Molecular Biology and Evolution

Molecular Biology and Evolution - RSS feed of current issue

URL

XML feed
http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org

Last update

59 min 12 sec ago

September 18, 2014

07:19
07:19

Modern sequencing technology now allows biologists to collect the entirety of molecular evidence for reconstructing evolutionary trees. We introduce a novel, user-friendly software package engineered for conducting state-of-the-art Bayesian tree inferences on data sets of arbitrary size. Our software introduces a nonblocking parallelization of Metropolis-coupled chains, modifications for efficient analyses of data sets comprising thousands of partitions and memory saving techniques. We report on first experiences with Bayesian inferences at the whole-genome level using the SuperMUC supercomputer and simulated data.

07:19

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous RNA molecules that regulate gene expression posttranscriptionally. To date, the emergence of miRNAs and their patterns of sequence evolution have been analyzed in great detail. However, the extent to which miRNA expression levels have evolved over time, the role different evolutionary forces play in shaping these changes, and whether this variation in miRNA expression can reveal the interplay between miRNAs and mRNAs remain poorly understood. This is especially true for miRNA expressed during key developmental transitions. Here, we assayed miRNA expression levels immediately before (≥18BPF [18 h before puparium formation]) and after (PF) the increase in the hormone ecdysone responsible for triggering metamorphosis. We did so in four strains of Drosophila melanogaster and two closely related species. In contrast to their sequence conservation, approximately 25% of miRNAs analyzed showed significant within-species variation in male expression levels at ≥18BPF and/or PF. Additionally, approximately 33% showed modifications in their pattern of expression bias between developmental timepoints. A separate analysis of the ≥18BPF and PF stages revealed that changes in miRNA abundance accumulate linearly over evolutionary time at PF but not at ≥18BPF. Importantly, ≥18BPF-enriched miRNAs showed the greatest variation in expression levels both within and between species, so are the less likely to evolve under stabilizing selection. Functional attributes, such as expression ubiquity, appeared more tightly associated with lower levels of miRNA expression polymorphism at PF than at ≥18BPF. Furthermore, ≥18BPF- and PF-enriched miRNAs showed opposite patterns of covariation in expression with mRNAs, which denoted the type of regulatory relationship between miRNAs and mRNAs. Collectively, our results show contrasting patterns of functional divergence associated with miRNA expression levels during Drosophila ontogeny.

07:19

The major families of chromatin remodelers have been conserved throughout eukaryotic evolution. Because they play broad, pleiotropic roles in gene regulation, it was not known if their functions could change rapidly. Here, we show that major alterations in the use of chromatin remodelers are possible, because the nucleosome remodeling factor (NURF) complex has acquired a unique role in the sperm/oocyte decision of the nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae. First, lowering the activity of C. briggsae NURF-1 or ISW-1, the core components of the NURF complex, causes germ cells to become oocytes rather than sperm. This observation is based on the analysis of weak alleles and null mutations that were induced with TALENs and on RNA interference. Second, qRT–polymerase chain reaction data show that the C. briggsae NURF complex promotes the expression of Cbr-fog-1 and Cbr-fog-3, two genes that control the sperm/oocyte decision. This regulation occurs in the third larval stage and affects the expression of later spermatogenesis genes. Third, double mutants reveal that the NURF complex and the transcription factor TRA-1 act independently on Cbr-fog-1 and Cbr-fog-3. TRA-1 binds both promoters, and computer analyses predict that these binding sites are buried in nucleosomes, so we suggest that the NURF complex alters chromatin structure to allow TRA-1 access to Cbr-fog-1 and Cbr-fog-3. Finally, lowering NURF activity by mutation or RNA interference does not affect this trait in other nematodes, including the sister species C. nigoni, so it must have evolved recently. We conclude that altered chromatin remodeling could play an important role in evolutionary change.

07:19

Among land plants, angiosperms have the structurally most labile mitochondrial (mt) genomes. In contrast, the so-called early land plants (e.g., mosses) seem to have completely static mt chromosomes. We assembled the complete mt genomes from 12 mosses spanning the moss tree of life, to assess 1) the phylogenetic depth of the conserved mt gene content and order and 2) the correlation between scattered sequence repeats and gene order lability in land plants. The mt genome of most mosses is approximately 100 kb in size, and thereby the smallest among land plants. Based on divergence time estimates, moss mt genome structure has remained virtually frozen for 350 My, with only two independent gene losses and a single gene relocation detected across the macroevolutionary tree. This is the longest period of mt genome stasis demonstrated to date in a plant lineage. The complete lack of intergenic repeat sequences, considered to be essential for intragenomic recombinations, likely accounts for the evolutionary stability of moss mt genomes.

