazoa. Then, the evolutionary transition may have been achieved by specifying the EM via a mechanosensitive Y654-βcatenin dependent mechanism, which appeared during early Metazoa evolution and is specifically conserved in all animals.