Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
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Molecular Evolution and Genomics

Prof. Dr. Thomas Holstein

Publications last ten years

Holstein TW, Watanabe H, Ozbek S. (1. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2011;97:137-77.). Signaling pathways and axis formation in the lower metazoa. 1. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2011;97:137-77.
Abstract
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Nakamura Y, Tsiairis CD, Özbek S, Holstein TW. (2011). Autoregulatory and repressive inputs localize Hydra Wnt3 to the head organizer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.108(22):9137-42.
Abstract
Polarized Wnt signaling along the primary body axis is a conserved property of axial patterning in bilaterians and prebilaterians, and depends on localized sources of Wnt ligands. However, the mechanisms governing the localized Wnt expression that emerged early in evolution are poorly understood. Here we find in the cnidarian Hydra that two functionally distinct cis-regulatory elements control the head organizer-associated Hydra Wnt3 (HyWnt3). An autoregulatory element, which mediates direct inputs of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, highly activates HyWnt3 transcription in the head region. In contrast, a repressor element is necessary and sufficient to restrict the activity of the autoregulatory element, thereby allowing the organizer-specific expression. Our results reveal that a combination of autoregulation and repression is crucial for establishing a Wnt-expressing organizing center in a basal metazoan. We suggest that this transcriptional control is an evolutionarily old strategy in the formation of Wnt signaling centers and metazoan axial patterning.
Hwang JS, Takaku Y, Momose T, Adamczyk P, Özbek S, Ikeo K, Khalturin K, Hemmrich G, Bosch TC, Holstein TW, David CN, Gojobori T. (2010). Nematogalectin, a nematocyst protein with GlyXY and galectin domains, demonstrates nematocyte-specific alternative splicing in Hydra. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.107(43):18539-44.
Abstract
Taxonomically restricted genes or lineage-specific genes contribute to morphological diversification in metazoans and provide unique functions for particular taxa in adapting to specific environments. To understand how such genes arise and participate in morphological evolution, we have investigated a gene called nematogalectin in Hydra, which has a structural role in the formation of nematocysts, stinging organelles that are unique to the phylum Cnidaria. Nematogalectin is a 28-kDa protein with an N-terminal GlyXY domain (glycine followed by two hydrophobic amino acids), which can form a collagen triple helix, followed by a galactose-binding lectin domain. Alternative splicing of the nematogalectin transcript allows the gene to encode two proteins, nematogalectin A and nematogalectin B. We demonstrate that expression of nematogalectin A and B is mutually exclusive in different nematocyst types: Desmonemes express nematogalectin B, whereas stenoteles and isorhizas express nematogalectin B early in differentiation, followed by nematogalectin A. Like Hydra, the marine hydrozoan Clytia also has two nematogalectin transcripts, which are expressed in different nematocyte types. By comparison, anthozoans have only one nematogalectin gene. Gene phylogeny indicates that tandem duplication of nematogalectin B exons gave rise to nematogalectin A before the divergence of Anthozoa and Medusozoa and that nematogalectin A was subsequently lost in Anthozoa. The emergence of nematogalectin A may have played a role in the morphological diversification of nematocysts in the medusozoan lineage.
Holstein TW, Hess MW, Salvenmoser W. ( 4. Methods Cell Biol. 2010;96:285-306. ). Preparation techniques for transmission electron microscopy of Hydra. 4. Methods Cell Biol. 2010;96:285-306.
Abstract
Hydra is a classical model organism in developmental and cell biology with a simple body plan reminiscent of a gastrula with one body axis and a limited number of cell types. This rather simple organism exhibits a regeneration capacity that is unique among all eumetazoans and is largely dependent on the stem cell properties of its epithelial stem cell population. Molecular work in the past few years has revealed an unexpected genetic complexity of these simple animals, making them an interesting model for studying the generation of animal form and regeneration. In addition, Hydra has an interstitial stem cell system with a unique population of nematocytes, neuronal cells that are characterized by an explosive exocytotic discharge. Here, we compare classical and modern transmission electron microscopy (TEM) fixation protocols including protocols for TEM immunocytochemistry (post-embedding immunogold labeling). We presume that TEM studies will become an important tool to analyze cell-cell interactions as well as cell matrix interrelationships in Hydra in the future.
Pubmed 
Gurley KA, Elliott SA, Simakov O, Schmidt HA, Holstein TW, Sánchez Alvarado A. (2010). Expression of secreted Wnt pathway components reveals unexpected complexity of the planarian amputation response. Dev Biol.347(1):24-39.
Abstract
Regeneration is widespread throughout the animal kingdom, but our molecular understanding of this process in adult animals remains poorly understood. Wnt/β-catenin signaling plays crucial roles throughout animal life from early development to adulthood. In intact and regenerating planarians, the regulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling functions to maintain and specify anterior/posterior (A/P) identity. Here, we explore the expression kinetics and RNAi phenotypes for secreted members of the Wnt signaling pathway in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. Smed-wnt and sFRP expression during regeneration is surprisingly dynamic and reveals fundamental aspects of planarian biology that have been previously unappreciated. We show that after amputation, a wounding response precedes rapid re-organization of the A/P axis. Furthermore, cells throughout the body plan can mount this response and reassess their new A/P location in the complete absence of stem cells. While initial stages of the amputation response are stem cell independent, tissue remodeling and the integration of a new A/P address with anatomy are stem cell dependent. We also show that WNT5 functions in a reciprocal manner with SLIT to pattern the planarian mediolateral axis, while WNT11-2 patterns the posterior midline. Moreover, we perform an extensive phylogenetic analysis on the Smed-wnt genes using a method that combines and integrates both sequence and structural alignments, enabling us to place all nine genes into Wnt subfamilies for the first time.
Pubmed 
Adamczyk P, Zenkert C, Balasubramanian PG, Yamada S, Murakoshi S, Sugahara K, Hwang JS, Gojobori T, Holstein TW, Ozbek S. (2010). A non-sulfated chondroitin stabilizes membrane tubulation in cnidarian organelles. J Biol Chem.285(33):25613-23.
