Royal Society Publishing

Evolutionary relationships of Metazoa within the eukaryotes based on molecular data from Porifera

Joachim Schütze , Anatoli Krasko , Marcio Reis Custodio , Sofla M. Efremova , Isabel M. Müller , Werner E. G. Müller


Recent molecular data provide strong support for the view that all metazoan phyla, including Porifera, are of monophyletic origin. The relationship of Metazoa, including the Porifera, to Plantae, Fungi and unicellular eukaryotes has only rarely been studied by using cDNAs coding for proteins. Sequence data from rDNA suggested a relationship of Porifera to unicellular eukaryotes (choanoflagellates). However, ultrastructural studies of choanocytes did not support these findings. In the present study, we compared amino acid sequences that are found in a variety of metazoans (including sponges) with those of Plantae, Fungi and unicellular eukaryotes, to obtain an answer to this question. We used the four sequences from 70 kDa heat–shock proteins, the serine–threonine kinase domain found in protein kinases, β–tubulin and calmodulin. The latter two sequences were deduced from cDNAs, isolated from the sponge Geodia cydonium for the phylogenetic analyses presented. These revealed that the sponge molecules were grouped into the same branch as the Metazoa, which is statistically (significantly) separated from those branches that comprise the sequences from Fungi, Plantae and unicellular eukaryotes. From our molecular data it seems evident that the unicellular eukaryotes existed at an earlier stage of evolution, and the Plantae and especially the Fungi and the Metazoa only appeared later.