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July 17, 2014

22:48

Ion channels have played a substantial role in the evolution of novel traits across all of the domains of life. A fascinating example of a novel adaptation is the convergent evolution of electric organs in the Mormyroid and Gymnotiform electric fishes. The regulated currents that flow through ion channels directly generate the electrical signals which have evolved in these fish. Here, we investigated how the expression evolution of two sodium channel paralogs (Scn4aa and Scn4ab) influenced their convergent molecular evolution following the teleost-specific whole-genome duplication. We developed a reliable assay to accurately measure the expression stoichiometry of these genes and used this technique to analyze relative expression of the duplicate genes in a phylogenetic context. We found that before a major shift in expression from skeletal muscle and neofunctionalization in the muscle-derived electric organ, Scn4aa was first downregulated in the ancestors of both electric lineages. This indicates that underlying the convergent evolution of this gene, there was a greater propensity toward neofunctionalization due to its decreased expression relative to its paralog Scn4ab. We investigated another derived muscle tissue, the sonic organ of Porichthys notatus, and show that, as in the electric fishes, Scn4aa again shows a radical shift in expression away from the ancestral muscle cells into the evolutionarily novel muscle-derived tissue. This study presents evidence that expression downregulation facilitates neofunctionalization after gene duplication, a pattern that may often set the stage for novel trait evolution after gene duplication.

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All modern approaches to molecular phylogenetics require a quantitative model for how genes evolve. Unfortunately, existing evolutionary models do not realistically represent the site-heterogeneous selection that governs actual sequence change. Attempts to remedy this problem have involved augmenting these models with a burgeoning number of free parameters. Here, I demonstrate an alternative: Experimental determination of a parameter-free evolutionary model via mutagenesis, functional selection, and deep sequencing. Using this strategy, I create an evolutionary model for influenza nucleoprotein that describes the gene phylogeny far better than existing models with dozens or even hundreds of free parameters. Emerging high-throughput experimental strategies such as the one employed here provide fundamentally new information that has the potential to transform the sensitivity of phylogenetic and genetic analyses.

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Current estimates of diversifying positive selection rely on first having an accurate multiple sequence alignment. Simulation studies have shown that under biologically plausible conditions, relying on a single estimate of the alignment from commonly used alignment software can lead to unacceptably high false-positive rates in detecting diversifying positive selection. We present a novel statistical method that eliminates excess false positives resulting from alignment error by jointly estimating the degree of positive selection and the alignment under an evolutionary model. Our model treats both substitutions and insertions/deletions as sequence changes on a tree and allows site heterogeneity in the substitution process. We conduct inference starting from unaligned sequence data by integrating over all alignments. This approach naturally accounts for ambiguous alignments without requiring ambiguously aligned sites to be identified and removed prior to analysis. We take a Bayesian approach and conduct inference using Markov chain Monte Carlo to integrate over all alignments on a fixed evolutionary tree topology. We introduce a Bayesian version of the branch-site test and assess the evidence for positive selection using Bayes factors. We compare two models of differing dimensionality using a simple alternative to reversible-jump methods. We also describe a more accurate method of estimating the Bayes factor using Rao-Blackwellization. We then show using simulated data that jointly estimating the alignment and the presence of positive selection solves the problem with excessive false positives from erroneous alignments and has nearly the same power to detect positive selection as when the true alignment is known. We also show that samples taken from the posterior alignment distribution using the software BAli-Phy have substantially lower alignment error compared with MUSCLE, MAFFT, PRANK, and FSA alignments.

22:48

Skin color is one of the most visible and important phenotypes of modern humans. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone and its receptor played an important role in regulating skin color. In this article, we present evidence of Neanderthal introgression encompassing the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor gene MC1R. The haplotypes from Neanderthal introgression diverged with the Altai Neanderthal 103.3 ka, which postdates the anatomically modern human–Neanderthal divergence. We further discovered that all of the putative Neanderthal introgressive haplotypes carry the Val92Met variant, a loss-of-function variant in MC1R that is associated with multiple dermatological traits including skin color and photoaging. Frequency of this Neanderthal introgression is low in Europeans (~5%), moderate in continental East Asians (~30%), and high in Taiwanese aborigines (60–70%). As the putative Neanderthal introgressive haplotypes carry a loss-of-function variant that could alter the function of MC1R and is associated with multiple traits related to skin color, we speculate that the Neanderthal introgression may have played an important role in the local adaptation of Eurasians to sunlight intensity.