Abstract
Membrane tubulation is generally associated with rearrangements of the cytoskeleton and other cytoplasmic factors. Little is known about the contribution of extracellular matrix components to this process. Here, we demonstrate an essential role of proteoglycans in the tubulation of the cnidarian nematocyst vesicle. The morphogenesis of this extrusive organelle takes place inside a giant post-Golgi vesicle, which topologically represents extracellular space. This process includes the formation of a complex collagenous capsule structure that elongates into a long tubule, which invaginates after its completion. We show that a non-sulfated chondroitin appears as a scaffold in early morphogenesis of all nematocyst types in Hydra and Nematostella. It accompanies the tubulation of the vesicle membrane forming a provisional tubule structure, which after invagination matures by collagen incorporation. Inhibition of chondroitin synthesis by beta-xylosides arrests nematocyst morphogenesis at different stages of tubule outgrowth resulting in retention of tubule material and a depletion of mature capsules in the tentacles of hydra. Our data suggest a conserved role of proteoglycans in the stabilization of a membrane protrusion as an essential step in organelle morphogenesis.
Chapman JA, Kirkness EF, Simakov O, Hampson SE, Mitros T, Weinmaier T, Rattei T, Balasubramanian PG, Borman J, Busam D, Disbennett K, Pfannkoch C, Sumin N, Sutton GG, Viswanathan LD, Walenz B, Goodstein DM, Hellsten U, Kawashima T, Prochnik SE, Putnam NH, Shu S, Blumberg B, Dana CE, Gee L, Kibler DF, Law L, Lindgens D, Martinez DE, Peng J, Wigge PA, Bertulat B, Guder C, Nakamura Y, Ozbek S, Watanabe H, Khalturin K, Hemmrich G, Franke A, Augustin R, Fraune S, Hayakawa E, Hayakawa S, Hirose M, Hwang JS, Ikeo K, Nishimiya-Fujisawa C, Ogura A, Takahashi T, Steinmetz PR, Zhang X, Aufschnaiter R, Eder MK, Gorny AK, Salvenmoser W, Heimberg AM, Wheeler BM, Peterson KJ, Böttger A, Tischler P, Wolf A, Gojobori T, Remington KA, Strausberg RL, Venter JC, Technau U, Hobmayer B, Bosch TC, Holstein TW, Fujisawa T, Bode HR, David CN, Rokhsar DS, Steele RE. (2010). The dynamic genome of Hydra. Nature.464(7288):592-6.
Abstract
The freshwater cnidarian Hydra was first described in 1702 and has been the object of study for 300 years. Experimental studies of Hydra between 1736 and 1744 culminated in the discovery of asexual reproduction of an animal by budding, the first description of regeneration in an animal, and successful transplantation of tissue between animals. Today, Hydra is an important model for studies of axial patterning, stem cell biology and regeneration. Here we report the genome of Hydra magnipapillata and compare it to the genomes of the anthozoan Nematostella vectensis and other animals. The Hydra genome has been shaped by bursts of transposable element expansion, horizontal gene transfer, trans-splicing, and simplification of gene structure and gene content that parallel simplification of the Hydra life cycle. We also report the sequence of the genome of a novel bacterium stably associated with H. magnipapillata. Comparisons of the Hydra genome to the genomes of other animals shed light on the evolution of epithelia, contractile tissues, developmentally regulated transcription factors, the Spemann-Mangold organizer, pluripotency genes and the neuromuscular junction.
Dürrnagel S, Kuhn A, Tsiairis CD, Williamson M, Kalbacher H, Grimmelikhuijzen CJ, Holstein TW, Gründer S. (2010). Three homologous subunits form a high affinity peptide-gated ion channel in Hydra. J Biol Chem.285(16):11958-65.
Abstract
Recently, three ion channel subunits of the degenerin (DEG)/epithelial Na(+) channel (ENaC) gene family have been cloned from the freshwater polyp Hydra magnipapillata, the Hydra Na(+) channels (HyNaCs) 2-4. Two of them, HyNaC2 and HyNaC3, co-assemble to form an ion channel that is gated by the neuropeptides Hydra-RFamides I and II. The HyNaC2/3 channel is so far the only cloned ionotropic receptor from cnidarians and, together with the related ionotropic receptor FMRFamide-activated Na(+) channel (FaNaC) from snails, the only known peptide-gated ionotropic receptor. The HyNaC2/3 channel has pore properties, like a low Na(+) selectivity and a low amiloride affinity, that are different from other channels of the DEG/ENaC gene family, suggesting that a component of the native Hydra channel might still be lacking. Here, we report the cloning of a new ion channel subunit from Hydra, HyNaC5. The new subunit is closely related to HyNaC2 and -3 and co-localizes with HyNaC2 and -3 to the base of the tentacles. Coexpression in Xenopus oocytes of HyNaC5 with HyNaC2 and -3 largely increases current amplitude after peptide stimulation and affinity of the channel to Hydra-RFamides I and II. Moreover, the HyNaC2/3/5 channel has altered pore properties and amiloride affinity, more similarly to other DEG/ENaC channels. Collectively, our results suggest that the three homologous subunits HyNaC2, -3, and -5 form a peptide-gated ion channel in Hydra that could contribute to fast synaptic transmission.
Watanabe H, Hoang VT, Mättner R, Holstein TW. (2009). Immortality and the base of multicellular life: Lessons from cnidarian stem cells. Semin Cell Dev Biol.20(9):1114-25.
