A six-gene phylogeny provides new insights into choanoflagellate evolution.
Choanoflagellates are unicellular and colonial aquatic microeukaryotes that capture bacteria using an apical flagellum surrounded by a feeding collar composed of actin-filled microvilli. Flow produced by the apical flagellum drives prey bacteria to the feeding collar for phagocytosis. We report here on the cell biology of prey capture in rosette-shaped colonies and unicellular "thecate" or substrate attached cells from the choanoflagellate S. rosetta. In thecate cells and rosette colonies, phagocytosis initially involves fusion of multiple microvilli, followed by remodeling of the collar membrane to engulf the prey, and transport of engulfed bacteria into the cell. Although both thecate cells and rosette colony cells produce ∼ 70 nm "collar links" that connect and potentially stabilize adjacent microvilli, only thecate cells were observed to produce a lamellipod-like "collar skirt" that encircles the base of the collar. This study offers insight into the process of prey ingestion by S. rosetta, and provides a context within which to consider potential ecological differences between solitary cells and colonies in choanoflagellates.