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BMC Evolutionary Biology
The latest research articles published by BMC Evolutionary Biology
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December 4, 2013
Regionalization of the axial skeleton in the 'ambush predator' guild -- are there developmental rules underlying body shape evolution in ray-finned fishes?
Background: A long, slender body plan characterized by an elongate antorbital region and posterior displacement of the unpaired fins has evolved multiple times within ray-finned fishes, and is associated with ambush predation. The axial skeleton of ray-finned fishes is divided into abdominal and caudal regions, considered to be evolutionary modules. In this study, we test whether the convergent evolution of the ambush predator body plan is associated with predictable, regional changes in the axial skeleton, specifically whether the abdominal region is preferentially lengthened relative to the caudal region through the addition of vertebrae. We test this hypothesis in seven clades showing convergent evolution of this body plan, examining abdominal and caudal vertebral counts in over 300 living and fossil species. In four of these clades, we also examined the relationship between the fineness ratio and vertebral regionalization using phylogenetic independent contrasts. Results: We report that in five of the clades surveyed, Lepisosteidae, Esocidae, Belonidae, Sphyraenidae and Fistulariidae, vertebrae are added preferentially to the abdominal region. In Lepisosteidae, Esocidae, and Belonidae, increasing abdominal vertebral count was also significantly related to increasing fineness ratio, a measure of elongation. Two clades did not preferentially add abdominal vertebrae: Saurichthyidae and Aulostomidae. Both of these groups show the development of a novel caudal region anterior to the insertion of the anal fin, morphologically differentiated from more posterior caudal vertebrae. Conclusions: The preferential addition of abdominal vertebrae in fishes with an elongate body shape is consistent with the existence of a conservative positioning module formed by the boundary between the abdominal and caudal vertebral regions and the anterior insertion of the anal fin. Dissociation of this module is possible, although less probable than changes in the independently evolving abdominal region. Dissociation of the axial skeleton-median fin module leads to increased regionalization within the caudal vertebral column, something that has evolved several times in bony fishes, and may be homologous with the sacral region of tetrapods. These results suggest that modularity of the axial skeleton may result in somewhat predictable evolutionary outcomes in bony fishes.
Background: It has been theorised that sperm competition promotes the strategic usage of costly sperm. Although sperm competition is thought to be an important driving force of reproductive traits in simultaneous hermaphrodites as well as in species with separate sexes, empirical studies on strategic ejaculation in simultaneous hermaphrodites are scarce. Results: In the present study, we tested whether the simultaneously hermaphroditic land snail Euhadra quaesita adjusts the number of sperm donated according to the condition of the mate and whether the pattern of strategic ejaculation is in line with previously suggested theories. We found that individuals donated much more sperm when they copulated with a virgin mate than when they copulated with a non-virgin. Conclusion: The virgin-biased pattern of ejaculation matches the theoretical prediction and suggests that sperm competition significantly influence the reproductive traits of simultaneously hermaphroditic land snails.
December 1, 2013
Scent of a break-up: phylogeography and reproductive trait divergences in the red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)
Background: The Pleistocene climatic oscillations are considered as a major driving force of intraspecific divergence and speciation. During Ice Ages, populations isolated in allopatric glacial refugia can experience differentiation in reproductive traits through divergence in selection regimes. This phenomenon may lead to reproductive isolation and dramatically accentuates the consequences of the climatic oscillations on species. Alternatively, when reproductive isolation is incomplete and populations are expanding again, further mating between the formerly isolated populations can result in the formation of a hybrid zone, genetic introgression or reinforcement speciation through reproductive trait displacements. Therefore changes in reproductive traits driven by population movements during climatic oscillations can act as an important force in promoting pre-zygotic isolation. Notwithstanding, divergence of reproductive traits has not been approached in the context of climatic oscillations. Here we investigate the impact of population movements driven by climatic oscillations on a reproductive trait of a bumblebee species (Bombus lapidarius). We characterise the pattern of variation and differentiation across the species distribution (i) with five genes (nuclear and mitochondrial), and (ii) in the chemical composition of male marking secretions (MMS), a key trait for mate attraction in bumblebees. Results: Our results provide evidence that populations have experienced a genetic allopatric differentiation, in at least three main refugia (the Balkans, Centre-Eastern Europe, and Southern Italy) during Quaternary glaciations. The comparative chemical analyses show that populations from the Southern Italian refugium have experienced MMS differentiation and an incipient speciation process from another refugium. The meeting of Southern Italian populations with other populations as a result of range expansion at a secondary contact zone seems to have led to a reinforcement process on local MMS patterns. Conclusions: This study suggests that population movement during Quaternary climatic oscillations can lead to divergence in reproductive traits by allopatric differentiation during Ice Ages and by reinforcement during post-glacial recolonization.