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Ursine bears are a mammalian subfamily that comprises six morphologically and ecologically distinct extant species. Previous phylogenetic analyses of concatenated nuclear genes could not resolve all relationships among bears, and appeared to conflict with the mitochondrial phylogeny. Evolutionary processes such as incomplete lineage sorting and introgression can cause gene tree discordance and complicate phylogenetic inferences, but are not accounted for in phylogenetic analyses of concatenated data. We generated a high-resolution data set of autosomal introns from several individuals per species and of Y-chromosomal markers. Incorporating intraspecific variability in coalescence-based phylogenetic and gene flow estimation approaches, we traced the genealogical history of individual alleles. Considerable heterogeneity among nuclear loci and discordance between nuclear and mitochondrial phylogenies were found. A species tree with divergence time estimates indicated that ursine bears diversified within less than 2 My. Consistent with a complex branching order within a clade of Asian bear species, we identified unidirectional gene flow from Asian black into sloth bears. Moreover, gene flow detected from brown into American black bears can explain the conflicting placement of the American black bear in mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenies. These results highlight that both incomplete lineage sorting and introgression are prominent evolutionary forces even on time scales up to several million years. Complex evolutionary patterns are not adequately captured by strictly bifurcating models, and can only be fully understood when analyzing multiple independently inherited loci in a coalescence framework. Phylogenetic incongruence among gene trees hence needs to be recognized as a biologically meaningful signal.

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Genome studies of mammals in the superorder Euarchontoglires (a clade that comprises the orders Primates, Dermoptera, Scandentia, Rodentia, and Lagomorpha) are important for understanding the biological features of humans, particularly studies of medical model animals such as macaques and mice. Furthermore, the dynamic ecoevolutionary signatures of Euarchontoglires genomes may be discovered because many species in this clade are characterized by their successful adaptive radiation to various ecological niches. In this study, we investigated the evolutionary trajectory of bitter taste receptor genes (TAS2Rs) in 28 Euarchontoglires species based on homology searches of 39 whole-genome assemblies. The Euarchontoglires species possessed variable numbers of intact TAS2Rs, which ranged from 16 to 40, and their last common ancestor had at least 26 intact TAS2Rs. The gene tree showed that there have been at least seven lineage-specific events involving massive gene duplications. Gene duplications were particularly evident in the ancestral branches of anthropoids (the anthropoid cluster), which may have promoted the adaptive evolution of anthropoid characteristics, such as a trade-off between olfaction and other senses and the development of herbivorous characteristics. Subsequent whole-gene deletions of anthropoid cluster TAS2Rs in hominoid species suggest ongoing ectopic homologous recombination in the anthropoid cluster. These findings provide insights into the roles of adaptive sensory evolution in various ecological niches and important clues related to the molecular mechanisms that underlie taste diversity in Euarchontoglires mammalian species, including humans.

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In this article, we couple the geographic variation in 127 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) frequencies in genes of 46 enzymes of central metabolism with their associated cis-expression variation to predict latitudinal or climatic-driven gene expression changes in the metabolic architecture of Drosophila melanogaster. Forty-two percent of the SNPs in 65% of the genes show statistically significant clines in frequency with latitude across the 20 local population samples collected from southern Florida to Ontario. A number of SNPs in the screened genes are also associated with significant expression variation within the Raleigh population from North Carolina. A principal component analysis of the full variance–covariance matrix of latitudinal changes in SNP-associated standardized gene expression allows us to identify those major genes in the pathway and its associated branches that are likely targets of natural selection. When embedded in a central metabolic context, we show that these apparent targets are concentrated in the genes of the upper glycolytic pathway and pentose shunt, those controlling glycerol shuttle activity, and finally those enzymes associated with the utilization of glutamate and pyruvate. These metabolites possess high connectivity and thus may be the points where flux balance can be best shifted. We also propose that these points are conserved points associated with coupling energy homeostasis and energy sensing in mammals. We speculate that the modulation of gene expression at specific points in central metabolism that are associated with shifting flux balance or possibly energy-state sensing plays a role in adaptation to climatic variation.

