Molecular Biology and Evolution

Molecular Biology and Evolution - RSS feed of current issue

URL

XML feed
http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org

Last update

1 hour 38 min ago

October 25, 2014

07:08
07:08

The role of gene duplication in generating new genes and novel functions is well recognized and is exemplified by the digestion-related protein lysozyme. In ruminants, duplicated chicken-type lysozymes facilitate the degradation of symbiotic bacteria in the foregut. Chicken-type lysozyme has also been reported to show chitinase-like activity, yet no study has examined the molecular evolution of lysozymes in species that specialize on eating insects. Insectivorous bats number over 900 species, and lysozyme expression in the mouths of some of these species is associated with the ingestion of insect cuticle, suggesting a chitinase role. Here, we show that chicken-type lysozyme has undergone multiple duplication events in a major family of insect-eating bats (Vespertilionidae) and that new duplicates have undergone molecular adaptation. Examination of duplicates from two insectivorous bats—Pipistrellus abramus and Scotophilus kuhlii—indicated that the new copy was highly expressed in the tongue, whereas the other one was less tissue-specific. Functional assays applied to pipistrelle lysozymes confirmed that, of the two copies, the tongue duplicate was more efficient at breaking down glycol chitin, a chitin derivative. These results suggest that the evolution of lysozymes in vespertilionid bats has likely been driven in part by natural selection for insectivory.

07:08

Members of a gene family expressed in a single species often experience common selection pressures. Consequently, the molecular basis of complex adaptations may be expected to involve parallel evolutionary changes in multiple paralogs. Here, we use bacterial artificial chromosome library scans to investigate the evolution of the voltage-gated sodium channel (Nav) family in the garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis, a predator of highly toxic Taricha newts. Newts possess tetrodotoxin (TTX), which blocks Nav’s, arresting action potentials in nerves and muscle. Some Thamnophis populations have evolved resistance to extremely high levels of TTX. Previous work has identified amino acid sites in the skeletal muscle sodium channel Nav1.4 that confer resistance to TTX and vary across populations. We identify parallel evolution of TTX resistance in two additional Nav paralogs, Nav1.6 and 1.7, which are known to be expressed in the peripheral nervous system and should thus be exposed to ingested TTX. Each paralog contains at least one TTX-resistant substitution identical to a substitution previously identified in Nav1.4. These sites are fixed across populations, suggesting that the resistant peripheral nerves antedate resistant muscle. In contrast, three sodium channels expressed solely in the central nervous system (Nav1.1–1.3) showed no evidence of TTX resistance, consistent with protection from toxins by the blood–brain barrier. We also report the exon–intron structure of six Nav paralogs, the first such analysis for snake genes. Our results demonstrate that the molecular basis of adaptation may be both repeatable across members of a gene family and predictable based on functional considerations.

07:08

SVA (SINE-R-VNTR-Alu) elements constitute the youngest family of composite non-LTR retrotransposons in hominoid primates. The sequence of their assembly, however, remains unclear. Recently, a second family of VNTR-containing composites, LAVA (L1-Alu-VNTR-Alu), has been identified in gibbons. We now report the existence of two additional VNTR composite families, PVA (PTGR2-VNTR-Alu) and FVA (FRAM-VNTR-Alu), in the genome of Nomascus leucogenys. Like LAVA, they share the 5'-Alu-like region and VNTR with SVA, but differ at their 3'-ends. The 3'-end of PVA comprises part of the PTGR2 gene, whereas FVA is characterized by the presence of a partial FRAM element in its 3'-domain. Splicing could be identified as the mechanism of acquisition of the variant 3'-ends in all four families of VNTR composites. SVAs have been shown to be mobilized by the L1 protein machinery in trans. A critical role in this process has been ascribed to their 5'-hexameric repeat/ Alu-like region. The Alu-like region displays specific features in each of the VNTR composite families/subfamilies with characteristic deletions found in the evolutionary younger subfamilies. Using reciprocal exchanges between SVA_E and PVA/FVA elements, we demonstrate that the structure, not the presence of the (CCCTCT)n/ Alu-like region determines mobilization capacity. Combination of LAVA and SVA_E domains does not yield any active elements—suggesting the use of different combinations of host factors for the two major groups of VNTR composites. Finally, we demonstrate that the LAVA 3'-L1ME5 fragment attenuates mobilization capacity.

