BMC Evolutionary Biology

The latest research articles published by BMC Evolutionary Biology

URL

XML feed
http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcevolbiol/

Last update

1 hour 36 min ago

April 16, 2015

18:00
Background: Bayesian relaxed-clock dating has significantly influenced our understanding of the timeline of plant evolution. This approach requires the use of priors on the branching process, yet little is known about their impact on divergence time estimates. We investigated the effect of branching priors using the iconic cycads. We conducted phylogenetic estimations for 237 cycad species using three genes and two calibration strategies incorporating up to six fossil constraints to (i) test the impact of two different branching process priors on age estimates, (ii) assess which branching prior better fits the data, (iii) investigate branching prior impacts on diversification analyses, and (iv) provide insights into the diversification history of cycads. Results: Using Bayes factors, we compared divergence time estimates and the inferred dynamics of diversification when using Yule versus birth-death priors. Bayes factors were calculated with marginal likelihood estimated with stepping-stone sampling. We found striking differences in age estimates and diversification dynamics depending on prior choice. Dating with the Yule prior suggested that extant cycad genera diversified in the Paleogene and with two diversification rate shifts. In contrast, dating with the birth-death prior yielded Neogene diversifications, and four rate shifts, one for each of the four richest genera. Nonetheless, dating with the two priors provided similar age estimates for the divergence of cycads from Ginkgo (Carboniferous) and their crown age (Permian). Of these, Bayes factors clearly supported the birth-death prior. Conclusions: These results suggest the choice of the branching process prior can have a drastic influence on our understanding of evolutionary radiations. Therefore, all dating analyses must involve a model selection process using Bayes factors to select between a Yule or birth-death prior, in particular on ancient clades with a potential pattern of high extinction. We also provide new insights into the history of cycad diversification because we found (i) periods of extinction along the long branches of the genera consistent with fossil data, and (ii) high diversification rates within the Miocene genus radiations.

April 14, 2015

06:00
Background: The human (Homo sapiens) chemokine-like protein macrophage migration inhibitory factor (HsMIF) is a pivotal mediator of inflammatory, infectious and immune diseases including septic shock, colitis, malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis, as well as tumorigenesis. MIF has been found to exhibit several sequential and three-dimensional sequence motifs that in addition to its receptor binding sites include catalytic sites for oxidoreductase and tautomerase activity, which provide this 12.5 kDa protein with a remarkable functional complexity. A human MIF paralog, D-dopachrome tautomerase (HsDDT), has been identified, but its physiological relevance is incompletely understood. MIF/DDT-like proteins have been described in animals, protists and bacteria. Although based on sequence data banks the presence of MIF/DDT-like proteins has also been recognized in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, details on these plant proteins have not been reported. Results: To broaden the understanding of the biological role of these proteins across kingdoms we performed a comprehensive in silico analysis of plant MIF/DDT-like (MDL) genes/proteins. We found that the A. thaliana genome harbors three MDL genes, of which two are chiefly constitutively expressed in aerial plant organs, while the third gene shows stress-inducible transcript accumulation. The product of the latter gene likely localizes to peroxisomes. Structure prediction suggests that all three Arabidopsis proteins resemble the secondary and tertiary structure of human MIF. MIF-like proteins are found in all species across the plant kingdom, with an increasing family complexity towards evolutionarily advanced plant taxa. Plant MDL proteins are predicted to lack oxidoreductase activity, but possibly share tautomerase activity with human MIF/DDT. Conclusions: Peroxisome localization seems to be a specific feature of a subset of MIF/DDT orthologs found in dicotyledonous plant species, which together with its stress-inducible gene expression might point to convergent evolution in higher plants and vertebrates towards neofunctionalization of MIF/MDL proteins in stress response pathways including innate immunity.

