Ion channels are highly diverse in the cnidarian model organism Nematostella vectensis (Anthozoa), but little is known about the evolutionary origins of this channel diversity and its conservation across Cnidaria. Here, we examined the evolution of voltage-gated K+ channels in Cnidaria by comparing genomes and transcriptomes of diverse cnidarian species from Anthozoa and Medusozoa. We found an average of over 40 voltage-gated K+ channel genes per species, and a phylogenetic reconstruction of the Kv, KCNQ, and Ether-a-go-go (EAG) gene families identified 28 voltage-gated K+ channels present in the last common ancestor of Anthozoa and Medusozoa (23 Kv, 1 KCNQ, and 4 EAG). Thus, much of the diversification of these channels took place in the stem cnidarian lineage prior to the emergence of modern cnidarian classes. In contrast, the stem bilaterian lineage, from which humans evolved, contained no more than nine voltage-gated K+ channels. These results hint at a complexity to electrical signaling in all cnidarians that contrasts with the perceived anatomical simplicity of their neuromuscular systems. These data provide a foundation from which the function of these cnidarian channels can be investigated, which will undoubtedly provide important insights into cnidarian physiology.
Keywords: Nematostella; EAG; KCNQ; Kv; cnidarian; potassium channel.
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.