07:08

Overcoming the stress of starvation is one of an organism’s most challenging phenotypic responses. Those organisms that frequently survive the challenge, by virtue of their fitness, will have evolved genomes that are shaped by their specific environments. Understanding this genotype–environment–phenotype relationship at a deep level will require quantitative predictive models of the complex molecular systems that link these aspects of an organism’s existence. Here, we treat one of the most fundamental molecular systems, protein synthesis, and the amino acid biosynthetic pathways involved in the stringent response to starvation. These systems face an inherent logical dilemma: Building an amino acid biosynthetic pathway to synthesize its product—the cognate amino acid of the pathway—may require that very amino acid when it is no longer available. To study this potential "catch-22," we have created a generic model of amino acid biosynthesis in response to sudden starvation. Our mathematical analysis and computational results indicate that there are two distinctly different outcomes: Partial recovery to a new steady state, or full system failure. Moreover, the cell’s fate is dictated by the cognate bias, the number of cognate amino acids in the corresponding biosynthetic pathway relative to the average number of that amino acid in the proteome. We test these implications by analyzing the proteomes of over 1,800 sequenced microbes, which reveals statistically significant evidence of low cognate bias, a genetic trait that would avoid the biosynthetic quandary. Furthermore, these results suggest that the pattern of cognate bias, which is readily derived by genome sequencing, may provide evolutionary clues to an organism’s natural environment.

07:08

The time required to transcribe genes with long primary transcripts may limit their ability to be expressed in cells with short mitotic cycles, a phenomenon termed intron delay. As such short cycles are a hallmark of the earliest stages of insect development, we tested the impact of intron delay on the Drosophila developmental transcriptome. We find that long zygotically expressed genes show substantial delay in expression relative to their shorter counterparts, which is not observed for maternally deposited transcripts. Patterns of RNA-seq coverage along transcripts show that this delay is consistent with their inability to completely transcribe long transcripts, but not with transcriptional initiation-based regulatory control. We further show that highly expressed zygotic genes maintain compact transcribed regions across the Drosophila phylogeny, allowing conservation of embryonic expression patterns. We propose that the physical constraints of intron delay affect patterns of expression and the evolution of gene structure of a substantial portion of the Drosophila transcriptome.

07:08

Gene loss, gain, and transfer play an important role in shaping the genomes of all organisms; however, the interplay of these processes in isolated populations, such as in obligate intracellular bacteria, is less understood. Despite a general trend towards genome reduction in these microbes, our phylogenomic analysis of the phylum Chlamydiae revealed that within the family Parachlamydiaceae, gene family expansions have had pronounced effects on gene content. We discovered that the largest gene families within the phylum are the result of rapid gene birth-and-death evolution. These large gene families are comprised of members harboring eukaryotic-like ubiquitination-related domains, such as F-box and BTB-box domains, marking the largest reservoir of these proteins found among bacteria. A heterologous type III secretion system assay suggests that these proteins function as effectors manipulating the host cell. The large disparity in copy number of members in these families between closely related organisms suggests that nonadaptive processes might contribute to the evolution of these gene families. Gene birth-and-death evolution in concert with genomic drift might represent a previously undescribed mechanism by which isolated bacterial populations diversify.

07:08

The 20 protein-coding amino acids are found in proteomes with different relative abundances. The most abundant amino acid, leucine, is nearly an order of magnitude more prevalent than the least abundant amino acid, cysteine. Amino acid metabolic costs differ similarly, constraining their incorporation into proteins. On the other hand, a diverse set of protein sequences is necessary to build functional proteomes. Here, we present a simple model for a cost-diversity trade-off postulating that natural proteomes minimize amino acid metabolic flux while maximizing sequence entropy. The model explains the relative abundances of amino acids across a diverse set of proteomes. We found that the data are remarkably well explained when the cost function accounts for amino acid chemical decay. More than 100 organisms reach comparable solutions to the trade-off by different combinations of proteome cost and sequence diversity. Quantifying the interplay between proteome size and entropy shows that proteomes can get optimally large and diverse.