Abstract
Cnidarians are phylogenetically basal members of the animal kingdom (>600 million years old). Together with plants they share some remarkable features that cannot be found in higher animals. Cnidarians and plants exhibit an almost unlimited regeneration capacity and immortality. Immortality can be ascribed to the asexual mode of reproduction that requires cells with an unlimited self-renewal capacity. We propose that the basic properties of animal stem cells are tightly linked to this archaic mode of reproduction. The cnidarian stem cells can give rise to a number of differentiated cell types including neuronal and germ cells. The genomes of Hydra and Nematostella, representatives of two major cnidarian classes indicate a surprising complexity of both genomes, which is in the range of vertebrates. Recent work indicates that highly conserved signalling pathways control Hydra stem cell differentiation. Furthermore, the availability of genomic resources and novel technologies provide approaches to analyse these cells in vivo. Studies of stem cells in cnidarians will therefore open important insights into the basic mechanisms of stem cell biology. Their critical phylogenetic position at the base of the metazoan branch in the tree of life makes them an important link in unravelling the common mechanisms of stem cell biology between animals and plants.
Watanabe H, Fujisawa T, Holstein TW. (2009). Cnidarians and the evolutionary origin of the nervous system. Dev Growth Differ.51(3):167-83.
Abstract
Cnidarians are widely regarded as one of the first organisms in animal evolution possessing a nervous system. Conventional histological and electrophysiological studies have revealed a considerable degree of complexity of the cnidarian nervous system. Thanks to expressed sequence tags and genome projects and the availability of functional assay systems in cnidarians, this simple nervous system is now genetically accessible and becomes particularly valuable for understanding the origin and evolution of the genetic control mechanisms underlying its development. In the present review, the anatomical and physiological features of the cnidarian nervous system and the interesting parallels in neurodevelopmental mechanisms between Cnidaria and Bilateria are discussed.
Ozbek S, Balasubramanian PG, Holstein TW. (2009). Cnidocyst structure and the biomechanics of discharge. Toxicon.54(8):1038-45.
Abstract
The cnidocyst is the defining organelle of the cnidarians, used for capture of prey and defense. It consists of a cylindrical capsule, which releases a long tubule upon triggering. Cnidocysts develop inside a giant post-Golgi vesicle by a sequential accumulation of proteins from the Golgi apparatus. Traditionally three types of cnidocysts are distinguished: nematocysts, spirocysts, and ptychocysts. Here we focus on nematocysts, the prototypic cnidocyst and by far most diverse group of cnidocysts in this phylum. The mature nematocyst capsule comprises a collagenous polymer with remarkable biophysical properties, able to withstand an osmotic pressure of 150 bar. Release of the capsule and discharge is probably initiated by classical exocytosis. High-speed studies revealed the kinetics of discharge to be as short as 700 ns, generating an acceleration of 5,400,000 x g and a pressure of 7.7 GPa at the site of impact of the spines onto the prey. Thus nematocysts comprise a powerful molecular spring mechanism releasing energy stored in the wall polymer in the nanosecond time range. During the last few years, genomic, biochemical and structural studies have helped to unravel the molecular composition of the nematocyst supra-structure. Here we summarize these findings and present an integrative view of mechanical and molecular aspects that have shaped the nematocyst during evolution.
Philipp I, Aufschnaiter R, Ozbek S, Pontasch S, Jenewein M, Watanabe H, Rentzsch F, Holstein TW, Hobmayer B. (2009). Wnt/beta-catenin and noncanonical Wnt signaling interact in tissue evagination in the simple eumetazoan Hydra. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.106(11):4290-5.
Abstract
In and evaginations of 2D cell sheets are major shape generating processes in animal development. They result from directed movement and intercalation of polarized cells associated with cell shape changes. Work on several bilaterian model organisms has emphasized the role of noncanonical Wnt signaling in cell polarization and movement. However, the molecular processes responsible for generating tissue and body shape in ancestral, prebilaterian animals are unknown. We show that noncanonical Wnt signaling acts in mass tissue movements during bud and tentacle evagination and regeneration in the cnidarian polyp Hydra. The wnt5, wnt8, frizzled2 (fz2), and dishevelled-expressing cell clusters define the positions, where bud and tentacle evaginations are initiated; wnt8, fz2, and dishevelled remain up-regulated in those epithelial cells, undergoing cell shape changes during the entire evagination process. Downstream of wnt and dsh expression, JNK activity is required for the evagination process. Multiple ectopic wnt5, wnt8, fz2, and dishevelled-expressing centers and the subsequent evagination of ectopic tentacles are induced throughout the body column by activation of Wnt/beta-Catenin signaling. Our results indicate that integration of axial patterning and tissue morphogenesis by the coordinated action of canonical and noncanonical Wnt pathways was crucial for the evolution of eumetazoan body plans.
Lengfeld T, Watanabe H, Simakov O, Lindgens D, Gee L, Law L, Schmidt HA, Ozbek S, Bode H, Holstein TW. (2009). Multiple Wnts are involved in Hydra organizer formation and regeneration. Dev Biol.330(1):186-99.
Abstract
Wnt genes and beta-catenin signaling are involved in axial patterning processes in vertebrate embryogenesis in setting up the Spemann-Mangold organizer in amphibian embryos. An organizer with a similar function is present in the hypostome of an adult Hydra polyp. Previously, a Hydra ortholog of Wnt3 (HyWnt3), which is expressed in the hypostome, has been described. Here, ten additional Hydra Wnt genes have been identified. Of these, six (HyWnt1, -7, -9/10a, -9/10c, -11, and -16) are expressed in the adult hypostome. And, as is HyWnt3, these six Wnt genes are also expressed when a new head organizer is formed during head regeneration and bud formation. The kinetics of Wnt gene expressions during head regeneration suggests that a cascade of consecutive Wnt activation accompanies regeneration, and HyWnt3 begins this cascade. Recombinant HyWnt3 protein induced body column tissue to undergo head formation. It also increased the head formation capacity in the head regeneration-deficient mutant strain reg-16 to that of wild-type strains. In addition our data reveal striking similarities in the molecular basis of the organizer in Hydra and axis polarization in chordates (e.g. Spemann's organizer) as well as it's role in regeneration suggesting a conserved function of Wnt signaling in setting up this ancient metazoan signaling center.