07:19

Numerous ancient whole-genome duplications (WGD) have occurred during eukaryote evolution. In vertebrates, duplicated developmental genes and their functional divergence have had important consequences for morphological evolution. Although two vertebrate WGD events (1R/2R) occurred over 525 Ma, we have focused on the more recent 3R or TGD (teleost genome duplication) event which occurred approximately 350 Ma in a common ancestor of over 26,000 species of teleost fishes. Through a combination of whole genome and bacterial artificial chromosome clone sequencing we characterized all Hox gene clusters of Pantodon buchholzi, a member of the early branching teleost subdivision Osteoglossomorpha. We find 45 Hox genes organized in only five clusters indicating that Pantodon has suffered more Hox cluster loss than other known species. Despite strong evidence for homology of the five Pantodon clusters to the four canonical pre-TGD vertebrate clusters (one HoxA, two HoxB, one HoxC, and one HoxD), we were unable to confidently resolve 1:1 orthology relationships between four of the Pantodon clusters and the eight post-TGD clusters of other teleosts. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that many Pantodon genes segregate outside the conventional "a" and "b" post-TGD orthology groups, that extensive topological incongruence exists between genes physically linked on a single cluster, and that signal divergence causes ambivalence in assigning 1:1 orthology in concatenated Hox cluster analyses. Out of several possible explanations for this phenomenon we favor a model which keeps with the prevailing view of a single TGD prior to teleost radiation, but which also considers the timing of diploidization after duplication, relative to speciation events. We suggest that although the duplicated hoxa clusters diploidized prior to divergence of osteoglossomorphs, the duplicated hoxb, hoxc, and hoxd clusters concluded diploidization independently in osteoglossomorphs and other teleosts. We use the term "tetralogy" to describe the homology relationship which exists between duplicated sequences which originate through a shared WGD, but which diploidize into distinct paralogs from a common allelic pool independently in two lineages following speciation.

07:19

Y chromosomes, with their reduced effective population size, lack of recombination, and male-limited transmission, present a unique collection of constraints for the operation of natural selection. Male-limited transmission may greatly increase the efficacy of selection for male-beneficial mutations, but the reduced effective size also inflates the role of random genetic drift. Together, these defining features of the Y chromosome are expected to influence rates and patterns of molecular evolution on the Y as compared with X-linked or autosomal loci. Here, we use sequence data from 11 genes in 9 Drosophila species to gain insight into the efficacy of natural selection on the Drosophila Y relative to the rest of the genome. Drosophila is an ideal system for assessing the consequences of Y-linkage for molecular evolution in part because the gene content of Drosophila Y chromosomes is highly dynamic, with orthologous genes being Y-linked in some species whereas autosomal in others. Our results confirm the expectation that the efficacy of natural selection at weakly selected sites is reduced on the Y chromosome. In contrast, purifying selection on the Y chromosome for strongly deleterious mutations does not appear to be compromised. Finally, we find evidence of recurrent positive selection for 4 of the 11 genes studied here. Our results thus highlight the variable nature of the mode and impact of natural selection on the Drosophila Y chromosome.

07:19

Allopolyploidization in plants entails the merger of two divergent nuclear genomes, typically with only one set (usually maternal) of parental plastidial and mitochondrial genomes and with an altered cytonuclear stoichiometry. Thus, we might expect cytonuclear coevolution to be an important dimension of allopolyploid evolution. Here, we investigate cytonuclear coordination for the key chloroplast protein rubisco (ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase), which is composed of nuclear-encoded, small subunits (SSUs) and plastid-encoded, large subunits. By studying gene composition and diversity as well as gene expression in four model allopolyploid lineages, Arabidopsis, Arachis, Brassica, and Nicotiana, we demonstrate that paralogous nuclear-encoded rbcS genes within diploids are subject to homogenization via gene conversion and that such concerted evolution via gene conversion characterizes duplicated genes (homoeologs) at the polyploid level. Many gene conversions in the polyploids are intergenomic with respect to the diploid progenitor genomes, occur in functional domains of the homoeologous SSUs, and are directionally biased, such that the maternal amino acid states are favored. This consistent preferential maternal-to-paternal gene conversion is mirrored at the transcriptional level, with a uniform transcriptional bias of the maternal-like rbcS homoeologs. These data, repeated among multiple diverse angiosperm genera for an important photosynthetic enzyme, suggest that cytonuclear coevolution may be mediated by intergenomic gene conversion and altered transcription of duplicated, now homoeologous nuclear genes.

