Spatially resolved single-cell atlas of ascidian endostyle provides insight into the origin of vertebrate pharyngeal organs

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The pharyngeal endoderm, an innovation of deuterostome ancestors, contributes to pharyngeal development by influencing the patterning and differentiation of pharyngeal structures in vertebrates; however, the evolutionary origin of the pharyngeal organs in vertebrates is largely unknown. The endostyle, a distinct pharyngeal organ exclusively present in basal chordates, represents a good model for understanding pharyngeal organ origins. Using Stereo-seq and single-cell RNA sequencing, we constructed aspatially resolved single-cell atlas for the endostyle of the ascidian Styela clava . We determined the cell composition of the hemolymphoid region, which illuminates a mixed ancestral structure for the blood and lymphoid system. In addition, we discovered a cluster of hair cell–like cells in zone 3, which has transcriptomic similarity with the hair cells of the vertebrate acoustico-lateralis system. These findings reshape our understanding of the pharynx of the basal chordate and provide insights into the evolutionary origin of multiplexed pharyngeal organs.

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