Communal living: the role of polyploidy and syncytia in tissue biology.
Multicellular organisms are composed of tissues with diverse cell sizes. Whether a tissue primarily consists of numerous, small cells as opposed to fewer, large cells can impact tissue development and function. The addition of nuclear genome copies within a common cytoplasm is a recurring strategy to manipulate cellular size within a tissue. Cells with more than two genomes can exist transiently, such as in developing germlines or embryos, or can be part of mature somatic tissues. Such nuclear collectives span multiple levels of organization, from mononuclear or binuclear polyploid cells to highly multinucleate structures known as syncytia. Here, we review the diversity of polyploid and syncytial tissues found throughout nature. We summarize current literature concerning tissue construction through syncytia and/or polyploidy and speculate why one or both strategies are advantageous.
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