Evolution and dynamics of megaplasmids with genome sizes larger than 100 kb in the Bacillus cereus group
Background: Plasmids play a crucial role in the evolution of bacterial genomes by mediating horizontal gene transfer. However, the origin and evolution of most plasmids remains unclear, especially for megaplasmids. Strains of the Bacillus cereus group contain up to 13 plasmids with genome sizes ranging from 2 kb to 600 kb, and thus can be used to study plasmid dynamics and evolution. Results: This work studied the origin and evolution of 31 B. cereus group megaplasmids (>100 kb) focusing on the most conserved regions on plasmids, minireplicons. Sixty-five putative minireplicons were identified and classified to six types on the basis of proteins that are essential for replication. Twenty-nine of the 31 megaplasmids contained two or more minireplicons. Phylogenetic analysis of the protein sequences showed that different minireplicons on the same megaplasmid have different evolutionary histories. Therefore, we speculated that these megaplasmids are the results of fusion of smaller plasmids. All plasmids of a bacterial strain must be compatible. In megaplasmids of the B. cereus group, individual minireplicons of different megaplasmids in the same strain belong to different types or subtypes. Thus, the subtypes of each minireplicon they contain may determine the incompatibilities of megaplasmids. A broader analysis of all 1285 bacterial plasmids with putative known minireplicons whose complete genome sequences were available from GenBank revealed that 34% (443 plasmids) of the plasmids have two or more minireplicons. This indicates that plasmid fusion events are general among bacterial plasmids. Conclusions: Megaplasmids of B. cereus group are fusion of smaller plasmids, and the fusion of plasmids likely occurs frequently in the B. cereus group and in other bacterial taxa. Plasmid fusion may be one of the major mechanisms for formation of novel megaplasmids in the evolution of bacteria.
November 26, 2013
Contrasting evolutionary patterns of spore coat proteins in two Bacillus species groups are linked to a difference in cellular structure
Background: The Bacillus subtilis-group and the Bacillus cereus-group are two well-studied groups of species in the genus Bacillus. Bacteria in this genus can produce a highly resistant cell type, the spore, which is encased in a complex protective protein shell called the coat. Spores in the B. cereus-group contain an additional outer layer, the exosporium, which encircles the coat. The coat in B. subtilis spores possesses inner and outer layers. The aim of this study is to investigate whether differences in the spore structures influenced the divergence of the coat protein genes during the evolution of these two Bacillus species groups. Results: We designed and implemented a computational framework to compare the evolutionary histories of coat proteins. We curated a list of B. subtilis coat proteins and identified their orthologs in 11 Bacillus species based on phylogenetic congruence. Phylogenetic profiles of these coat proteins show that they can be divided into conserved and labile ones. Coat proteins comprising the B. subtilis inner coat are significantly more conserved than those comprising the outer coat. We then performed genome-wide comparisons of the nonsynonymous/synonymous substitution rate ratio, dN/dS, and found contrasting patterns: Coat proteins have significantly higher dN/dS in the B. subtilis-group genomes, but not in the B. cereus-group genomes. We further corroborated this contrast by examining changes of dN/dS within gene trees, and found that some coat protein gene trees have significantly different dN/dS between the B subtilis-clade and the B. cereus-clade. Conclusions: Coat proteins in the B. subtilis- and B. cereus-group species are under contrasting selective pressures. We speculate that the absence of the exosporium in the B. subtilis spore coat effectively lifted a structural constraint that has led to relaxed negative selection pressure on the outer coat.