07:08

Ralstonia solanacearum, the causal agent of a lethal bacterial wilt plant disease, infects an unusually wide range of hosts. These hosts can further be split into plants where R. solanacearum is known to cause disease (original hosts) and those where this bacterium can grow asymptomatically (distant hosts). Moreover, this pathogen is able to adapt to many plants as supported by field observations reporting emergence of strains with enlarged pathogenic properties. To investigate the genetic bases of host adaptation, we conducted evolution experiments by serial passages of a single clone of the pathogen on three original and two distant hosts over 300 bacterial generations and then analyzed the whole-genome of nine evolved clones. Phenotypic analysis of the evolved clones showed that the pathogen can increase its fitness on both original and distant hosts although the magnitude of fitness increase was greater on distant hosts. Only few genomic modifications were detected in evolved clones compared with the ancestor but parallel evolutionary changes in two genes were observed in independent evolved populations. Independent mutations in the regulatory gene efpR were selected for in three populations evolved on beans, a distant host. Reverse genetic approaches confirmed that these mutations were associated with fitness gain on bean plants. This work provides a first step toward understanding the within-host evolutionary dynamics of R. solanacearum during infection and identifying bacterial genes subjected to in planta selection. The discovery of EfpR as a determinant conditioning host adaptation of the pathogen illustrates how experimental evolution coupled with whole-genome sequencing is a potent tool to identify novel molecular players involved in central life-history traits.

07:08

The Ryukyu Islands are located to the southwest of the Japanese archipelago. Archaeological evidence has revealed the existence of prehistoric cultural differentiation between the northern Ryukyu islands of Amami and Okinawa, and the southern Ryukyu islands of Miyako and Yaeyama. To examine a genetic subdivision in the Ryukyu Islands, we conducted genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism typing of inhabitants from the Okinawa Islands, the Miyako Islands, and the Yaeyama Islands. Principal component and cluster analyses revealed genetic differentiation among the island groups, especially between Okinawa and Miyako. No genetic affinity was observed between aboriginal Taiwanese and any of the Ryukyu populations. The genetic differentiation observed between the inhabitants of the Okinawa Islands and the Miyako Islands is likely to have arisen due to genetic drift rather than admixture with people from neighboring regions. Based on the observed genetic differences, the divergence time between the inhabitants of Okinawa and Miyako islands was dated to the Holocene. These findings suggest that the Pleistocene inhabitants, whose bones have been found on the southern Ryukyu Islands, did not make a major genetic contribution, if any, to the present-day inhabitants of the southern Ryukyu Islands.

07:08

Small self-cleaving RNAs, such as the paradigmatic Hammerhead ribozyme (HHR), have been recently found widespread in DNA genomes across all kingdoms of life. In this work, we found that new HHR variants are preserved in the ancient family of Penelope-like elements (PLEs), a group of eukaryotic retrotransposons regarded as exceptional for encoding telomerase-like retrotranscriptases and spliceosomal introns. Our bioinformatic analysis revealed not only the presence of minimalist HHRs in the two flanking repeats of PLEs but also their massive and widespread occurrence in metazoan genomes. The architecture of these ribozymes indicates that they may work as dimers, although their low self-cleavage activity in vitro suggests the requirement of other factors in vivo. In plants, however, PLEs show canonical HHRs, whereas fungi and protist PLEs encode ribozyme variants with a stable active conformation as monomers. Overall, our data confirm the connection of self-cleaving RNAs with eukaryotic retroelements and unveil these motifs as a significant fraction of the encoded information in eukaryotic genomes.