07:19

Gene loss is one of the main drivers in the evolution of genomes and species. The demonstration that a gene has been lost by pseudogenization is truly complete when one finds the pseudogene in the orthologous genomic region with respect to active genes in other species. In some cases, the identification of such orthologous loci is not possible because of chromosomal rearrangements or if the gene of interest has not yet been sequenced. This question is particularly important in the case of birds because the genomes of avian species possess only about 15,000 predicted genes, in comparison with 20,000 in mammals. Yet, gene loss raises the question of which functions are affected by the changes in gene counts. We describe a systematic approach that makes it possible to demonstrate gene loss in the chicken genome even if a pseudogene has not been found. By using phylogenetic and synteny analysis in vertebrates, genome-wide comparisons between the chicken genome and expressed sequence tags, RNAseq data analysis, statistical analysis of the chicken genome, and radiation hybrid mapping, we show that resistin, TNFα, and PAI-1 (SERPINE1), three genes encoding adipokines inhibiting insulin sensitivity, have been lost in chicken and zebra finch genomes. Moreover, omentin, a gene encoding an adipokine that enhances insulin sensitivity, has also been lost in the chicken genome. Overall, only one adipokine inhibiting insulin sensitivity and five adipokines enhancing insulin sensitivity are still present in the chicken genome. These genetic differences between mammals and chicken, given the functions of the genes in mammals, would have dramatic consequences on chicken endocrinology, leading to novel equilibriums especially in the regulation of energy metabolism, insulin sensitivity, as well as appetite and reproduction.

07:19

Adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) has emerged as a valuable method by which to investigate microbial adaptation to a desired environment. Here, we performed ALE to 42 °C of ten parallel populations of Escherichia coli K-12 MG1655 grown in glucose minimal media. Tightly controlled experimental conditions allowed selection based on exponential-phase growth rate, yielding strains that uniformly converged toward a similar phenotype along distinct genetic paths. Adapted strains possessed as few as 6 and as many as 55 mutations, and of the 144 genes that mutated in total, 14 arose independently across two or more strains. This mutational recurrence pointed to the key genetic targets underlying the evolved fitness increase. Genome engineering was used to introduce the novel ALE-acquired alleles in random combinations into the ancestral strain, and competition between these engineered strains reaffirmed the impact of the key mutations on the growth rate at 42 °C. Interestingly, most of the identified key gene targets differed significantly from those found in similar temperature adaptation studies, highlighting the sensitivity of genetic evolution to experimental conditions and ancestral genotype. Additionally, transcriptomic analysis of the ancestral and evolved strains revealed a general trend for restoration of the global expression state back toward preheat stressed levels. This restorative effect was previously documented following evolution to metabolic perturbations, and thus may represent a general feature of ALE experiments. The widespread evolved expression shifts were enabled by a comparatively scant number of regulatory mutations, providing a net fitness benefit but causing suboptimal expression levels for certain genes, such as those governing flagellar formation, which then became targets for additional ameliorating mutations. Overall, the results of this study provide insight into the adaptation process and yield lessons important for the future implementation of ALE as a tool for scientific research and engineering.