November 25, 2013
Comprehensive analysis of MHC class II genes in teleost fish genomes reveals dispensability of the peptide-loading DM system in a large part of vertebrates
Background: Classical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules play an essential role in presenting peptide antigens to CD4+ T lymphocytes in the acquired immune system. The non-classical class II DM molecule, HLA-DM in the case of humans, possesses critical function in assisting the classical MHC class II molecules for proper peptide loading and is highly conserved in tetrapod species. Although the absence of DM-like genes in teleost fish has been speculated based on the results of homology searches, it has not been definitively clear whether the DM system is truly specific for tetrapods or not. To obtain a clear answer, we comprehensively searched class II genes in representative teleost fish genomes and analyzed those genes regarding the critical functional features required for the DM system. Results: We discovered a novel ancient class II group (DE) in teleost fish and classified teleost fish class II genes into three major groups (DA, DB and DE). Based on several criteria, we investigated the classical/non-classical nature of various class II genes and showed that only one of three groups (DA) exhibits classical-type characteristics. Analyses of predicted class II molecules revealed that the critical tryptophan residue required for a classical class II molecule in the DM system could be found only in some non-classical but not in classical-type class II molecules of teleost fish. Conclusions: Teleost fish, a major group of vertebrates, do not possess the DM system for the classical class II peptide-loading and this sophisticated system has specially evolved in the tetrapod lineage.
November 20, 2013
Analyses of mitochondrial amino acid sequence datasets support the proposal that specimens of Hypodontus macropi from three species of macropodid hosts represent distinct species
Background: Hypodontus macropi is a common intestinal nematode of a range of kangaroos and wallabies (macropodid marsupials). Based on previous multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MEE) and nuclear ribosomal DNA sequence data sets, H. macropi has been proposed to be complex of species. To test this proposal using independent molecular data, we sequenced the whole mitochondrial (mt) genomes of individuals of H. macropi from three different species of hosts (Macropus robustus robustus, Thylogale billardierii and Macropus [Wallabia] bicolor) as well as that of Macropicola ocydromi (a related nematode), and undertook a comparative analysis of the amino acid sequence datasets derived from these genomes. Results: The mt genomes sequenced by next-generation (454) technology from H. macropi from the three host species varied from 13,634 bp to 13,699 bp in size. Pairwise comparisons of the amino acid sequences predicted from these three mt genomes revealed differences of 5.8% to 18%. Phylogenetic analysis of the amino acid sequence data sets using Bayesian Inference (BI) showed that H. macropi from the three different host species formed distinct, well-supported clades. In addition, sliding window analysis of the mt genomes defined variable regions for future population genetic studies of H. macropi in different macropodid hosts and geographical regions around Australia. Conclusions: The present analyses of inferred mt protein sequence datasets clearly supported the hypothesis that H. macropi from M. robustus robustus, M. bicolor and T. billardierii represent distinct species.
Background: The increasing number of assembled mammalian genomes makes it possible to compare genome organisation across mammalian lineages and reconstruct chromosomes of the ancestral marsupial and therian (marsupial and eutherian) mammals. However, the reconstruction of ancestral genomes requires genome assemblies to be anchored to chromosomes. The recently sequenced tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) genome was assembled into over 300,000 contigs. We previously devised an efficient strategy for mapping large evolutionarily conserved blocks in non-model mammals, and applied this to determine the arrangement of conserved blocks on all wallaby chromosomes, thereby permitting comparative maps to be constructed and resolve the long debated issue between a 2n = 14 and 2n = 22 ancestral marsupial karyotype. Results: We identified large blocks of genes conserved between human and opossum, and mapped genes corresponding to the ends of these blocks by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). A total of 242 genes was assigned to wallaby chromosomes in the present study, bringing the total number of genes mapped to 554 and making it the most densely cytogenetically mapped marsupial genome. We used these gene assignments to construct comparative maps between wallaby and opossum, which uncovered many intrachromosomal rearrangements, particularly for genes found on wallaby chromosomes X and 3. Expanding comparisons to include chicken and human permitted the putative ancestral marsupial (2n = 14) and therian mammal (2n = 19) karyotypes to be reconstructed. Conclusions: Our physical mapping data for the tammar wallaby has uncovered the events shaping marsupial genomes and enabled us to predict the ancestral marsupial karyotype, supporting a 2n = 14 ancestor. Futhermore, our predicted therian ancestral karyotype has helped to understand the evolution of the ancestral eutherian genome.