April 10, 2015

18:00
Background: High-throughput sequencing using targeted enrichment and transcriptomic methods enables rapid construction of phylogenomic data sets incorporating hundreds to thousands of loci. These advances have enabled access to an unprecedented amount of nucleotide sequence data, but they also pose new questions. Given that the loci targeted for enrichment are often highly conserved, how informative are they at different taxonomic scales, especially at the intraspecific / phylogeographic scale? We investigate this question using Australian scincid lizards in the Eugongylus group (Squamata: Scincidae). We sequenced 415 anchored hybrid enriched loci for 43 individuals and mined 1650 exons (1648 loci) from transcriptomes (transcriptome mining) from 11 individuals, including multiple phylogeographic lineages within several species of Carlia, Lampropholis, and Saproscincus skinks. We assessed the phylogenetic information content of these loci at the intergeneric, interspecific, and phylogeographic scales. As a further test of the utility at the phylogeographic scale, we used the anchor hybrid enriched loci to infer lineage divergence parameters using coalescent models of isolation with migration. Results: Phylogenetic analyses of both data sets inferred very strongly supported trees at all taxonomic levels. Further, AHE loci yielded estimates of divergence times between closely related lineages that were broadly consistent with previous population-level analyses. Conclusions: Anchored-enriched loci are useful at the deep phylogeny and phylogeographic scales. Although overall phylogenetic support was high throughout the Australian Eugongylus group phylogeny, there were nonetheless some conflicting or unresolved relationships, especially regarding the placement of Pseudemoia, Cryptoblepharus, and the relationships amongst closely-related species of Tasmanian Niveoscincus skinks.

April 9, 2015

18:00
Background: Mangrove plants grow in the intertidal zone in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. The global latitudinal distribution of the mangrove is mainly influenced by climatic and oceanographic features. Because of current climate changes, poleward range expansions have been reported for the major biogeographic regions of mangrove forests in the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. There is evidence that mangrove forests also responded similarly after the last glaciation by expanding their ranges. In this context, the use of genetic tools is an informative approach for understanding how historical processes and factors impact the distribution of mangrove species. We investigated the phylogeographic patterns of two Avicennia species, A. germinans and A. schaueriana, from the Western Hemisphere using nuclear and chloroplast DNA markers. Results: Our results indicate that, although Avicennia bicolor, A. germinans and A. schaueriana are independent lineages, hybridization between A. schaueriana and A. germinans is a relevant evolutionary process. Our findings also reinforce the role of long-distance dispersal in widespread mangrove species such as A. germinans, for which we observed signs of transatlantic dispersal, a process that has, most likely, contributed to the breadth of the distribution of A. germinans. However, along the southern coast of South America, A. schaueriana is the only representative of the genus. The distribution patterns of A. germinans and A. schaueriana are explained by their different responses to past climate changes and by the unequal historical effectiveness of relative gene flow by propagules and pollen. Conclusions: We observed that A. bicolor, A. germinans and A. schaueriana are three evolutionary lineages that present historical and ongoing hybridization on the American continent. We also inferred a new evidence of transatlantic dispersal for A. germinans, which may have contributed to its widespread distribution. Despite the generally wider distribution of A. germinans, only A. schaueriana is found in southern South America, which may be explained by the different demographic histories of these two species and the larger proportion of gene flow produced by propagules rather than pollen in A. schaueriana. These results highlight that these species responded in different ways to past events, indicating that such differences may also occur in the currently changing world.

April 7, 2015

18:00
Background: Close range calls are produced by many animals during intra-specific interactions, such as during home range defence, playing, begging for food, and directing others. In this study, we investigated the most common close range vocalisation of lar gibbons (Hylobates lar), the ‘hoo’ call. Gibbons and siamangs (family Hylobatidae) are known for their conspicuous and elaborate songs, while quieter, close range vocalisations have received almost no empirical attention, perhaps due to the difficult observation conditions in their natural forest habitats. Results: We found that ‘hoo’ calls were emitted by both sexes in a variety of contexts, including feeding, separation from group members, encountering predators, interacting with neighbours, or as part of duet songs by the mated pair. Acoustic analyses revealed that ‘hoo’ calls varied in a number of spectral parameters as a function of the different contexts. Males’ and females’ ‘hoo’ calls showed similar variation in these context-specific parameter differences, although there were also consistent sex differences in frequency across contexts. Conclusions: Our study provides evidence that lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller. Communicating about different events by producing subtle acoustic variation within some call types appears to be a general feature of primate communication, which can increase the expressive power of vocal signals within the constraints of limited vocal tract flexibility that is typical for all non-human primates. In this sense, this study is of direct relevance for the on-going debate about the nature and origins of vocally-based referential communication and the evolution of human speech.
06:00
Background: Complex communities of bacteria inhabit the feathers of all birds. Under normal conditions, individuals maintain a healthy state by defending themselves against these potential invaders by preening. The immune system is only triggered when bacteria gain access into the body. Preening is, however, costly and may trade-off with investment in the immune system. To shed light on how birds balance the trade-off between immunity and preen secretions when facing high or low feather bacterial load, we experimentally manipulated feather bacteria load of feral pigeons (Columba livia), and investigated the effects on immune defenses. Results: Birds facing high feather bacterial load had lower immune response to PHA skin-swelling test (a measure of induced pro-inflammatory capacity) than controls, while birds facing low feather bacterial load had higher blood bacterial killing ability (a measure of the capacity to eliminate bacterial pathogens) than controls. No other components of the immune system (i.e., hemagglutination and hemolysis capacity of plasma, primary and secondary responses to KLH and quantity of blood parasites) were found to be affected by feather bacterial load. Conclusion: Pigeons had previously been shown to adjust preening to feather bacterial load. The decrease in the energetically costly inflammatory response of birds experiencing high bacterial load suggests a trade-off between investment in preen secretion and immunity and reinforces the idea that feather microbiota may have a strong impact on the ecology and evolution of the avian host.