Wheeler BM, Heimberg AM, Moy VN, Sperling EA, Holstein TW, Heber S, Peterson KJ. (2009). The deep evolution of metazoan microRNAs. Evol Dev.11(1):50-68.
Abstract
microRNAs (miRNAs) are approximately 22-nucleotide noncoding RNA regulatory genes that are key players in cellular differentiation and homeostasis. They might also play important roles in shaping metazoan macroevolution. Previous studies have shown that miRNAs are continuously being added to metazoan genomes through time, and, once integrated into gene regulatory networks, show only rare mutations within the primary sequence of the mature gene product and are only rarely secondarily lost. However, because the conclusions from these studies were largely based on phylogenetic conservation of miRNAs between model systems like Drosophila and the taxon of interest, it was unclear if these trends would describe most miRNAs in most metazoan taxa. Here, we describe the shared complement of miRNAs among 18 animal species using a combination of 454 sequencing of small RNA libraries with genomic searches. We show that the evolutionary trends elucidated from the model systems are generally true for all miRNA families and metazoan taxa explored: the continuous addition of miRNA families with only rare substitutions to the mature sequence, and only rare instances of secondary loss. Despite this conservation, we document evolutionary stable shifts to the determination of position 1 of the mature sequence, a phenomenon we call seed shifting, as well as the ability to post-transcriptionally edit the 5' end of the mature read, changing the identity of the seed sequence and possibly the repertoire of downstream targets. Finally, we describe a novel type of miRNA in demosponges that, although shows a different pre-miRNA structure, still shows remarkable conservation of the mature sequence in the two sponge species analyzed. We propose that miRNAs might be excellent phylogenetic markers, and suggest that the advent of morphological complexity might have its roots in miRNA innovation.
Bode H, Lengfeld T, Hobmayer B, Holstein TW. ( 15. Methods Mol Biol. 2008;469:69-84. ). Detection of expression patterns in Hydra pattern formation. 15. Methods Mol Biol. 2008;469:69-84.
Abstract
Cnidarians are simple metazoans with only two body layers and a primitive nervous system. They are famous for their nearly indefinite regeneration capacity. Recent work has identified most of the Wnt subfamilies and Wnt antagonists known from vertebrates in this basal animal model. Wnt signaling and BMP signaling have been shown to act in Hydra pattern formation and regeneration. Because recent genomic work in Hydra and Nematostella revealed many genes for vertebrate signaling pathways and transcription factors to be present in this more than 500 Myr-year-old phylum, future work will focus on the function and expression of these genes in Hydra pattern formation and regeneration. This chapter presents an in situ hybridization protocol, which is largely based on a lab protocol of the Bode lab that has proven to be extremely useful in the characterization of many developmental genes from Hydra.
Holstein TW. ( 16. Methods Mol Biol. 2008;469:47-54. ). Wnt signaling in cnidarians. 16. Methods Mol Biol. 2008;469:47-54.
Abstract
Cnidarians are an ancient group of animals at the base of metazoan evolution. They exhibit a simple body plan with only one well-defined body axis and a small number of cell types. Cnidarians are also well known for their enormous regeneration capacity. Recent work in the freshwater polyp Hydra and in the sea anemone Nematostella has identified an unexpectedly high level of genetic complexity of wnt genes. Canonical Wnt signaling acts in pattern formation and regeneration of Hydra and also in gastrulation and early embryogenesis of Nematostella. Vertebrate-specific Wnt-antagonists were also identified from cnidarians and exhibit similar conserved functions. The simple cnidarian body plan and the now available genomes from Hydra and Nematostella, together with new functional approaches, make these animals an attractive model for studying the basic functions of canonical and non-canonical Wnt signaling.
David CN, Ozbek S, Adamczyk P, Meier S, Pauly B, Chapman J, Hwang JS, Gojobori T, Holstein TW. (2008). Evolution of complex structures: minicollagens shape the cnidarian nematocyst. Trends Genet.24(9):431-8.
Abstract
The generation of biological complexity by the acquisition of novel modular units is an emerging concept in evolutionary dynamics. Here, we review the coordinate evolution of cnidarian nematocysts, secretory organelles used for capture of prey, and of minicollagens, proteins constituting the nematocyst capsule. Within the Cnidaria there is an increase in nematocyst complexity from Anthozoa to Medusozoa and a parallel increase in the number and complexity of minicollagen proteins. This complexity is primarily manifest in a diversification of N- and C-terminal cysteine-rich domains (CRDs) involved in minicollagen polymerization. We hypothesize that novel CRD motifs alter minicollagen networks, leading to novel capsule structures and nematocyst types.
Adamczyk P, Meier S, Gross T, Hobmayer B, Grzesiek S, Bächinger HP, Holstein TW, Ozbek S. (2007). Minicollagen-15, a novel minicollagen isolated from Hydra, forms tubule structures in nematocysts. J Mol Biol.376(4):1008-20.
Abstract
Minicollagens constitute a family of unusually short collagen molecules isolated from cnidarians. They are restricted to the nematocyst, a cylindrical explosive organelle serving in defense and capture of prey. The nematocyst capsule contains a long tubule inside of its matrix, which is expelled and everted during an ultrafast discharge process. Here, we report the cloning and characterization of a novel minicollagen in Hydra, designated minicollagen-15 (NCol-15). NCol-15, like NCol-3 and NCol-4, shows deviations from the canonical cysteine pattern in its terminal cysteine-rich domains (CRDs). Minicollagens share common domain architectures with a central collagen sequence flanked by polyproline stretches and short N- and C-terminal CRDs. The CRDs are involved in the formation of a highly resistant cysteine network, which constitutes the basic structure of the nematocyst capsule. Unlike NCol-1, which is part of the capsule wall, NCol-15 is localized to tubules, arguing for a functional differentiation of minicollagens within the nematocyst architecture. NMR analysis of the altered C-terminal CRD of NCol-15 showed a novel disulfide-linked structure within the cysteine-containing region exhibiting similar folding kinetics and stability as the canonical CRDs. Our data provide evidence for evolutionary diversification among minicollagens, which probably facilitated alterations in the morphology of the nematocyst wall and tubule.