22:48

The plant hormone auxin is a conserved regulator of development which has been implicated in the generation of morphological novelty. PIN-FORMED1 (PIN) auxin efflux carriers are central to auxin function by regulating its distribution. PIN family members have divergent structures and cellular localizations, but the origin and evolutionary significance of this variation is unresolved. To characterize PIN family evolution, we have undertaken phylogenetic and structural analyses with a massive increase in taxon sampling over previous studies. Our phylogeny shows that following the divergence of the bryophyte and lycophyte lineages, two deep duplication events gave rise to three distinct lineages of PIN proteins in euphyllophytes. Subsequent independent radiations within each of these lineages were taxonomically asymmetric, giving rise to at least 21 clades of PIN proteins, of which 15 are revealed here for the first time. Although most PIN protein clades share a conserved canonical structure with a modular central loop domain, a small number of noncanonical clades dispersed across the phylogeny have highly divergent protein structure. We propose that PIN proteins underwent sub- and neofunctionalization with substantial modification to protein structure throughout plant evolution. Our results have important implications for plant evolution as they suggest that structurally divergent PIN proteins that arose in paralogous radiations contributed to the convergent evolution of organ systems in different land plant lineages.

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Approximately 15% of eukaryotes contain supernumerary B chromosomes. When present, B chromosomes frequently represent as much as 5% of the genome. Despite thousands of reports describing the distribution of supernumeraries in various taxa, a comprehensive theory for the origin, maintenance, and evolution of B chromosomes has not emerged. Here, we sequence the complete genomes of individual cichlid fish (Astatotilapia latifasciata) with and without B chromosomes, as well as microdissected B chromosomes, to identify DNA sequences on the B. B sequences were further analyzed through quantitative polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization. We find that the B chromosome contains thousands of sequences duplicated from essentially every chromosome in the ancestral karyotype. Although most genes on the B chromosome are fragmented, a few are largely intact, and we detect evidence that at least three of them are transcriptionally active. We propose a model in which the B chromosome originated early in the evolutionary history of Lake Victoria cichlids from a small fragment of one autosome. DNA sequences originating from several autosomes, including protein-coding genes and transposable elements, subsequently inserted into this proto-B. We propose that intact B chromosome genes involved with microtubule organization, kinetochore structure, recombination and progression through the cell cycle may play a role in driving the transmission of the B chromosome. Furthermore, our work suggests that karyotyping is an essential step prior to genome sequencing to avoid problems in genome assembly and analytical biases created by the presence of high copy number sequences on the B chromosome.

22:48

Phenotypic plasticity, the production of alternative phenotypes (or morphs) from the same genotype due to environmental factors, results in some genes being expressed in a morph-biased manner. Theoretically, these morph-biased genes experience relaxed selection, the consequence of which is the buildup of slightly deleterious mutations at these genes. Over time, this is expected to result in increased protein divergence at these genes between species and a signature of relaxed purifying selection within species. Here we test these theoretical expectations using morph-biased genes in the pea aphid, a species that produces multiple morphs via polyphenism. We find that morph-biased genes exhibit faster rates of evolution (in terms of dN/dS) relative to unbiased genes and that divergence generally increases with increasing morph bias. Further, genes with expression biased toward rarer morphs (sexual females and males) show faster rates of evolution than genes expressed in the more common morph (asexual females), demonstrating that the amount of time a gene spends being expressed in a morph is associated with its rate of evolution. And finally, we show that genes expressed in the rarer morphs experience decreased purifying selection relative to unbiased genes, suggesting that it is a relaxation of purifying selection that contributes to their faster rates of evolution. Our results provide an important empirical look at the impact of phenotypic plasticity on gene evolution.