March 31, 2015

18:00
Background: Transgenerational plasticity provides phenotypic variation that contributes to adaptation. For plants, the timing of seed germination is critical for offspring survival in stressful environments, as germination timing can alter the environmental conditions a seedling experiences. Stored seed transcripts are important determinants of seed germination, but have not previously been linked with transgenerational plasticity of germination behavior. In this study we used RNAseq and growth chamber experiments of the model legume M. trucantula to test whether parental exposure to salinity stress influences the expression of stored seed transcripts and early offspring traits and test for genetic variation. Results: We detected genotype-dependent parental environmental effects (transgenerational plasticity) on the expression levels of stored seed transcripts, seed size, and germination behavior of four M. truncatula genotypes. More than 50% of the transcripts detected in the mature, ungerminated seed transcriptome were annotated as regulating seed germination, some of which are involved in abiotic stress response and post-embryonic development. Some genotypes showed increased seed size in response to parental exposure to salinity stress, but no parental environmental influence on germination timing. In contrast, other genotypes showed no seed size differences across contrasting parental conditions but displayed transgenerational plasticity for germimation timing, with significantly delayed germination in saline conditions when parental plants were exposed to salinity. In genotypes that show significant transgenerational plastic germination response, we found significant coexpression networks derived from salt responsive transcripts involved in post-transcriptional regulation of the germination pathway. Consistent with the delayed germination response to saline conditions in these genotypes, we found genes associated with dormancy and up-regulation of abscisic acid (ABA). Conclusions: Our results demonstrate genetic variation in transgenerational plasticity within M. truncatula and show that parental exposure to salinity stress influences the expression of stored seed transcripts, seed weight, and germination behavior. Furthermore, we show that the parental environment influences gene expression to modulate biological pathways that are likely responsible for offspring germination responses to salinity stress.

March 30, 2015

18:00
Background: The host range of a pathogenic bacterial strain likely influences its effective population size, which in turn affects the efficacy of selection. Transmission between competent hosts may occur more frequently for host generalists than for specialists. This could allow higher bacterial population densities to persist within an ecological community and increase the efficacy of selection in these populations. Conversely, specialist strains may be better adapted to their hosts and consequently achieve greater within-host population densities, with corresponding increases in selection efficacy. To assess these different hypotheses, we examined the effective population sizes of three strains of the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum and categorized the varying roles of selection and demography on patterns of genetic diversity and divergence in these populations. A. phagocytophilum is a tick-transmitted, obligately intracellular pathogen. Strains of A. phagocytophilum display varying degrees of host specialization, making this a good species for exploring questions regarding host range, effective population size and selection efficacy. Results: We found that a roe deer specialist harbored the most genetic diversity of the three A. phagocytophilum strains and correspondingly had the largest effective population size. Another strain that is ecologically specialized on rodents and insectivores had the smallest effective population size. However, these mammalian hosts are distantly related evolutionarily. The third strain, a host generalist, was intermediate in its effective population size between the other two strains. Evolutionary constraint on non-synonymous sites was pervasive in all three strains, although some slightly deleterious mutations may also be segregating in these populations. We additionally found evidence of genome-wide selective sweeps in the generalist strain, whereas signals of repeated bottlenecks were detected in the strain with the smallest effective population size. Conclusions: A. phagocytophilum is a diverse bacterial species that differs among distinct strains in its effective population size, as well as how genetic diversity and divergence have been influenced by selection and demographic changes. In this species, host specialization may facilitate increased population growth and allow more opportunities for selection to act. These results provide insights into how host range has influenced evolutionary patterns of strain divergence in an emerging zoonotic bacterium.