Golubovic A, Kuhn A, Williamson M, Kalbacher H, Holstein TW, Grimmelikhuijzen CJ, Gründer S. (2007). A peptide-gated ion channel from the freshwater polyp Hydra. J Biol Chem.282(48):35098-103.
Abstract
Chemical transmitters are either low molecular weight molecules or neuropeptides. As a general rule, neuropeptides activate only slow metabotropic receptors. To date, only one exception to this rule is known, the FMRFamide-activated Na(+) channel (FaNaC) from snails. Until now FaNaC has been regarded as a curiosity, and it was not known whether peptide-gated ionotropic receptors are also present in other animal groups. Nervous systems first evolved in cnidarians, which extensively use neuropeptides. Here we report cloning from the freshwater cnidarian Hydra of a novel ion channel (Hydra sodium channel, HyNaC) that is directly gated by the neuropeptides Hydra-RFamides I and II and is related to FaNaC. The cells expressing HyNaC localize to the base of the tentacles, adjacent to the neurons producing the Hydra-RFamides, suggesting that the peptides are the natural ligands for this channel. Our results suggest that neuropeptides were already used for fast transmission in ancient nervous systems.
Meier S, Jensen PR, Adamczyk P, Bächinger HP, Holstein TW, Engel J, Ozbek S, Grzesiek S. (2007). Sequence-structure and structure-function analysis in cysteine-rich domains forming the ultrastable nematocyst wall. J Mol Biol.368(3):718-28.
Abstract
The nematocyst wall of cnidarians is a unique biomaterial that withstands extreme osmotic pressures, allowing an ultrafast discharge of the nematocyst capsules. Assembly of the highly robust nematocyst wall is achieved by covalent linkage of cysteine-rich domains (CRDs) from two main protein components, minicollagens and nematocyst outer wall antigen (NOWA). The bipolar minicollagens have different disulfide patterns and topologies in their N and C-terminal CRDs. The functional significance of this polarity has been elusive. Here, we show by NMR structural analysis that all representative cysteine-rich domains of NOWA are structurally related to N-terminal minicollagen domains. Natural sequence insertions in NOWA CRDs have very little effect on the tightly knit domain structures, nor do they preclude the efficient folding to a single native conformation. The different folds in NOWA CRDs and the atypical C-terminal minicollagen domain on the other hand can be directly related to different conformational preferences in the reduced states. Ultrastructural analysis in conjunction with aggregation studies argues for an association between the similar NOWA and N-terminal minicollagen domains in early stages of the nematocyst wall assembly, which is followed by the controlled association between the unusual structures of C-terminal minicollagen domains.
Rentzsch F, Guder C, Vocke D, Hobmayer B, Holstein TW. (2007). An ancient chordin-like gene in organizer formation of Hydra. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.104(9):3249-54.
Abstract
Signaling centers or organizers play a key role in axial patterning processes in animal embryogenesis. The function of most vertebrate organizers involves the activity of secreted antagonists of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) such as Chordin or Noggin. Although BMP homologs have been isolated from many phyla, the evolutionary origin of the antagonistic BMP/Chordin system in organizer signaling is presently unknown. Here we describe a Chordin-like molecule (HyChdl) from Hydra that inhibits BMP activity in zebrafish embryos and acts in Hydra axis formation when new head organizers are formed during budding and regeneration. hychdl transcripts are also up-regulated in the head regeneration-deficient mutant strain reg-16. Accordingly, HyChdl has a function in organizer formation, but not in head differentiation. Our data indicate that the BMP/Chordin antagonism is a basic property of metazoan signaling centers that was invented in early metazoan evolution to set up axial polarity.
Meier S, Jensen PR, David CN, Chapman J, Holstein TW, Grzesiek S, Ozbek S. (2007). Continuous molecular evolution of protein-domain structures by single amino acid changes. Curr Biol.17(2):173-8.
Abstract
Comment in Curr Biol. 2007 Jan 23;17(2):R48-50.
Pubmed 
Guder C, Philipp I, Lengfeld T, Watanabe H, Hobmayer B, Holstein TW. (2006). The Wnt code: cnidarians signal the way. Oncogene.25(57):7450-60.
Abstract
Cnidarians are the simplest metazoans with a nervous system. They are well known for their regeneration capacity, which is based on the restoration of a signalling centre (organizer). Recent work has identified the canonical Wnt pathway in the freshwater polyp Hydra, where it acts in organizer formation and regeneration. Wnt signalling is also essential for cnidarian embryogenesis. In the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis 11 of the 12 known wnt gene subfamilies were identified. Different wnt genes exhibit serial and overlapping expression domains along the oral-aboral axis of the embryo (the 'wnt code'). This is reminiscent of the hox code (cluster) in bilaterian embryogenesis that is, however, absent in cnidarians. It is proposed that the common ancestor of cnidarians and bilaterians invented a set of wnt genes that patterned the ancient main body axis. Major antagonists of Wnt ligands (e.g. Dkk 1/2/4) that were previously known only from chordates, are also present in cnidarians and exhibit a similar conserved function. The unexpectedly high level of genetic complexity of wnt genes evolved in early multi-cellular animals about 650 Myr ago and suggests a radical expansion of the genetic repertoire, concurrent with the evolution of multi-cellularity and the diversification of eumetazoan body plans.
Rentzsch F, Anton R, Saina M, Hammerschmidt M, Holstein TW, Technau U. (2006). Asymmetric expression of the BMP antagonists chordin and gremlin in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis: implications for the evolution of axial patterning. Dev Biol.296(2):375-87.