22:48

Our understanding of population genetics comes primarily from studies of organisms with canonical life cycles and nuclear organization, either haploid or diploid, sexual, or asexual. Although this template yields satisfactory results for the study of animals and plants, the wide variety of genomic organizations and life cycles of unicellular eukaryotes can make these organisms behave differently in response to mutation, selection, and drift than predicted by traditional population genetic models. In this study, we show how each of these unique features of ciliates affects their evolutionary parameters in mutation–selection, selection–drift, and mutation–selection–drift situations. In general, ciliates are less efficient in eliminating deleterious mutations—these mutations linger longer and at higher frequencies in ciliate populations than in sexual populations—and more efficient in selecting beneficial mutations. Approaching this problem via analytical techniques and simulation allows us to make specific predictions about the nature of ciliate evolution, and we discuss the implications of these results with respect to the high levels of polymorphism and high rate of protein evolution reported for ciliates.

22:48

Eutrema salsugineum and Schrenkiella parvula are salt-tolerant relatives of the salt-sensitive species Arabidopsis thaliana. An important component of salt tolerance is the regulation of Na+ ion homeostasis, which occurs in part through proteins encoded by the Cation/Proton Antiporter-1 (CPA1) gene family. We used a combination of evolutionary and functional analyses to examine the role of CPA1 genes in the salt tolerance of E. salsugineum and Sc. parvula, and found evidence that changes in CPA1-mediated Na+ extrusion may contribute to the salt tolerance of both species. Specifically, we found that a member of the CPA1 family, the Na+/H+ antiporter gene Salt Overly Sensitive 1 (SOS1), evolved under positive selection in E. salsugineum. In the absence of activation by the SOS2 kinase/SOS3 calcium-binding protein complex, SOS1 from E. salsugineum (EsSOS1) confers greater salt tolerance than SOS1 from Sc. parvula (SpSOS1) and Ar. thaliana (AtSOS1) when expressed in a salt-sensitive strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A single amino acid change in the putative autoinhibitory domain is required but not sufficient for the enhanced salt tolerance conferred by EsSOS1. When activated by SOS2 and SOS3, both EsSOS1 and SpSOS1 confer greater salt tolerance than AtSOS1. Enhanced SOS1-mediated Na+ extrusion therefore appears to contribute to the salt tolerance of both E. salsugineum and Sc. parvula, although through apparently different mechanisms.

22:48

It has long been believed that the male-specific region of the human Y chromosome (MSY) is genetically independent from the X chromosome. This idea has been recently dismissed due to the discovery that X–Y gametologous gene conversion may occur. However, the pervasiveness of this molecular process in the evolution of sex chromosomes has yet to be exhaustively analyzed. In this study, we explored how pervasive X–Y gene conversion has been during the evolution of the youngest stratum of the human sex chromosomes. By comparing about 0.5 Mb of human–chimpanzee gametologous sequences, we identified 19 regions in which extensive gene conversion has occurred. From our analysis, two major features of these emerged: 1) Several of them are evolutionarily conserved between the two species and 2) almost all of the 19 hotspots overlap with regions where X–Y crossing-over has been previously reported to be involved in sex reversal. Furthermore, in order to explore the dynamics of X–Y gametologous conversion in recent human evolution, we resequenced these 19 hotspots in 68 widely divergent Y haplogroups and used publicly available single nucleotide polymorphism data for the X chromosome. We found that at least ten hotspots are still active in humans. Hence, the results of the interspecific analysis are consistent with the hypothesis of widespread reticulate evolution within gametologous sequences in the differentiation of hominini sex chromosomes. In turn, intraspecific analysis demonstrates that X–Y gene conversion may modulate human sex-chromosome-sequence evolution to a greater extent than previously thought.

22:48

Despite the staggering diversity of venomous animals, there seems to be remarkable convergence in regard to the types of proteins used as toxin scaffolds. However, our understanding of this fascinating area of evolution has been hampered by the narrow taxonomical range studied, with entire groups of venomous animals remaining almost completely unstudied. One such group is centipedes, class Chilopoda, which emerged about 440 Ma and may represent the oldest terrestrial venomous lineage next to scorpions. Here, we provide the first comprehensive insight into the chilopod "venome" and its evolution, which has revealed novel and convergent toxin recruitments as well as entirely new toxin families among both high- and low molecular weight venom components. The ancient evolutionary history of centipedes is also apparent from the differences between the Scolopendromorpha and Scutigeromorpha venoms, which diverged over 430 Ma, and appear to employ substantially different venom strategies. The presence of a wide range of novel proteins and peptides in centipede venoms highlights these animals as a rich source of novel bioactive molecules. Understanding the evolutionary processes behind these ancient venom systems will not only broaden our understanding of which traits make proteins and peptides amenable to neofunctionalization but it may also aid in directing bioprospecting efforts.