March 28, 2015

18:00
Background: Mangrove forests are ecologically important but globally threatened intertidal plant communities. Effective mangrove conservation requires the determination of species identity, management units, and genetic structure. Here, we investigate the genetic distinctiveness and genetic structure of an iconic but yet taxonomically confusing species complex Rhizophora mucronata and R. stylosa across their distributional range, by employing a suite of 20 informative nuclear SSR markers. Results: Our results demonstrated the general genetic distinctiveness of R. mucronata and R. stylosa, and potential hybridization or introgression between them. We investigated the population genetics of each species without the putative hybrids, and found strong genetic structure between oceanic regions in both R. mucronata and R. stylosa. In R. mucronata, a strong divergence was detected between populations from the Indian Ocean region (Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea) and the Pacific Ocean region (Malacca Strait, South China Sea and Northwest Pacific Ocean). In R. stylosa, the genetic break was located more eastward, between populations from South and East China Sea and populations from the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The location of these genetic breaks coincided with the boundaries of oceanic currents, thus suggesting that oceanic circulation patterns might have acted as a cryptic barrier to gene flow. Conclusions: Our findings have important implications on the conservation of mangroves, especially relating to replanting efforts and the definition of evolutionary significant units in Rhizophora species. We outlined the genetic structure and identified geographical areas that require further investigations for both R. mucronata and R. stylosa. These results serve as the foundation for the conservation genetics of R. mucronata and R. stylosa and highlighted the need to recognize the genetic distinctiveness of closely-related species, determine their respective genetic structure, and avoid artificially promoting hybridization in mangrove restoration programmes.

March 25, 2015

18:00
Background: On rugged fitness landscapes where sign epistasis is common, adaptation can often involve either individually beneficial “uphill” mutations or more complex mutational trajectories involving fitness valleys or plateaus. The dynamics of the evolutionary process determine the probability that evolution will take any specific path among a variety of competing possible trajectories. Understanding this evolutionary choice is essential if we are to understand the outcomes and predictability of adaptation on rugged landscapes. Results: We present a simple model to analyze the probability that evolution will eschew immediately uphill paths in favor of crossing fitness valleys or plateaus that lead to higher fitness but less accessible genotypes. We calculate how this probability depends on the population size, mutation rates, and relevant selection pressures, and compare our analytical results to Wright-Fisher simulations. Conclusion: We find that the probability of valley crossing depends nonmonotonically on population size: intermediate size populations are most likely to follow a “greedy” strategy of acquiring immediately beneficial mutations even if they lead to evolutionary dead ends, while larger and smaller populations are more likely to cross fitness valleys to reach distant advantageous genotypes. We explicitly identify the boundaries between these different regimes in terms of the relevant evolutionary parameters. Above a certain threshold population size, we show that the probability that the population finds the more distant peak depends only on a single simple combination of the relevant parameters.

