The essence of being an animal: sponge allorecognition and the evolution of individuality (2009–2013)
The genome of the sea sponge Amphimedon queenslandica, recently sequenced by UQ and the US Joint Genome Institute, has been instrumental in defining many cardinal and ancient characteristics of the animal kingdom. Here we integrate genomic, population genetic, immunological and developmental studies in Amphimedon to understand the fundamentals of how animal cells allorecognise self from nonself. Allorecognition is an absolute requirement for all animals, ensuring cells within a multicellular individual cooperate with each other while excluding foreign cells (e.g. grafted tissues). Our research will address this most fundamental element of the origin and integrity of multicellular individuality.