Abstract
The evolutionary origin of the anterior-posterior and the dorsoventral body axes of Bilateria is a long-standing question. It is unclear how the main body axis of Cnidaria, the sister group to the Bilateria, is related to the two body axes of Bilateria. The conserved antagonism between two secreted factors, BMP2/4 (Dpp in Drosophila) and its antagonist Chordin (Short gastrulation in Drosophila) is a crucial component in the establishment of the dorsoventral body axis of Bilateria and could therefore provide important insight into the evolutionary origin of bilaterian axes. Here, we cloned and characterized two BMP ligands, dpp and GDF5-like as well as two secreted antagonists, chordin and gremlin, from the basal cnidarian Nematostella vectensis. Injection experiments in zebrafish show that the ventralizing activity of NvDpp mRNA is counteracted by NvGremlin and NvChordin, suggesting that Gremlin and Chordin proteins can function as endogenous antagonists of NvDpp. Expression analysis during embryonic and larval development of Nematostella reveals asymmetric expression of all four genes along both the oral-aboral body axis and along an axis perpendicular to this one, the directive axis. Unexpectedly, NvDpp and NvChordin show complex and overlapping expression on the same side of the embryo, whereas NvGDF5-like and NvGremlin are both expressed on the opposite side. Yet, the two pairs of ligands and antagonists only partially overlap, suggesting complex gradients of BMP activity along the directive axis but also along the oral-aboral axis. We conclude that a molecular interaction between BMP-like molecules and their secreted antagonists was already employed in the common ancestor of Cnidaria and Bilateria to create axial asymmetries, but that there is no simple relationship between the oral-aboral body axis of Nematostella and one particular body axis of Bilateria.
Hellstern S, Stetefeld J, Fauser C, Lustig A, Engel J, Holstein TW, Ozbek S. (2006). Structure/function analysis of spinalin, a spine protein of Hydra nematocysts. FEBS J.273(14):3230-7.
Abstract
The nematocyst capsules of the cnidarians are specialized explosive organelles that withstand high osmotic pressures of approximately 15 MPa (150 bar). A tight disulfide network involving cysteine-rich capsule wall proteins, like minicollagens and nematocyst outer wall antigen, characterizes their molecular composition. Nematocyst discharge leads to the expulsion of a long inverted tubule that was coiled inside the capsule matrix before activation. Spinalin has been characterized as a glycine-rich, histidine-rich protein associated with spine structures on the surface of everted tubules. Here, we show that full-length Hydra spinalin can be expressed recombinantly in HEK293 cells and has the property to form disulfide-linked oligomers, reflecting its state in mature capsules. Furthermore, spinalin showed a high tendency to associate into dimers in vitro and in vivo. Our data, which show incomplete disulfide connectivity in recombinant spinalin, suggest a possible mechanism by which the spine structure may be linked to the overall capsule polymer.
Nüchter T, Benoit M, Engel U, Ozbek S, Holstein TW. (2006). Nanosecond-scale kinetics of nematocyst discharge. Curr Biol.16(9):R316-8.
Abstract
Guder C, Pinho S, Nacak TG, Schmidt HA, Hobmayer B, Niehrs C, Holstein TW. (2006). An ancient Wnt-Dickkopf antagonism in Hydra. Development.133(5):901-11.
Abstract
The dickkopf (dkk) gene family encodes secreted antagonists of Wnt signalling proteins, which have important functions in the control of cell fate, proliferation, and cell polarity during development. Here, we report the isolation, from a regeneration-specific signal peptide screen, of a novel dickkopf gene from the fresh water cnidarian Hydra. Comparative sequence analysis demonstrates that the Wnt antagonistic subfamily Dkk1/Dkk2/Dkk4 and the non-modulating subfamily Dkk3 separated prior to the divergence of cnidarians and bilaterians. In steady-state Hydra, hydkk1/2/4-expression is inversely related to that of hywnt3a. hydkk1/2/4 is an early injury and regeneration responsive gene, and hydkk1/2/4-expressing gland cells are essential for head regeneration in Hydra, although once the head has regenerated they are excluded from it. Activation of Wnt/beta-Catenin signalling leads to the complete downregulation of hydkk1/2/4 transcripts. When overexpressed in Xenopus, HyDkk1/2/4 has similar Wnt-antagonizing activity to the Xenopus gene Dkk1. Based on the corresponding expression patterns of hydkk1/2/4 and neuronal genes, we suggest that the body column of Hydra is a neurogenic environment suppressing Wnt signalling and facilitating neurogenesis.
Technau U, Rudd S, Maxwell P, Gordon PM, Saina M, Grasso LC, Hayward DC, Sensen CW, Saint R, Holstein TW, Ball EE, Miller DJ. (2005). Maintenance of ancestral complexity and non-metazoan genes in two basal cnidarians. Trends Genet.21(12):633-9.
Abstract
Cnidarians are among the simplest extant animals; however EST analyses reveal that they have a remarkably high level of genetic complexity. In this article, we show that the full diversity of metazoan signaling pathways is represented in this phylum, as are antagonists previously known only in chordates. Many of the cnidarian ESTs match genes previously known only in non-animal kingdoms. At least some of these represent ancient genes lost by all bilaterians examined so far, rather than genes gained by recent lateral gene transfer.
Philipp I, Holstein TW, Hobmayer B. (2005). HvJNK, a Hydra member of the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase gene family, is expressed during nematocyte differentiation. Gene Expr Patterns.5(3):397-402.
Abstract
C-jun NH(2)-terminal kinases (JNKs) represent a subgroup of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). MAPK pathways are important regulators of cell proliferation, apoptosis, and gene expression throughout higher metazoans. We report here the characterization of a highly conserved Hydra JNK orthologue (HvJNK) that exhibits amino acid sequence identity of 61% as compared with human JNK1alpha. Phylogenetic analysis places HvJNK in a cluster with other metazoan JNKs. HvJNK is expressed in the nematocyte differentiation pathway. Double in situ hybridizations demonstrate overlapping expression with two other genes specifically activated during nematocyte differentiation, HyZic and Nowa, and restrict the phase of HvJNK expression to late proliferating nematoblasts and early differentiating nematocytes. Our results indicate that JNKs might have acted in cell differentiation in simple, pre-bilaterian animals.
