Evolutionary History of the HAP2/GCS1 Gene and Sexual Reproduction in Metazoans
The HAP2/GCS1 gene first appeared in the common ancestor of plants, animals, and protists, and is required in the male gamete for fusion to the female gamete in the unicellular organisms Chlamydomonas and Plasmodium. We have identified a HAP2/GCS1 gene in the genome sequence of the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. This finding provides a continuous evolutionary history of HAP2/GCS1 from unicellular organisms into the metazoan lineage. Divergent versions of the HAP2/GCS1 gene are also present in the genomes of some but not all arthropods. By examining the expression of the HAP2/GCS1 gene in the cnidarian Hydra, we have found the first evidence supporting the hypothesis that HAP2/GCS1 was used for male gamete fusion in the ancestor of extant metazoans and that it retains that function in modern cnidarians.