Superiority of a mechanistic codon substitution model even for protein sequences in Phylogenetic analysis
Background: Nucleotide and amino acid substitution tendencies are characteristic of each species, organelle, and protein family. Hence, various empirical amino acid substitution rate matrices have needed to be estimated for phylogenetic analysis: JTT, WAG, and LG for nuclear proteins, mtREV for mitochondrial proteins, cpREV10 and cpREV64 for chloroplast-encoded proteins, and FLU for influenza proteins. On the other hand, in a mechanistic codon substitution model, in which each codon substitution rate is proportional to the product of a codon mutation rate and the ratio of fixation depending on the type of amino acid replacement, mutation rates and the strength of selective constraint on amino acids can be tailored to each protein family with additional 11 parameters. As a result, in the evolutionary analysis of codon sequences it outperforms codon substitution models equivalent to empirical amino acid substitution matrices. Is it superior even for amino acid sequences, among which synonymous substitutions cannot be identified? Results: Nucleotide mutations are assumed to occur independently of codon positions but multiple nucleotide changes in infinitesimal time are allowed. Selective constraints on the respective types of amino acid replacements are tailored to each gene with a linear function of a given estimate of selective constraints, which were estimated by maximizing the likelihood of an empirical amino acid or codon substitution frequency matrix, each of JTT, WAG, LG, and KHG. It is shown that the mechanistic codon substitution model with the assumption of equal codon usage yields better values of Akaike and Bayesian information criteria for all three phylogenetic trees of mitochondrial, chloroplast, and influenza-A hemagglutinin proteins than the empirical amino acid substitution models with mtREV, cpREV64, and FLU, which were designed specifically for those protein families, respectively. The variation of selective constraint across sites fits the datasets significantly better than variable codon mutation rates, confirming that substitution rate variations across sites detected by amino acid substitution models are caused primarily by the variation of selective constraint against amino acid substitutions rather than the variation of codon mutation rate. Conclusions: The mechanistic codon substitution model is superior to amino acid substitution models even in the evolutionary analysis of protein sequences.
November 19, 2013
Background: Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are genomic elements of retroviral origin that are present in the genomes of almost all vertebrates. In cattle, more than 13,000 elements related to ERVs have been detected, and based on the pol gene, 24 families or groups of bovine ERVs have been described. However, information about ERVs in other bovids and the presence of families of related bovine ERVs in different species of the Bovidae family is scarce. Results: The 24 families of bovine ERVs previously detected in cattle (Bos taurus) were also detected in zebus (Bos indicus) and yaks (Bos grunniens). In addition, six new families, named BoERV25 to BoERV30, were detected in the three Bos species. Five more ruminant species were screened for related ERVs: 26 families were detected in these species, but four families (BoERV24, BoERV26, BoERV28 and BoERV29) were specific to cattle, zebus, yaks and buffalo. An analysis of the homology of the ERVs of cattle, zebus and yaks revealed that the level of LTR divergence was similar between ERVs from cattle and zebus but was less similar between with ERVs from cattle and yaks. In addition, purifying selection was detected in the genes and retroviral regions of clusters of ERVs of cattle, zebus and yaks. Conclusions: In this work, the 24 ERV families previously identified in cattle were also found in two other species in the Bos genus. In addition, six new bovine ERV families were detected. Based on LTR divergence, the most recently inserted families are from Class II. The divergence of the LTR, used as an indirect estimate of the ERV insertion time, seemed to be influenced by the differences in genome evolution since the divergence of the species. In addition, purifying selection could be acting on clusters of ERVs from different species.