March 24, 2015

18:00
Background: Mutualistic obligate endosymbioses shape the evolution of endosymbiont genomes, but their impact on host genomes remains unclear. Insects of the sub-order Sternorrhyncha (Hemiptera) depend on bacterial endosymbionts for essential amino acids present at low abundances in their phloem-based diet. This obligate dependency has been proposed to explain why multiple amino acid transporter genes are maintained in the genomes of the insect hosts. We implemented phylogenetic comparative methods to test whether amino acid transporters have proliferated in sternorrhynchan genomes at rates grater than expected by chance. Results: By applying a series of methods to reconcile gene and species trees, inferring the size of gene families in ancestral lineages, and simulating the null process of birth and death in multi-gene families, we uncovered a 10-fold increase in duplication rate in the AAAP family of amino acid transporters within Sternorrhyncha. This gene family expansion was unmatched in other closely related clades lacking endosymbionts that provide essential amino acids. Conclusions: Our findings support the influence of obligate endosymbioses on host genome evolution by both inferring significant expansions of gene families involved in symbiotic interactions, and discovering increases in the rate of duplication associated with multiple emergences of obligate symbiosis in Sternorrhyncha.
18:00
Background: Male salamanders (Urodela) often make use of pheromones that are produced in sexually dimorphic glands to persuade the female into courtship and mating. The mental gland of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) and dorsal cloacal glands (or abdominal glands) of newts (Salamandridae) have been particularly well studied in that respect. In both families, sodefrin precursor-like factor (SPF) proteins have been identified as major components of the courtship pheromone system. However, similar to plethodontids, some newts also make use of subtle head glands during courtship, but few pheromones have been characterized from such structures. Males of red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens, Salamandridae) have both cloacal and cheek (genial) glands, and are known to apply secretions to the female’s nose by both tail-fanning and cheek-rubbing. Here we combined transcriptomic and phylogenetic analyses to investigate the presence, diversity and evolution of SPF proteins in the cloacal and cheek glands of this species. Results: Our analyses indicate that the cheek glands of male N. viridescens produce a similar amount and diversity of SPF isoforms as the cloacal glands in this species. Expression in other tissues was much lower, suggesting that both male-specific courtship glands secrete SPF pheromones during courtship. Our phylogenetic analyses show that N. viridescens expresses a combination of isoforms that stem from four highly diverged evolutionary lineages of SPF variants, that together form a basis for the broad diversity of SPF precursors in the breeding glands. Conclusions: The similar SPF expression of cheek and cloacal glands suggests that this protein family is used for pheromone signalling through cheek rubbing in the red-spotted newt. Since several male salamandrids in other genera have comparable head glands, SPF application via other glands than the cloacal glands may be more widespread than currently appreciated in salamandrids.

March 20, 2015

18:00
Background: Populations of a species often differ in key traits. However, it is rarely known whether these differences are associated with genetic variation and evolved differences between populations, or are instead simply a plastic response to environmental differences experienced by the populations. Here we examine the interplay of plasticity and direct genetic control by investigating temperature-size relationships in populations of Drosophila pseudoobscura from North America. We used 27 isolines from three populations and exposed them to four temperature regimes (16°C, 20°C, 23°C, 26°C) to examine environmental, genetic and genotype-by-environment sources of variance in wing size. Results: By far the largest contribution to variation in wing size came from rearing temperature, with the largest flies emerging from the coolest temperatures. However, we also found a genetic signature that was counter to this pattern as flies originating from the northern, cooler population were consistently smaller than conspecifics from more southern, warmer populations when reared under the same laboratory conditions. Conclusions: We conclude that local selection on body size appears to be acting counter to the environmental effect of temperature. We find no evidence that local adaptation in phenotypic plasticity can explain this result, and suggest indirect selection on traits closely linked with body size, or patterns of chromosome inversion may instead be driving this relationship.

March 18, 2015

06:00
Background: With 10,000 species, Magnoliidae are the largest clade of flowering plants outside monocots and eudicots. Despite an ancient and rich fossil history, the tempo and mode of diversification of Magnoliidae remain poorly known. Using a molecular data set of 12 markers and 220 species (representing >75% of genera in Magnoliidae) and six robust, internal fossil age constraints, we estimate divergence times and significant shifts of diversification across the clade. In addition, we test the sensitivity of magnoliid divergence times to the choice of relaxed clock model and various maximum age constraints for the angiosperms. Results: Compared with previous work, our study tends to push back in time the age of the crown node of Magnoliidae (178.78-126.82 million years, Myr), and of the four orders, Canellales (143.18-125.90 Myr), Piperales (158.11-88.15 Myr), Laurales (165.62-112.05 Myr), and Magnoliales (164.09-114.75 Myr). Although families vary in crown ages, Magnoliidae appear to have diversified into most extant families by the end of the Cretaceous. The strongly imbalanced distribution of extant diversity within Magnoliidae appears to be best explained by models of diversification with 6 to 13 shifts in net diversification rates. Significant increases are inferred within Piperaceae and Annonaceae, while the low species richness of Calycanthaceae, Degeneriaceae, and Himantandraceae appears to be the result of decreases in both speciation and extinction rates. Conclusions: This study provides a new time scale for the evolutionary history of an important, but underexplored, part of the tree of angiosperms. The ages of the main clades of Magnoliidae (above the family level) are older than previously thought, and in several lineages, there were significant increases and decreases in net diversification rates. This study is a new robust framework for future investigations of trait evolution and of factors influencing diversification in this group as well as angiosperms as a whole.