07:08

In air-breathing vertebrates, the physiologically optimal blood-O2 affinity is jointly determined by the prevailing partial pressure of atmospheric O2, the efficacy of pulmonary O2 transfer, and internal metabolic demands. Consequently, genetic variation in the oxygenation properties of hemoglobin (Hb) may be subject to spatially varying selection in species with broad elevational distributions. Here we report the results of a combined functional and evolutionary analysis of Hb polymorphism in the rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis), a species that is continuously distributed across a steep elevational gradient on the Pacific slope of the Peruvian Andes. We integrated a population genomic analysis that included all postnatally expressed Hb genes with functional studies of naturally occurring Hb variants, as well as recombinant Hb (rHb) mutants that were engineered through site-directed mutagenesis. We identified three clinally varying amino acid polymorphisms: Two in the αA-globin gene, which encodes the α-chain subunits of the major HbA isoform, and one in the αD-globin gene, which encodes the α-chain subunits of the minor HbD isoform. We then constructed and experimentally tested single- and double-mutant rHbs representing each of the alternative αA-globin genotypes that predominate at different elevations. Although the locus-specific patterns of altitudinal differentiation suggested a history of spatially varying selection acting on Hb polymorphism, the experimental tests demonstrated that the observed amino acid mutations have no discernible effect on respiratory properties of the HbA or HbD isoforms. These results highlight the importance of experimentally validating the hypothesized effects of genetic changes in protein function to avoid the pitfalls of adaptive storytelling.

07:08

Chelicerata represents one of the oldest groups of arthropods, with a fossil record extending to the Cambrian, and is sister group to the remaining extant arthropods, the mandibulates. Attempts to resolve the internal phylogeny of chelicerates have achieved little consensus, due to marked discord in both morphological and molecular hypotheses of chelicerate phylogeny. The monophyly of Arachnida, the terrestrial chelicerates, is generally accepted, but has garnered little support from molecular data, which have been limited either in breadth of taxonomic sampling or in depth of sequencing. To address the internal phylogeny of this group, we employed a phylogenomic approach, generating transcriptomic data for 17 species in combination with existing data, including two complete genomes. We analyzed multiple data sets containing up to 1,235,912 sites across 3,644 loci, using alternative approaches to optimization of matrix composition. Here, we show that phylogenetic signal for the monophyly of Arachnida is restricted to the 500 slowest-evolving genes in the data set. Accelerated evolutionary rates in Acariformes, Pseudoscorpiones, and Parasitiformes potentially engender long-branch attraction artifacts, yielding nonmonophyly of Arachnida with increasing support upon incrementing the number of concatenated genes. Mutually exclusive hypotheses are supported by locus groups of variable evolutionary rate, revealing significant conflicts in phylogenetic signal. Analyses of gene-tree discordance indicate marked incongruence in relationships among chelicerate orders, whereas derived relationships are demonstrably robust. Consistently recovered and supported relationships include the monophyly of Chelicerata, Euchelicerata, Tetrapulmonata, and all orders represented by multiple terminals. Relationships supported by subsets of slow-evolving genes include Ricinulei + Solifugae; a clade comprised of Ricinulei, Opiliones, and Solifugae; and a clade comprised of Tetrapulmonata, Scorpiones, and Pseudoscorpiones. We demonstrate that outgroup selection without regard for branch length distribution exacerbates long-branch attraction artifacts and does not mitigate gene-tree discordance, regardless of high gene representation for outgroups that are model organisms. Arachnopulmonata (new name) is proposed for the clade comprising Scorpiones + Tetrapulmonata (previously named Pulmonata).

07:08

The origin of novel genes and their evolutionary fates are long-standing questions in evolutionary biology. These questions become more complicated for genes conserved across various lineages, such as TRIM5, an antiretroviral restriction factor and a retrovirus capsid sensor in immune signaling. TRIM5 has been subjected to numerous pathogenic challenges and undergone dynamic evolution, making it an excellent example for studying gene diversification. Previous studies among several species showed that TRIM5 gained genetic and functional novelty in a lineage-specific manner, either through gene duplication or a cyclophilin A retrotransposing into the TRIM5 locus, creating the gene fusion known as TRIM5-Cyclophilin A (TRIMCyp). To date, the general pattern of TRIM5 across the mammalian lineage remains elusive. In this study, we surveyed 36 mammalian genomes to verify a potentially novel TRIM5 pattern that uniquely seems to have occurred in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri), and found that both gene duplication and retrotransposition worked jointly to form a specific TRIM5/TRIMCyp cluster not found among other mammals. Evolutionary analyses showed that tree shrew TRIMCyp (tsTRIMCyp) originated independently in comparison with previously reported TRIMCyps and underwent strong positive selection, whereas no signal of positive selection was detected for other tree shrew TRIM5 (tsTRIM5) genes. Functional assay results suggest a functional divergence between tsTRIMCyp and its closest paralog TRIM5-4, likely reflecting different fates under diverse evolutionary forces. These findings present a rare example of novel gene origination resulting from a combination of gene duplication, retrotransposition, and exon shuffling processes, providing a new paradigm to study genetic innovations and evolutionary fates of duplicated genes.

