Cooperation between passive and active silicon transporters clarifies the ecophysiology and evolution of biosilicification in sponges

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Science Advances  08 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 28, eaba9322
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba9322


The biological utilization of dissolved silicon (DSi) influences ocean ecology and biogeochemistry. In the deep sea, hexactinellid sponges are major DSi consumers that remain poorly understood. Their DSi consumption departs from the Michaelis-Menten kinetics of shallow-water demosponges and appears particularly maladapted to incorporating DSi from the modest concentrations typical of the modern ocean. Why did sponges not adapt to the shrinking DSi availability that followed diatom expansion some 100 to 65 million years ago? We propose that sponges incorporate DSi combining passive (aquaglyceroporins) and active (ArsB) transporters, while only active transporters (SITs) operate in diatoms and choanoflagellates. Evolution of greater silicon transport efficiency appears constrained by the additional role of aquaglyceroporins in transporting essential metalloids other than silicon. We discuss the possibility that lower energy costs may have driven replacement of ancestral SITs by less efficient aquaglyceroporins, and discuss the functional implications of conservation of aquaglyceroporin-mediated DSi utilization in vertebrates.

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