Cell Rep. 2023 Sep 5;42(9):113072. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113072. Online ahead of print
An ancient evolutionary innovation of a novel cell type, the stinging cell (cnidocyte), appeared >600 million years ago in the phylum Cnidaria (sea anemones, corals, hydroids, and jellyfish). A complex bursting nano-injector of venom, the cnidocyst, is embedded in cnidocytes and enables cnidarians to paralyze their prey and predators, contributing to this phylum’s evolutionary success. In this work, we show that post-transcriptional regulation by a pan-cnidarian microRNA, miR-2022, is essential for biogenesis of these cells in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. By manipulation of miR-2022 levels in a transgenic reporter line of cnidocytes, followed by transcriptomics, single-cell data analysis, prey paralysis assays, and cell sorting of transgenic cnidocytes, we reveal that miR-2022 enables cnidocyte biogenesis in Nematostella, while exhibiting a conserved expression domain with its targets in cnidocytes of other cnidarian species. Thus, here we revealed a functional basis to the conservation of one of nature’s most ancient microRNAs.
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