March 17, 2015

18:00
Background: The diversity of the symbiotic dinoflagellate Symbiodinium sp., as assessed by genetic markers, is well established. To what extent this diversity is reflected on the amino acid level of functional genes such as enzymatic antioxidants that play an important role in thermal stress tolerance of the coral-Symbiodinium symbiosis is, however, unknown. Here we present a predicted structural analysis and phylogenetic characterization of the enzymatic antioxidant repertoire of the genus Symbiodinium. We also report gene expression and enzymatic activity under short-term thermal stress in Symbiodinium of the B1 genotype. Results: Based on eight different ITS2 types, covering six clades, multiple protein isoforms for three of the four investigated antioxidants (ascorbate peroxidase [APX], catalase peroxidase [KatG], manganese superoxide dismutase [MnSOD]) are present in the genus Symbiodinium. Amino acid sequences of both SOD metalloforms (Fe/Mn), as well as KatG, exhibited a number of prokaryotic characteristics that were also supported by the protein phylogeny. In contrast to the bacterial form, KatG in Symbiodinium is characterized by extended functionally important loops and a shortened C-terminal domain. Intercladal sequence variations were found to be much higher in both peroxidases, compared to SODs. For APX, these variable residues involve binding sites for substrates and cofactors, and might therefore differentially affect the catalytic properties of this enzyme between clades. While expression of antioxidant genes was successfully measured in Symbiodinium B1, it was not possible to assess the link between gene expression and protein activity due to high variability in expression between replicates, and little response in their enzymatic activity over the three-day experimental period. Conclusions: The genus Symbiodinium has a diverse enzymatic antioxidant repertoire that has similarities to prokaryotes, potentially as a result of horizontal gene transfer or events of secondary endosymbiosis. Different degrees of sequence evolution between SODs and peroxidases might be the result of potential selective pressure on the conserved molecular function of SODs as the first line of defence. In contrast, genetic redundancy of hydrogen peroxide scavenging enzymes might permit the observed variations in peroxidase sequences. Our data and successful measurement of antioxidant gene expression in Symbiodinium will serve as basis for further studies of coral health.
18:00
Background: Bambusoideae (Poaceae) comprise three distinct and well-supported lineages: tropical woody bamboos (Bambuseae), temperate woody bamboos (Arundinarieae) and herbaceous bamboos (Olyreae). Phylogenetic studies using chloroplast markers have generally supported a sister relationship between Bambuseae and Olyreae. This suggests either at least two origins of the woody bamboo syndrome in this subfamily or its loss in Olyreae. Results: Here a full chloroplast genome (plastome) phylogenomic study is presented using the coding and noncoding regions of 13 complete plastomes from the Bambuseae, eight from Olyreae and 10 from Arundinarieae. Trees generated using full plastome sequences support the previously recovered monophyletic relationship between Bambuseae and Olyreae. In addition to these relationships, several unique plastome features are uncovered including the first mitogenome-to-plastome horizontal gene transfer observed in monocots. Conclusions: Phylogenomic agreement with previous published phylogenies reinforces the validity of these studies. Additionally, this study presents the first published plastomes from Neotropical woody bamboos and the first full plastome phylogenomic study performed within the herbaceous bamboos. Although the phylogenomic tree presented in this study is largely robust, additional studies using nuclear genes support monophyly in woody bamboos as well as hybridization among previous woody bamboo lineages. The evolutionary history of the Bambusoideae could be further clarified using transcriptomic techniques to increase sampling among nuclear orthologues and investigate the molecular genetics underlying the development of woody and floral tissues.