07:19

The captive genetic management of threatened species strives to preserve genetic diversity and avoid inbreeding to ensure populations remain available, healthy, and viable for future reintroduction. Determining and responding to the genetic status of captive populations is therefore paramount to these programs. Here, we genotyped 19 microsatellite loci for 240 captive giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) (~64% of the captive population) from four breeding centers, Wolong (WL), Chengdu (CD), Louguantai (LGT), and Beijing (BJ), and analyzed 655 bp of mitochondrial DNA control region sequence for 220 of these animals. High levels of genetic diversity and low levels of inbreeding were estimated in the breeding centers, indicating that the captive population is genetically healthy and deliberate further genetic input from wild animals is unnecessary. However, the LGT population faces a higher risk of inbreeding, and significant genetic structure was detected among breeding centers, with LGT–CD and WL–BJ clustering separately. Based on these findings, we highlight that: 1) the LGT population should be managed as an independent captive population to resemble the genetic distinctness of their Qinling Mountain origins; 2) exchange between CD and WL should be encouraged because of similar wild founder sources; 3) the selection of captive individuals for reintroduction should consider their geographic origin, genetic background, and genetic contribution to wild populations; and 4) combining our molecular genetic data with existing pedigree data will better guide giant panda breeding and further reduce inbreeding into the future.

07:19

Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) describe the progression of transcriptional states that take a single-celled zygote to a multicellular organism. It is well documented that GRNs can evolve extensively through mutations to cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). Transcription factor proteins that bind these CRMs may also evolve to produce novelty. Coding changes are considered to be rarer, however, because transcription factors are multifunctional and hence are more constrained to evolve in ways that will not produce widespread detrimental effects. Recent technological advances have unearthed a surprising variation in DNA-binding abilities, such that individual transcription factors may recognize both a preferred primary motif and an additional secondary motif. This provides a source of modularity in function. Here, we demonstrate that orthologous transcription factors can also evolve a changed preference for a secondary binding motif, thereby offering an unexplored mechanism for GRN evolution. Using protein-binding microarray, surface plasmon resonance, and in vivo reporter assays, we demonstrate an important difference in DNA-binding preference between Tbrain protein orthologs in two species of echinoderms, the sea star, Patiria miniata, and the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Although both orthologs recognize the same primary motif, only the sea star Tbr also has a secondary binding motif. Our in vivo assays demonstrate that this difference may allow for greater evolutionary change in timing of regulatory control. This uncovers a layer of transcription factor binding divergence that could exist for many pairs of orthologs. We hypothesize that this divergence provides modularity that allows orthologous transcription factors to evolve novel roles in GRNs through modification of binding to secondary sites.

07:19

Cooperation requires communication; this applies to animals and humans alike. The main communication means differ between taxa and social insects (ants, termites, and some bees and wasps) lack the cognitive abilities of most social vertebrates. Central to the regulation of the reproductive harmony in insect societies is the production of a royalty scent which signals the fertility status of the reproducing queen to the nonreproducing workers. Here, we revealed a central genetic component underlying this hallmark of insect societies in the termite Cryptotermes secundus. Communication between queens and workers relied upon the expression of a gene, Neofem4, which belongs to the cytochrome P450 genes. We inhibited Neofem4 in queens by RNA interference. This resulted in the loss of the royalty scent in queens and the workers behaved as though the queen were absent. The queen’s behavior was not generally affected by silencing Neofem4. This suggests that the lack of the royalty scent lead to workers not recognizing her anymore as queen. P450 genes are known to be involved in the production of chemical signals in cockroaches and their expression has been linked to a major fertility regulator, juvenile hormone. This makes P450 genes, both a suitable and available evolutionary substrate in the face of natural selection for production of a queen substance. Our data suggest that in an organism without elaborate cognitive abilities communication has been achieved by the exploitation of a central gene that links the fertility network with the chemical communication pathway. As termites and social Hymenoptera seem to share the same class of compounds in signaling fertility, this role of P450 genes might be more widespread across social insects.

07:19

In the chloroplast, the posttranscriptional steps of gene expression are remarkably complex. RNA maturation and translation rely on a large cohort of nucleus-encoded proteins that act specifically on a single target transcript or a small set of targets. For example in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas, trans-splicing of the two split introns of psaA requires at least 14 nucleus-encoded proteins. To investigate the functional significance of this complex trans-splicing pathway, we have introduced an intron-less copy of psaA in the chloroplast genomes of three mutants deficient in trans-splicing and of the wild type. We find that the intron-less psaA gene rescues the mutant phenotypes. The growth of strains with the intron-less psaA is indistinguishable from the wild type under the set of different experimental conditions that were investigated. Thus, the trans-splicing factors do not appear to have any other essential function and trans-splicing of psaA can be bypassed. We discuss how these observations support the hypothesis that complex RNA metabolism in the chloroplast may in part be the result of a nonadaptive evolutionary ratchet. Genetic drift may lead to the accumulation of chloroplast mutations and the recruitment of compensatory nuclear suppressors from large preexisting pools of genes encoding RNA-binding proteins.