November 18, 2013
Background: The miR-513 subfamily belongs to an X-linked primate-specific miR506-514 cluster. Across primate species, there have been several duplication events and different species each possess a variety of miR-513 copies, indicating it underwent rapid evolution. Evidence suggests that this subfamily is preferentially expressed in the testis, but otherwise, to date, the evolutionary history and functional significance of this miRNA subfamily has remained largely unexplored. Results: We analyzed the evolutionary pattern of gene duplications and their functional consequence for the miR-513 subfamily in primates. Sequence comparisons showed that the duplicated copies of miR-513 were derived from transposable element (MER91C). Moreover, duplication events of the miR-513 subfamily seem to have occurred independently in Platyrrhini (New World monkeys) and Catarrhini (Old World monkeys, apes and humans) after they diverged. Different copies of the miR-513 subfamily (miR-513a/b/c) have different seed sequences, due to after-duplication sequence divergences, which eventually led to functional divergences. The results of functional assays indicated that miR-513b could inhibit the expression of its target gene, the down-regulator of transcription 1 (DR1) at both the mRNA and protein levels. In the developing testis of rhesus macaques, we observed a temporal coupling of expression levels between miR-513b and DR1, suggesting that miR-513b could affect male sexual maturation by negatively regulating the development-stage related functioning of DR1. Conclusions: The miR-513 subfamily underwent multiple independent gene duplications among five different lineages of primates. The after-duplication sequence divergences among the different copies of miR-513 led to functional divergence of these copies in primates.
Lotka¿Volterra dynamics kills the Red Queen: population size fluctuations and associated stochasticity dramatically change host-parasite coevolution
Background: Host-parasite coevolution is generally believed to follow Red Queen dynamics consisting of ongoing oscillations in the frequencies of interacting host and parasite alleles. This belief is founded on previous theoretical work, which assumes infinite or constant population size. To what extent are such sustained oscillations realistic? Results: Here, we use a related mathematical modeling approach to demonstrate that ongoing Red Queen dynamics is unlikely. In fact, they collapse rapidly when two critical pieces of realism are acknowledged: (i) population size fluctuations, caused by the antagonism of the interaction in concordance with the Lotka-Volterra relationship; and (ii) stochasticity, acting in any finite population. Together, these two factors cause fast allele fixation. Fixation is not restricted to common alleles, as expected from drift, but also seen for originally rare alleles under a wide parameter space, potentially facilitating spread of novel variants. Conclusion: Our results call for a paradigm shift in our understanding of host-parasite coevolution, strongly suggesting that these are driven by recurrent selective sweeps rather than continuous allele oscillations.
November 16, 2013
New phylogenomic data support the monophyly of Lophophorata and an Ectoproct-Phoronid clade and indicate that Polyzoa and Kryptrochozoa are caused by systematic bias
Background: Within the complex metazoan phylogeny, the relationships of the three lophophorate lineages, ectoprocts, brachiopods and phoronids, are particularly elusive. To shed further light on this issue, we present phylogenomic analyses of 196 genes from 58 bilaterian taxa, paying particular attention to the influence of compositional heterogeneity. Results: The phylogenetic analyses strongly support the monophyly of Lophophorata and a sister-group relationship between Ectoprocta and Phoronida. Our results contrast previous findings based on rDNA sequences and phylogenomic datasets which supported monophyletic Polyzoa (= Bryozoa sensu lato) including Ectoprocta, Entoprocta and Cycliophora, Brachiozoa including Brachiopoda and Phoronida as well as Kryptrochozoa including Brachiopoda, Phoronida and Nemertea, thus rendering Lophophorata polyphyletic. Our attempts to identify the causes for the conflicting results revealed that Polyzoa, Brachiozoa and Kryptrochozoa are supported by character subsets with deviating amino acid compositions, whereas there is no indication for compositional heterogeneity in the character subsets supporting the monophyly of Lophophorata. Conclusion: Our results indicate that the support for Polyzoa, Brachiozoa and Kryptrochozoa gathered so far is likely an artifact caused by compositional bias. The monophyly of Lophophorata implies that the horseshoe-shaped mesosomal lophophore, the tentacular feeding apparatus of ectoprocts, phoronids and brachiopods is, indeed, a synapomorphy of the lophophorate lineages. The same may apply to radial cleavage. However, among phoronids also spiral cleavage is known. This suggests that the cleavage pattern is highly plastic and has changed several times within lophophorates. The sister group relationship of ectoprocts and phoronids is in accordance with the interpretation of the eversion of a ventral invagination at the beginning of metamorphosis as a common derived feature of these taxa.