Kusserow A, Pang K, Sturm C, Hrouda M, Lentfer J, Schmidt HA, Technau U, von Haeseler A, Hobmayer B, Martindale MQ, Holstein TW. (2005). Unexpected complexity of the Wnt gene family in a sea anemone. Nature.433(7022):156-60.
Abstract
The Wnt gene family encodes secreted signalling molecules that control cell fate in animal development and human diseases. Despite its significance, the evolution of this metazoan-specific protein family is unclear. In vertebrates, twelve Wnt subfamilies were defined, of which only six have counterparts in Ecdysozoa (for example, Drosophila and Caenorhabditis). Here, we report the isolation of twelve Wnt genes from the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, a species representing the basal group within cnidarians. Cnidarians are diploblastic animals and the sister-group to bilaterian metazoans. Phylogenetic analyses of N. vectensis Wnt genes reveal a thus far unpredicted ancestral diversity within the Wnt family. Cnidarians and bilaterians have at least eleven of the twelve known Wnt gene subfamilies in common; five subfamilies appear to be lost in the protostome lineage. Expression patterns of Wnt genes during N. vectensis embryogenesis indicate distinct roles of Wnts in gastrulation, resulting in serial overlapping expression domains along the primary axis of the planula larva. This unexpectedly complex inventory of Wnt family signalling factors evolved in early multi-cellular animals about 650 million years (Myr) ago, predating the Cambrian explosion by at least 100 Myr (refs 5, 8). It emphasizes the crucial function of Wnt genes in the diversification of eumetazoan body plans.
Rentzsch F, Hobmayer B, Holstein TW. (2005). Glycogen synthase kinase 3 has a proapoptotic function in Hydra gametogenesis. Dev Biol.278(1):1-12.
Abstract
In an approach to study the evolutionary conservation of molecules of the Wnt signal transduction pathway, we analyzed the function of the major negative regulator of this pathway, GSK3 (glycogen synthase kinase 3), in the basal metazoan Hydra. Microinjection assays reveal that HyGSK3 inhibits beta-catenin in zebrafish embryos, indicating that the function of GSK3 in the canonical Wnt signaling pathway is evolutionarily conserved. In Hydra, HyGSK3 transcripts are strongly upregulated during gametogenesis. Treatment of female polyps with the GSK3 inhibitors lithium and alsterpaullone prevents the differentiation of nurse cells and subsequent oocyte formation. Our data indicate that GSK3 is required for the early induction of apoptosis in germline cells, which has been shown to be an initial step in Hydra gametogenesis. Our experiments show that main functions of GSK3 are evolutionarily conserved and unique to multicellular animals, a conclusion which is additionally supported by the presence of specific regulatory domains in the HyGSK3 protein.
Ozbek S, Pokidysheva E, Schwager M, Schulthess T, Tariq N, Barth D, Milbradt AG, Moroder L, Engel J, Holstein TW. (2004). The glycoprotein NOWA and minicollagens are part of a disulfide-linked polymer that forms the cnidarian nematocyst wall. J Biol Chem.279(50):52016-23.
Abstract
The nematocyst is a unique extrusive organelle involved in the defense and capture of prey in cnidarians. Minicollagens and the glycoprotein NOWA are major components of the nematocyst capsule wall, which resists osmotic pressure of 15 MPa. Here we present the recombinant expression of NOWA, which spontaneously assembles to globular macromolecular particles that are sensitive to reduction as the native wall structure. Ultra-structural analysis showed that the Hydra nematocyst wall is composed of several layers of globular particles, which are interconnected via radiating rodlike protrusions. Evidence is presented that native wall particles contain NOWA and minicollagen, supposed to be linked via disulfide bonds between their homologous cysteine-rich domains. Our data suggest a continuous suprastructure of the nematocyst wall, assembled from wall proteins that share a common oligomerization motif.
Pokidysheva E, Milbradt AG, Meier S, Renner C, Häussinger D, Bächinger HP, Moroder L, Grzesiek S, Holstein TW, Ozbek S, Engel J. (2004). The structure of the Cys-rich terminal domain of Hydra minicollagen, which is involved in disulfide networks of the nematocyst wall. J Biol Chem.279(29):30395-401.
Abstract
The minicollagens found in the nematocysts of Hydra constitute a family of invertebrate collagens with unusual properties. They share a common modular architecture with a central collagen sequence ranging from 14 to 16 Gly-X-Y repeats flanked by polyproline/hydroxyproline stretches and short terminal domains that show a conserved cysteine pattern (CXXXCXXXCXXX-CXXXCC). The minicollagen cysteine-rich domains are believed to function in a switch of the disulfide connectivity from intra- to intermolecular bonds during maturation of the capsule wall. The solution structure of the C-terminal fragment including a minicollagen cysteine-rich domain of minicollagen-1 was determined in two independent groups by 1H NMR. The corresponding peptide comprising the last 24 residues of the molecule was produced synthetically and refolded by oxidation under low protein concentrations. Both presented structures are identical in their fold and disulfide connections (Cys2-Cys18, Cys6-Cys14, and Cys10-Cys19) revealing a robust structural motif that is supposed to serve as the polymerization module of the nematocyst capsule.
Lindgens D, Holstein TW, Technau U. (2004). Hyzic, the Hydra homolog of the zic/odd-paired gene, is involved in the early specification of the sensory nematocytes. Development.131(1):191-201.