07:08

In Drosophila, chromosomes have been extensively reorganized during evolution, with most rearrangements affecting the gene order in chromosomal elements but not their gene content. The level of reorganization and the evidence for breakpoint reuse vary both between and within elements. The subito gene stands out as a gene involved in multiple rearrangements both because of its active single-gene transposition and because it is the nearest gene to diverse rearrangements breakpoints. Indeed, subito has undergone three single-gene transpositions and it is the nearest gene to the breakpoints of other single-gene transpositions and of two chromosomal inversions. Given that subito is involved in meiosis and therefore active in the female germ line, the high number of nearby fixed breakages might be related among others to the presumed high accessibility of the subito region to the machinery associated with double-strand breaks repair. A second important contributor would be the reduced and simple regulatory region of subito, which would imply that a fraction of the rearrangements originating from subito nearby breakages would have not affected either its pattern or timing of expression and would have, thus, not resulted in reduced fitness.

07:08

Many organisms survive fluctuating and extreme environmental conditions by manifesting multiple distinct phenotypes during adulthood by means of developmental processes that enable phenotypic plasticity. We report on the discovery of putative plasticity-enabling genes that are involved in transforming the gill of the euryhaline teleost fish, Fundulus heteroclitus, from its freshwater to its seawater gill-type, a process that alters both morphology and function. Gene expression that normally enables osmotic plasticity is inhibited by arsenic. Gene sets defined by antagonistic interactions between arsenic and salinity show reduced transcriptional variation among individual fish, suggesting unusually accurate and precise regulatory control of these genes, consistent with the hypothesis that they participate in a canalized developmental response. We observe that natural selection acts to preserve canalized gene expression in populations of killifish that are most tolerant to abrupt salinity change and that these populations show the least variability in their transcription of genes enabling plasticity of the gill. We found that genes participating in this highly canalized and conserved plasticity-enabling response had significantly fewer and less complex associations with transcriptional regulators than genes that respond only to arsenic or salinity. Collectively these findings, which are drawn from the relationships between environmental challenge, plasticity, and canalization among populations, suggest that the selective processes that facilitate phenotypic plasticity do so by targeting the regulatory networks that gives rise to the response. These findings also provide a generalized, conceptual framework of how genes might interact with the environment and evolve toward the development of plastic traits.

07:08

Recombination between double-stranded DNA molecules is a key genetic process which occurs in a wide variety of organisms. Usually, crossing-over (CO) occurs during meiosis between genotypes with 98.0–99.9% sequence identity, because within-population nucleotide diversity only rarely exceeds 2%. However, some species are hypervariable and it is unclear how CO can occur between genotypes with less than 90% sequence identity. Here, we study CO in Schizophyllum commune, a hypervariable cosmopolitan basidiomycete mushroom, a frequently encountered decayer of woody substrates. We crossed two haploid individuals, from the United States and from Russia, and obtained genome sequences for their 17 offspring. The average genetic distance between the parents was 14%, making it possible to study CO at very high resolution. We found reduced levels of linkage disequilibrium between loci flanking the CO sites indicating that they are mostly confined to hotspots of recombination. Furthermore, CO events preferentially occurred in regions under stronger negative selection, in particular within exons that showed reduced levels of nucleotide diversity. Apparently, in hypervariable species CO must avoid regions of higher divergence between the recombining genomes due to limitations imposed by the mismatch repair system, with regions under strong negative selection providing the opportunity for recombination. These patterns are opposite to those observed in a number of less variable species indicating that population genomics of hypervariable species may reveal novel biological phenomena.