07:19

Agnathans (jawless vertebrates) occupy a key phylogenetic position for illuminating the evolution of vertebrate anatomy and physiology. Evaluation of the agnathan globin gene repertoire can thus aid efforts to reconstruct the origin and evolution of the globin genes of vertebrates, a superfamily that includes the well-known model proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin. Here, we report a comprehensive analysis of the genome of the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) which revealed 23 intact globin genes and two hemoglobin pseudogenes. Analyses of the genome of the Arctic lamprey (Lethenteron camtschaticum) identified 18 full length and five partial globin gene sequences. The majority of the globin genes in both lamprey species correspond to the known agnathan hemoglobins. Both genomes harbor two copies of globin X, an ancient globin gene that has a broad phylogenetic distribution in the animal kingdom. Surprisingly, we found no evidence for an ortholog of neuroglobin in the lamprey genomes. Expression and phylogenetic analyses identified an ortholog of cytoglobin in the lampreys; in fact, our results indicate that cytoglobin is the only orthologous vertebrate-specific globin that has been retained in both gnathostomes and agnathans. Notably, we also found two globins that are highly expressed in the heart of P. marinus, thus representing functional myoglobins. Both genes have orthologs in L. camtschaticum. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that these heart-expressed globins are not orthologous to the myoglobins of jawed vertebrates (Gnathostomata), but originated independently within the agnathans. The agnathan myoglobin and hemoglobin proteins form a monophyletic group to the exclusion of functionally analogous myoglobins and hemoglobins of gnathostomes, indicating that specialized respiratory proteins for O2 transport in the blood and O2 storage in the striated muscles evolved independently in both lineages. This dual convergence of O2-transport and O2-storage proteins in agnathans and gnathostomes involved the convergent co-option of different precursor proteins in the ancestral globin repertoire of vertebrates.

07:19

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression either by degrading target mRNAs or by suppressing protein translation. miRNAs have been found to be involved in many biological processes, such as development, differentiation, and growth. However, the evolution of miRNA regulatory functions and networks has not been well studied. In this study, we conducted a cross-species analysis to study the evolution of cardiac miRNAs and their regulatory functions and networks. We found that conserved cardiac miRNA target genes have maintained highly conserved cardiac functions. Additionally, most of cardiac miRNA target genes in human with annotations of cardiac functions evolved from the corresponding homologous targets, which are also involved in heart development-related functions. On the basis of these results, we investigated the functional evolution of cardiac miRNAs and presented a functional evolutionary map. From this map, we identified the evolutionary time at which the cardiac miRNAs became involved in heart development or function and found that the biological processes of heart development evolved earlier than those of heart functions, for example, heart contraction/relaxation or cardiac hypertrophy. Our study of the evolution of the cardiac miRNA regulatory networks revealed the emergence of new regulatory functional branches during evolution. Furthermore, we discovered that early evolved cardiac miRNA target genes tend to participate in the early stages of heart development. This study sheds light on the evolution of developmental features of genes regulated by cardiac miRNAs.

07:19

Calcium signaling is one of the most extensively employed signal transduction mechanisms in life. As life evolved into increasingly complex organisms, Ca2+ acquired more extensive and varied functions. Here, we compare genes encoding proteins that govern Ca2+ entry and exit across cells or organelles within organisms of early eukaryotic evolution into fungi, plants, and animals. Recent phylogenomics analyses reveal a complex Ca2+ signaling machinery in the apusozoan protist Thecamonas trahens, a putative unicellular progenitor of Opisthokonta. We compare T. trahens Ca2+ signaling to that in a marine bikont protist, Aurantiochytrium limacinum, and demonstrate the conservation of key Ca2+ signaling molecules in the basally diverging alga Cyanophora paradoxa. Particularly, our findings reveal the conservation of the CatSper channel complex in Au. limacinum and C. paradoxa, suggesting that the CatSper complex likely originated from an ancestral Ca2+ signaling machinery at the root of early eukaryotic evolution prior to the unikont/bikont split.