Multicellular organisms are composed of distinct cell types that have specific roles in the body. Each cell type is a product of two kinds of historical processes—development and evolution. Although the concept of a cell type is difficult to define, the cell type concept based on the idea of the core regulatory network (CRN), a gene regulatory network that determines the identity of a cell type, illustrates the essential aspects of the cell type concept. The first step toward elucidating cell type evolution is to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships of cell types, or the cell type tree. The sister cell type model assumes that a new cell type evolves through divergence from a multifunctional ancestral cell type, creating tree-like evolutionary relationships between cell types. The process of generating a cell type tree can also be understood as the sequential addition of a new branching point on an ancestral cell differentiation hierarchy in evolution. A cell type tree thus represents an intertwined history of cell type evolution and development. Cell type trees can be reconstructed from high-throughput sequencing data, and the reconstruction of a cell type tree leads to the discovery of genes that are functionally important for a cell type. Although many issues including the lack of cross-species comparisons and the lack of a proper model for cell type evolution remain, the study of the origin of a new cell type using phylogenetic methods offers a promising new research avenue in developmental evolution. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 324B: 653–661, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
How to cite this article: Kin K. 2015. Inferring cell type innovations by phylogenetic methods—concepts, methods, and limitations. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 324B:653–661.