To address biological questions that cannot be answered by current model organisms, we need to develop genetic tools in the specific taxa that can provide the best answers. Such is the case of the origin of animals in which, genetic tools need to be developed among the closest unicellular relatives of animals. To fill this gap, we are developing genetic tools in Corallochytrium limacisporum, a close unicellular relative of animals that also has a fascinating biology. Corallochytrium is a marine free-living walled saprotroph that develops through a choenocyte. Moreover, because of the basal phylogenetic position of Corallochrytria together with Ichthyosporea, this lineage is especially informative to fill the void of information between yeast and metazoans. We have successfully developed transient and a stably transfection protocols by introducing the resistance gene to puromycin, allowing us to select individual transformants. Deep characterization of the established transformed lines has revealed important biological features of this organism such as the plasticity of its genome, the mode of plasmid integration, and some differences between the two known strains (Hawaii and India). Currently we are better characterizing these features and, in parallel, developing genome-editing technologies. Progress and the potential implications of our research will be presented and further discussed.


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