Abstract
Cnidaria are the first class of organisms in animal evolution with a nervous system. The cnidarian Hydra has two types of neuronal cell, nerve cells and nematocytes. Both differentiate from the same pool of pluripotent stem cells. Yet, the molecular regulation of neural differentiation in Hydra is largely unknown. Here, we report the identification of Hyzic, a homolog of the Zn-finger transcription factor gene zic/odd-paired, which acts as an early neural effector gene in vertebrates. We show, that Hyzic is expressed in the early nematocyte differentiation pathway, starting at the level of interstitial stem cells. Expression of Hyzic is restricted to the proliferative stages of nematoblasts. Hyzic acts before and possibly directly upstream of Cnash, a homolog of the proneural bHLH transcription factor gene achaete-scute, and of Nowa, an early nematocyte differentiation marker gene. Hyzic may determine stem cells to differentiate into nematocytes. Our data are consistent with a role of Hyzic in inhibiting nematocyte differentiation, by keeping committed nematoblast cells in the cell cycle. A similar role has been demonstrated for Zic genes in vertebrates. Our results suggest, that genetic cascades of neural development may be conserved from Hydra to vertebrates, indicating that the molecular regulation of neural development evolved only once.
Holstein TW, Hobmayer E, Technau U. (2003). Cnidarians: an evolutionarily conserved model system for regeneration? Dev Dyn.226(2):257-67.
Abstract
Cnidarians are among the simplest metazoan animals and are well known for their remarkable regeneration capacity. They can regenerate any amputated head or foot, and when dissociated into single cells, even intact animals will regenerate from reaggregates. This extensive regeneration capacity is mediated by epithelial stem cells, and it is based on the restoration of a signaling center, i.e., an organizer. Organizers secrete growth factors that act as long-range regulators in axis formation and cell differentiation. In Hydra, Wnt and TGF-beta/Bmp signaling pathways are transcriptionally up-regulated early during head regeneration and also define the Hydra head organizer created by de novo pattern formation in aggregates. The signaling molecules identified in Cnidarian regeneration also act in early embryogenesis of higher animals. We suppose that they represent a core network of molecular interactions, which could explain at least some of the mechanisms underlying regeneration in vertebrates.
Engel U, Ozbek S, Streitwolf-Engel R, Petri B, Lottspeich F, Holstein TW. (2002). Nowa, a novel protein with minicollagen Cys-rich domains, is involved in nematocyst formation in Hydra. J Cell Sci.115(Pt 20):3923-34.
Abstract
Erratum in J Cell Sci. 2002 Dec 1;115(Pt. 23):4719. Oezbek, S [corrected to Ozbek, S]; Engel, R [corrected to Streitwolf-Engel, R].
Pubmed 
Hobmayer B, Rentzsch F, Holstein TW. (2001). Identification and expression of HySmad1, a member of the R-Smad family of TGFbeta signal transducers, in the diploblastic metazoan Hydra. Dev Genes Evol.211(12):597-602.
Abstract
Members of the Smad family of TGFbeta signal transducers are important regulators of proliferation and cell fate during axis formation, organogenesis, and tumorigenesis. A canonical TGFbeta/Smad signaling pathway is conserved in nematodes, insects, and vertebrates. However, its evolutionary origin before the divergence of protostomes and deuterostomes is unclear. Here, we present the cloning and expression of a highly conserved orthologue of receptor-activated Smads in Hydra, which represents clear evidence of the presence of TGFbeta signaling in the ancient phylum Cnidaria. HySmad1 is expressed rather uniformly during asexual reproduction and regeneration, and is transcriptionally upregulated during oocyte development. This suggests that multiple functions of TGFbeta/Smad signaling might be conserved between diploblastic and triploblastic metazoans.
Engel U, Pertz O, Fauser C, Engel J, David CN, Holstein TW. (2001). A switch in disulfide linkage during minicollagen assembly in Hydra nematocysts. EMBO J.20(12):3063-73.
Abstract
The smallest known collagens with only 14 Gly-X-Y repeats referred to as minicollagens are the main constituents of the capsule wall of nematocysts. These are explosive organelles found in Hydra, jellyfish, corals and other Cnidaria. Minicollagen-1 of Hydra recombinantly expressed in mammalian 293 cells contains disulfide bonds within its N- and C-terminal Cys-rich domains but no interchain cross-links. It is soluble and self-associates through non-covalent interactions to form 25-nm-long trimeric helical rod-like molecules. We have used a polyclonal antibody prepared against the recombinant protein to follow the maturation of minicollagens from soluble precursors present in the endoplasmic reticulum and post-Golgi vacuoles to the disulfide-linked insoluble assembly form of the wall. The switch from intra- to intermolecular disulfide bonds is associated with 'hardening' of the capsule wall and provides an explanation for its high tensile strength and elasticity. The process is comparable to disulfide reshuffling between the NC1 domains of collagen IV in mammalian basement membranes.
Hobmayer B, Snyder P, Alt D, Happel CM, Holstein TW. (2001). Quantitative analysis of epithelial cell aggregation in the simple metazoan Hydra reveals a switch from homotypic to heterotypic cell interactions. Cell Tissue Res.304(1):147-57.
Abstract
Hydra, a member of the diploblastic phylum Cnidaria, exhibits the most basic type of organized metazoan tissues. Two unicellular sheets of polarized epithelial cells - ectoderm and endoderm - form a double layer throughout the body column. The double layer can be reestablished from single-cell suspensions by tissue-specific cell-sorting processes. However, the underlying pattern of interactions between ectodermal and endodermal epithelial cells responsible for double-layer formation is unclear. By analyzing cell interactions in a quantitative adhesion assay using mechanically dissociated Hydra epithelial cells, we show that aggregation proceeds in two steps. First, homotypic interactions within ectodermal epithelial cells (ecto-ecto) and within endodermal epithelial cells (endo-endo) form homotypic cell clusters. Second, at an aggregate size of about ten epithelial cells/cluster, ectodermal and endodermal clusters start to form heterotypic aggregates. Homotypic ecto-ecto interactions are inhibited by a polyclonal anti-Hydra membrane antiserum, and under these conditions homotypic endo-endo interactions do not proceed beyond a size of about ten epithelial cells/cluster. These data suggest that homotypic cell clusters reduce their initial homotypic affinity and acquire a new heterotypic affinity. A link between cell adhesion and cell signaling in early Hydra aggregates is discussed.

/var/www/cos/ / http://www.cos.uni-heidelberg.de/ Prof. Dr. Thomas Holstein _e