March 13, 2015

18:00
Background: Amelotin (AMTN) is an ameloblast-secreted protein that belongs to the secretory calcium-binding phosphoprotein (SCPP) family, which originated in early vertebrates. In rodents, AMTN is expressed during the maturation stage of amelogenesis only. This expression pattern strongly differs from the spatiotemporal expression of other ameloblast-secreted SCPPs, such as the enamel matrix proteins (EMPs). Furthermore, AMTN was characterized in rodents only. In this study, we applied various approaches, including in silico screening of databases, PCRs and transcriptome sequencing to characterize AMTN sequences in sauropsids and amphibians, and compared them to available mammalian and coelacanth sequences. Results: We showed that (i) AMTN is tooth (enamel) specific and underwent pseudogenization in toothless turtles and birds, and (ii) the AMTN structure changed during tetrapod evolution. To infer AMTN function, we studied spatiotemporal expression of AMTN during amelogenesis in a salamander and a lizard, and compared the results with available expression data from mouse. We found that AMTN is expressed throughout amelogenesis in non-mammalian tetrapods, in contrast to its expression limited to enamel maturation in rodents. Conclusions: Taken together our findings suggest that AMTN was primarily an EMP. Its functions were conserved in amphibians and sauropsids while a change occurred early in the mammalian lineage, modifying its expression pattern during amelogenesis and its gene structure. These changes likely led to a partial loss of AMTN function and could have a link with the emergence of prismatic enamel in mammals.
18:00
Background: The symbiosis between corals and the dinoflagellate alga Symbiodinium is essential for the development and survival of coral reefs. Yet this fragile association is highly vulnerable to environmental disturbance. A coral’s ability to tolerate temperature stress depends on the fitness of its resident symbionts, whose thermal optima vary extensively between lineages. However, the in hospite population genetic structure of Symbiodinium is poorly understood and mostly based on analysis of bulk DNA extracted from thousands to millions of cells. Using quantitative single-cell PCR, we enumerated DNA polymorphisms in the symbionts of the reef-building coral Pocillopora damicornis, and applied a model selection approach to explore the potential for recombination between coexisting Symbiodinium populations. Results: Two distinct Symbiodinium ITS2 sequences (denoted C100 and C109) were retrieved from all P. damicornis colonies analysed. However, the symbiont assemblage consisted of three distinct Symbiodinium populations: cells featuring pure arrays of ITS2 type C109, near-homogeneous cells of type C100 (with trace ITS2 copies of type C109), and those with co-dominant C100 and C109 ITS2 repeats. The symbiont consortia of some colonies consisted almost entirely of these putative C100 × C109 recombinants. Conclusions: Our results are consistent with the occurrence of sexual recombination between Symbiodinium types C100 and C109. While the multiple-copy nature of the ITS2 dictates that the observed pattern of intra-genomic co-dominance may be a result of incomplete concerted evolution of intra-genomic polymorphisms, this is a less likely explanation given the occurrence of homogeneous cells of the C109 type. Conclusive evidence for inter-lineage recombination and introgression in this genus will require either direct observational evidence or a single-cell genotyping approach targeting multiple, single-copy loci.
06:00
Background: Apocrita has a special structure that its first abdominal segment has been incorporated into the thorax as the propodeum. The remaining abdomen, metasoma, is connected to this hybrid region via a narrow propodeal-metasomal articulation forming a “wasp waist”, which serves an important function of providing maneuverability, flexibility and posture for oviposition. However, the origin and transformation of the propodeal-metasomal articulation are still vague. Ephialtitidae, as the basal group of Apocrita from the Early Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous, have shown various types of propodeal-metasomal articulations. Results: This study describes and illustrates two new genera with three new species, Acephialtitia colossa gen. et sp. nov., Proephialtitia acanthi gen. et sp. nov. and P. tenuata sp. nov., collected respectively from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation at Liutiaogou and the Middle Jurassic Jiulongshan Formation at Daohugou, both in Inner Mongolia, China. These genera are assigned to the Ephialtitidae based on their complete wing venation, e.g. 2r-rs, 2r-m, 3r-m and 2 m-cu always present in the forewings and Rs, M and Cu in the hind wings. These new fossil ephialtitids have well-preserved propodeal-metasomal articulations indicating metasoma is broadly attached to propodeum. Conclusion: The broad articulation between the propodeum and metasoma in basal Ephialtitidae, likely passed on from a still more basal family Karatavitidae, suggests three separate pathways of the transformation of the “wasp waist” in three different derived lineages leading from Ephialtitidae to: (i) Kuafuidae and further to the remaining Apocrita, (ii) Stephanidae, and (iii) Evanioidea. In addition, the demise of ephialtitid wasps lagging behind the flourishing of angiosperms suggests that ephialtitid extinction might have been mainly driven by competition with numerous new taxa (eg. the abundant Cretaceous xylophilous Baissinae and Ichneumonoidea) appeared just before or/and soon after the J/K boundary.