November 14, 2013
Background: Pyura chilensis, a tunicate commercially exploited as food resource in Chile, is subject to management strategies, including restocking. The goal of this study was to examine the genetic structure of P. chilensis using information from a mitochondrial gene (Cytochrome Oxidase I, COI) and a nuclear gene (Elongation 1 alpha, EF1a), to characterize the geographic distribution of genetic diversity and differentiation, and to identify the main processes that have shaped it. We analyzed 268 and 208 sequences of COI and EF1a, respectively, from samples of eight local populations covering ca. 1800 km. Results: For Pyura chilensis, partial sequences of the gene COI revealed three highly supported haplogroups that diverged 260000 to 470000 years ago. Two haplogroups currently are widely distributed and sympatric, while one is dominant only in Los Molinos (LM, 39°50′S). The two widespread COI haplogroups underwent a geographic expansion during an interglacial period of the Late Pleistocene ca. 100000 years ago. The nuclear gene was less divergent and did not resolve the COI haplogroups. Bayesian clustering of the nuclear gene’s SNPs revealed that individuals from the two widespread COI haplogroups were mostly assigned to two of the three detected clusters and had a marked degree of admixture. The third cluster predominated in LM and showed low admixture. Haplotypic diversity of both genes was very high, there was no isolation by distance, and most localities were genetically undifferentiated; only LM was consistently differentiated with both genes analyzed. Conclusions: Pyura chilensis has less genetic structure than expected given its life history, which could be a consequence of dispersal on ship hulls. The only differentiated local population analyzed was LM. Coincidentally, it is the one furthest away from main maritime routes along the coast of Chile.The use of mitochondrial and nuclear markers allowed detection of divergent mitochondrial haplogroups in P. chilensis, two of which revealed nuclear admixture. The genetic structure of P. chilensis has likely been shaped by Pleistocene’s climatic effect on sea level leading to population contraction with isolation, followed by geographic range expansions with concomitant secondary contact and admixture.
Background: Placental mammals display a huge range of life history traits, including size, longevity, metabolic rate and germ line generation time. Although a number of general trends have been proposed between these traits, there are exceptions that warrant further investigation. Species such as naked mole rat, human and certain bat species all exhibit extreme longevity with respect to body size. It has long been established that telomeres and telomere maintenance have a clear role in ageing but it has not yet been established whether there is evidence for adaptation in telomere maintenance proteins that could account for increased longevity in these species. Results: Here we carry out a molecular investigation of selective pressure variation, specifically focusing on telomere associated genes across placental mammals. In general we observe a large number of instances of positive selection acting on telomere genes. Although these signatures of selection overall are not significantly correlated with either longevity or body size we do identify positive selection in the microbat species Myotis lucifugus in functionally important regions of the telomere maintenance genes DKC1 and TERT, and in naked mole rat in the DNA repair gene BRCA1. Conclusion: These results demonstrate the multifarious selective pressures acting across the mammal phylogeny driving lineage-specific adaptations of telomere associated genes. Our results show that regardless of the longevity of a species, these proteins have evolved under positive selection thereby removing increased longevity as the single selective force driving this rapid rate of evolution. However, evidence of molecular adaptations specific to naked mole rat and Myotis lucifugus highlight functionally significant regions in genes that may alter the way in which telomeres are regulated and maintained in these longer-lived species.
