Abstract

Dicyemid mesozoans are endoparasites, or endosymbionts, found only in the renal sac of benthic cephalopod molluscs. The body organization of dicyemids is very simple, consisting of usually 10 to 40 cells, with neither body cavities nor differentiated organs. Dicyemids were considered as primitive animals, and the out-group of all metazoans, or as occupying a basal position of lophotrochozoans close to flatworms. We cloned cDNAs encoding for the gap junction component proteins, innexin, from the dicyemids. Its expression pattern was observed by whole-mount in situ hybridization. In adult individuals, the innexin was expressed in calottes, infusorigens, and infusoriform embryos. The unique temporal pattern was observed in the developing infusoriform embryos. Innexin amino acid sequences had taxon-specific indels which enabled identification of the 3 major protostome lineages, i.e., 2 ecdysozoans (arthropods and nematodes) and the lophotrochozoans. The dicyemids show typical, lophotrochozoan-type indels. In addition, the Bayesian and maximum likelihood trees based on the innexin amino acid sequences suggested dicyemids to be more closely related to the higher lophotrochozoans than to the flatworms. Flatworms were the sister group, or consistently basal, to the other lophotrochozoan clade that included dicyemids, annelids, molluscs, and brachiopods.

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