22:48

Changes in cis or trans regulatory regions are the major driving forces that underlie the evolution of gene expression. Transcription factors (TFs) are the main trans factors involved in transcriptional regulation. Here, we studied the divergence of upstream and downstream regulatory networks between duplicate TFs in light of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements project. We found that the divergence of upstream regulatory networks was generally smaller than the divergence of downstream regulatory networks. Further analysis showed that the downstream regulatory circuits of duplicate TFs evolve faster in the early stage than the late stage after gene duplication. Upstream regulatory circuits are generally more conserved than downstream regulatory circuits in the early stage and in small TF families. Our results indicate the asymmetric evolution of upstream and downstream regulatory circuits between duplicate TFs, which suggest that after gene duplication, human TF families tend to evolve asymmetrically between coding regions and promoter regions.

22:48

Cells govern biological functions through complex biological networks. Perturbations to networks may drive cells to new phenotypic states, for example, tumorigenesis. Identifying how genetic lesions perturb molecular networks is a fundamental challenge. This study used large-scale human interactome data to systematically explore the relationship among network topology, somatic mutation, evolutionary rate, and evolutionary origin of cancer genes. We found the unique network centrality of cancer proteins, which is largely independent of gene essentiality. Cancer genes likely have experienced a lower evolutionary rate and stronger purifying selection than those of noncancer, Mendelian disease, and orphan disease genes. Cancer proteins tend to have ancient histories, likely originated in early metazoan, although they are younger than proteins encoded by Mendelian disease genes, orphan disease genes, and essential genes. We found that the protein evolutionary origin (age) positively correlates with protein connectivity in the human interactome. Furthermore, we investigated the network-attacking perturbations due to somatic mutations identified from 3,268 tumors across 12 cancer types in The Cancer Genome Atlas. We observed a positive correlation between protein connectivity and the number of nonsynonymous somatic mutations, whereas a weaker or insignificant correlation between protein connectivity and the number of synonymous somatic mutations. These observations suggest that somatic mutational network-attacking perturbations to hub genes play an important role in tumor emergence and evolution. Collectively, this work has broad biomedical implications for both basic cancer biology and the development of personalized cancer therapy.

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Retrogenes are functional processed copies of genes that originate via the retrotranscription of an mRNA intermediate and often exhibit testis-specific expression. Although this expression pattern appears to be favored by selection, the origin of such expression bias remains unexplained. Here, we study the regulation of two young testis-specific Drosophila retrogenes, Dntf-2r and Pros28.1A, using genetic transformation and the enhanced green fluorescent protein reporter gene in Drosophila melanogaster. We show that two different short (

22:48

Vitellogenin (Vg), a storage protein, has been extensively studied for its egg-yolk precursor role, and it has been suggested to be fundamentally involved in caste differences in social insects. More than one Vg copy has been reported in several oviparous species, including ants. However, the number and function of different Vgs, their phylogenetic relatedness, and their role in reproductive queens and nonreproductive workers have been studied in few species only. We studied caste-biased expression of Vgs in seven Formica ant species. Only one copy of conventional Vg was identified in Formica species, and three Vg homologs, derived from ancient duplications, which represent yet undiscovered Vg-like genes. We show that each of these Vg-like genes is present in all studied Hymenoptera and some of them in other insects as well. We show that after each major duplication event, at least one of the Vg-like genes has experienced a period of positive selection. This, combined with the observation that the Vg-like genes have acquired or lost specific protein domains suggests sub- or neofunctionalization between Vg and the duplicated genes. In contrast to earlier studies, Vg was not consistently queen biased in its expression, and the caste bias of the three Vg-like genes was highly variable among species. Furthermore, a truncated and Hymenoptera-specific Vg-like gene, Vg-like-C, was consistently worker biased. Multispecies comparisons are essential for Vg expression studies, and for gene expression studies in general, as we show that expression and also, putative functions cannot be generalized even among closely related species.