Topological structures and syntenic conservation in sea anemone genomes

Bob Zimmermann, Juan D. Montenegro, Sofia M.C. Robb, Whitney J. Fropf, Lukas Weilguny, Shuonan He, Shiyuan Chen, Jessica Lovegrove-Walsh, Eric M. Hill, Cheng Yi Chen, Katerina Ragkousi, Daniela Praher, David Fredman, Darrin Schultz, Yehu Moran, Oleg Simakov, Grigory Genikhovich, Matthew C. Gibson*, Ulrich Technau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


There is currently little information about the evolution of gene clusters, genome architectures and karyotypes in early branching animals. Slowly evolving anthozoan cnidarians can be particularly informative about the evolution of these genome features. Here we report chromosome-level genome assemblies of two related anthozoans, the sea anemones Nematostella vectensis and Scolanthus callimorphus. We find a robust set of 15 chromosomes with a clear one-to-one correspondence between the two species. Both genomes show chromosomal conservation, allowing us to reconstruct ancestral cnidarian and metazoan chromosomal blocks, consisting of at least 19 and 16 ancestral linkage groups, respectively. We show that, in contrast to Bilateria, the Hox and NK clusters of investigated cnidarians are largely disintegrated, despite the presence of staggered hox/gbx expression in Nematostella. This loss of microsynteny conservation may be facilitated by shorter distances between cis-regulatory sequences and their cognate transcriptional start sites. We find no clear evidence for topologically associated domains, suggesting fundamental differences in long-range gene regulation compared to vertebrates. These data suggest that large sets of ancestral metazoan genes have been retained in ancestral linkage groups of some extant lineages; yet, higher order gene regulation with associated 3D architecture may have evolved only after the cnidarian-bilaterian split.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number8270
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

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