Genetic Expansion of Chaperonin‐Containing TCP‐1 (CCT/TRiC) Complex Subunits Yields Testis‐Specific Isoforms Required for Spermatogenesis in Planarian Flatworms

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Chaperonin‐containing Tail‐less complex polypeptide 1 (CCT) is a highly conserved, hetero‐oligomeric complex that ensures proper folding of actin, tubulin, and regulators of mitosis. Eight subunits (CCT1‐8) make up this complex, and every subunit has a homolog expressed in the testes and somatic tissue of the planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea . Gene duplications of four subunits in the genomes of S. mediterranea and other planarian flatworms created paralogs to CCT1, CCT3, CCT4, and CCT8 that are expressed exclusively in the testes. Functional analyses revealed that each CCT subunit expressed in the S. mediterranea soma is essential for homeostatic integrity and survival, whereas sperm elongation defects were observed upon knockdown of each individual testis‐specific paralog (Smed‐cct1B ; Smed‐cct3B ; Smed‐cct4A ; and Smed‐cct8B ), regardless of potential redundancy with paralogs expressed in both testes and soma (Smed‐cct1A ; Smed‐cct3A ; Smed‐cct4B ; and Smed‐cct8A ). Yet, no detriment was observed in the number of adult somatic stem cells (neoblasts) that maintain differentiated tissue in planarians. Thus, expression of all eight CCT subunits is required to execute the essential functions of the CCT complex. Furthermore, expression of the somatic paralogs in planarian testes is not sufficient to complete spermatogenesis when testis‐specific paralogs are knocked down, suggesting that the evolution of chaperonin subunits may drive changes in the development of sperm structure and that correct CCT subunit stoichiometry is crucial for spermiogenesis.



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