November 12, 2013
Functional characterization of spectral tuning mechanisms in the great bowerbird short-wavelength sensitive visual pigment (SWS1), and the origins of UV/violet vision in passerines and parrots
Background: One of the most striking features of avian vision is the variation in spectral sensitivity of the short wavelength sensitive (SWS1) opsins, which can be divided into two sub-types: violet- and UV- sensitive (VS & UVS). In birds, UVS has been found in both passerines and parrots, groups that were recently shown to be sister orders. While all parrots are thought to be UVS, recent evidence suggests some passerine lineages may also be VS. The great bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis) is a passerine notable for its courtship behaviours in which males build and decorate elaborate bower structures. Results: The great bowerbird SWS1 sequence possesses an unusual residue combination at known spectral tuning sites that has not been previously investigated in mutagenesis experiments. In this study, the SWS1 opsin of C. nuchalis was expressed along with a series of spectral tuning mutants and ancestral passerine SWS1 pigments, allowing us to investigate spectral tuning mechanisms and explore the evolution of UV/violet sensitivity in early passerines and parrots. The expressed C. nuchalis SWS1 opsin was found to be a VS pigment, with a lamdamax of 403 nm. Bowerbird SWS1 mutants C86F, S90C, and C86S/S90C all shifted lamdamax into the UV, whereas C86S had no effect. Experimentally recreated ancestral passerine and parrot/passerine SWS1 pigments were both found to be VS, indicating that UV sensitivity evolved independently in passerines and parrots from a VS ancestor. Conclusions: Our mutagenesis studies indicate that spectral tuning in C. nuchalis is mediated by mechanisms similar to those of other birds. Interestingly, our ancestral sequence reconstructions of SWS1 in landbird evolution suggest multiple transitions from VS to UVS, but no instances of the reverse. Our results not only provide a more precise prediction of where these spectral sensitivity shifts occurred, but also confirm the hypothesis that birds are an unusual exception among vertebrates where some descendants re-evolved UVS from a violet type ancestor. The re-evolution of UVS from a VS type pigment has not previously been predicted elsewhere in the vertebrate phylogeny.
Background: Pipo was recently described as a new ORF encoded within the genome of the Potyviridae family members (PNAS 105:5897--5902, 2008). It is embedded within the P3 cistron and is translated in the +2 reading frame relative to the potyviral long ORF as the P3N-PIPO fusion protein. In this work, we first collected pipo nucleotide sequences available for different isolates of 48 Potyvirus species. Second, to determine the biological implications of variation in pipo length, we measured infectivity, viral accumulation, cell-to-cell and systemic movements for two Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) variants with pipo alleles of different length in three different susceptible host species, and tested for differences between the two variants. Results: In addition to inter-specific variation, there was high variation in the length of the PIPO protein among isolates within species (ranging from 1 to 89 amino acids). Furthermore, selection analyses on the P3 cistron did not account for the existence of stop codons in the pipo ORF, but showed that positive selection was significant in the overlapping region for Potato virus Y (PVY) and TuMV. In some cases, variability in length was associated with host species, geographic provenance and/or other strain features. We found significant empirical differences among the phenotypes associated with TuMV pipo alleles, though the magnitude and sign of the effects were host-dependent. Conclusions: The combination of computational molecular evolution analyses and experiments stemming from these analyses provide clues about the selective pressures acting upon the different-length pipo alleles and show that variation in length may be maintained by host-driven selection.
Background: The Alpine region harbours one of the most diverse subterranean faunas in the world, with many species showing extreme morphological modifications. The ground beetles of tribe Trechini (Coleoptera, Carabidae) are among the best studied and widespread groups with abundance of troglobionts, but their origin and evolution is largely unknown. Results: We sequenced 3.4 Kb of mitochondrial (cox1, rrnL, trnL, nad1) and nuclear (SSU, LSU) genes of 207 specimens of 173 mostly Alpine species, including examples of all subterranean genera but two plus a representation of epigean taxa. We applied Bayesian methods and maximum likelihood to reconstruct the topology and to estimate divergence times using a priori rates obtained for a related ground beetle genus. We found three main clades of late Eocene-early Oligocene origin: (1) the genus Doderotrechus and relatives; (2) the genus Trechus sensu lato, with most anisotopic subterranean genera, including the Pyrenean lineage and taxa from the Dinaric Alps; and (3) the genus Duvalius sensu lato, diversifying during the late Miocene and including all subterranean isotopic taxa. Most of the subterranean genera had an independent origin and were related to epigean taxa of the same geographical area, but there were three large monophyletic clades of exclusively subterranean species: the Pyrenean lineage, a lineage including subterranean taxa from the eastern Alps and the Dinarides, and the genus Anophthalmus from the northeastern Alps. Many lineages have developed similar phenotypes independently, showing extensive morphological convergence or parallelism. Conclusions: The Alpine Trechini do not form a homogeneous fauna, in contrast with the Pyrenees, and show a complex scenario of multiple colonisations of the subterranean environment at different geological periods and through different processes. Examples go from populations of an epigean widespread species going underground with little morphological modifications to ancient, geographically widespread lineages of exclusively subterranean species likely to have diversified once fully adapted to the subterranean environment.
ANRIL/CDKN2B-AS shows two-stage clade-specific evolution and becomes conserved after transposon insertions in simians
Background: Many long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) genes identified in mammals have multiple exons and functional domains, allowing them to bind to polycomb proteins, DNA methyltransferases, and specific DNA sequences to regulate genome methylation. Little is known about the origin and evolution of lncRNAs. ANRIL/CDKN2B-AS consists of 19 exons on human chromosome 9p21 and regulates the expression of three cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKN2A/ARF/CDKN2B). Results: ANRIL/CDKN2B-AS originated in placental mammals, obtained additional exons during mammalian evolution but gradually lost them during rodent evolution, and reached 19 exons only in simians. ANRIL lacks splicing signals in mammals. In simians, multiple transposons were inserted and transformed into exons of the ANRIL gene, after which ANRIL became highly conserved. A further survey reveals that multiple transposons exist in many lncRNAs. Conclusions: ANRIL shows a two-stage, clade-specific evolutionary process and is fully developed only in simians. The domestication of multiple transposons indicates an impressive pattern of “evolutionary tinkering” and is likely to be important for ANRIL’s structure and function. The evolution of lncRNAs and that of transposons may be highly co-opted in primates. Many lncRNAs may be functional only in simians.
November 8, 2013
Genetic susceptibility to infectious disease in East African Shorthorn Zebu: a genome-wide analysis of the effect of heterozygosity and exotic introgression
Background: Positive multi-locus heterozygosity-fitness correlations have been observed in a number of natural populations. They have been explained by the correlation between heterozygosity and inbreeding, and the negative effect of inbreeding on fitness (inbreeding depression). Exotic introgression in a locally adapted population has also been found to reduce fitness (outbreeding depression) through the breaking-up of co-adapted genes, or the introduction of non-locally adapted gene variants.In this study we examined the inter-relationships between genome-wide heterozygosity, introgression, and death or illness as a result of infectious disease in a sample of calves from an indigenous population of East African Shorthorn Zebu (crossbred Bos taurus x Bos indicus) in western Kenya. These calves were observed from birth to one year of age as part of the Infectious Disease in East African Livestock (IDEAL) project. Some of the calves were found to be genetic hybrids, resulting from the recent introgression of European cattle breed(s) into the indigenous population. European cattle are known to be less well adapted to the infectious diseases present in East Africa. If death and illness as a result of infectious disease have a genetic basis within the population, we would expect both a negative association of these outcomes with introgression and a positive association with heterozygosity. Results: In this indigenous livestock population we observed negative associations between heterozygosity and both death and illness as a result of infectious disease and a positive association between European taurine introgression and episodes of clinical illness. Conclusion: We observe the effects of both inbreeding and outbreeding depression in the East African Shorthorn Zebu, and therefore find evidence of a genetic component to vulnerability to infectious disease. These results indicate that the significant burden of infectious disease in this population could, in principle, be reduced by altered breeding practices.
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