Joseph Felsenstein is Professor in the Departments of Genome Sciences and Biology and Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Statistics at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is best known for his work on phylogenetic inference, and is the author of Inferring Phylogenies, and principal author and distributor of the package of phylogenetic inference programs called PHYLIP, and is currently serving as the President of the Society for Molecular Biology & Evolution.

You can reach Joe at

James McInerney is the principle investigator of the Bioinformatics and Molecular Evolution Laboratories at NUI Maynooth. He was one of the founding directors of the Irish Centre for High End Computing, an Associate Editor of Molecular Biology and Evolution, Biology Direct, and Journal of Experimental Zoology, and is currently serving as the Secretary for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

You can reach James at

Juliette de Meaux is interested in the molecular basis of Darwinian adaptation in natural plant systems. Her works combines the approaches of population, quantitative and molecular genetics to dissect the underpinning of adaptive changes. She completed her PhD at AgroParisTech, under the supervision of Prof. Claire Neema and studied the molecular basis of host-pathogen coevolution in natural populations of common bean. She then spent her Postdoc time in the lab of Prof. Tom Mitchell-Olds at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology in Jena and worked on the evolution of cis-regulatory DNA. Since 2005, she runs her own lab, first at the Max Planck Institute of Plant Breeding in Cologne and then at the University of Münster. In January 2015, she relocated her lab at the University of Cologne. She is currently serving as the Treasurer for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

You can reach Juliette at


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The Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution is an international organization whose goals are to provide facilities for association and communication among molecular evolutionists and to further the goals of molecular evolution, as well as its practitioners and teachers. In order to accomplish these goals, the Society publishes two peer-reviewed journals, Molecular Biology and Evolution and Genome Biology and Evolution. The Society sponsors an annual meeting, as well as smaller satellite meetings or workshop on important, focused, and timely topics. It also confers honors and awards to students and researchers.

SMBE 2018

It is our pleasure to invite you to attend SMBE 2018 - the annual meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. SMBE 2018 will be held from the 8th to the 12th of July in Yokohama, Japan. SMBE 2018 at Yokohama is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landmark paper by Kimura (1968) who proposed the neutral theory of molecular evolution. The meeting - including plenary talks, symposia presentations, the Walter Fitch symposium, and poster sessions - will showcase the latest research in genomics, population genetics, and molecular biology and evolution. 

More information can be found HERE


SMBE is a member of the Scientific Society Publisher Alliance

Featured News and Updates

Call for Proposals: SMBE Satellite Meetings

In addition to supporting its annual meeting, SMBE Council will provide funds in aid of one or more workshops or small (with fewer than 100 participants) SATELLITE MEETINGS per calendar year. In the past five years, SMBE has supported multiple satellite meetings on diverse topics:

·         Phylomedicine 2012

·         Eukaryotic Metagenomics 2013

·         Mechanisms of Protein Evolution II 2013

·         The Origin of Life 2014

·         Causes of Genome Evolution 2014

·         Phylogenomic Networks in Microbial Genome Evolution 2014

·         Investigating biological adaptation with NGS: data and models 2015

·         Mutation, Repair and Evolution 2015

·         Phylogenetics and Biodiversity 2015

·         Mechanisms of Protein Evolution III 2015

·         Genome Evolution in Pathogen Transmission and Disease 2016

·         Genetics of admixed populations 2016

·         RNA modification and its implication on adaptation and evolution 2016

·         Mitochondrial Genomics and Evolution 2017

SMBE is now calling for proposals for workshops/satellite meetings to be held between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018. Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to members of the molecular evolution research community to run workshops/satellite meetings on an important, focused, and timely topic of their choice. The deadline for submission of proposals is April 10, 2017.

NEW: SMBE INTERDISCIPLINARY AND REGIONAL ACTIONS. In addition to supporting its annual meeting and satellite meetings, SMBE will promote interdisciplinary research and extend its actions worldwide by sponsoring (1) joint meetings with meetings of other societies; symposia or plenary lectures on molecular biology and evolution at meetings whose primary focus is not molecular evolution; (2) regional meetings outside the US, Europe, and Japan; (3) small regional meetings in the US, Europe, or Japan targeted towards PhD students and postdocs with the purpose of helping them develop their presentation skills and facilitate networking. Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to members of the molecular evolution research community to run all three types of actions. SMBE is now calling for proposals to be held between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018. The number of awards will depend on the quality of proposals and total cost. The deadline for submission of proposals is April 10, 2017.


• SMBE will provide financial support for up to 80% of the cost of each satellite meeting, up to maximum of $40,000 USD per meeting (most meetings are funded at $20,000-$30,000 each). SMBE will provide financial support for up to 80% of the cost for the joint and regional meetings, up to maximum of $25,000 USD per meeting (up to $10,000 USD for small regional meetings in the US, Europe, or Japan). SMBE will cover the cost of plenary lectures, up to a maximum of $3,000 USD per lecture. A detailed projected budget, including the expected number of participants, travel/food/lodging costs, and registration fees must be submitted with the application.

At least one of the organizers must be a member of SMBE. Current SMBE Council members, or members who have rotated-off Council in the last calendar year, are not eligible to serve as meeting organizers or co-organizers.

• For satellite meetings, funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to members of the molecular evolution research community that propose an important, focused, and timely topic. Topics not well represented in symposia of SMBE annual meetings will be favored over those that are already well represented at the annual meetings or previous SMBE satellite meetings. For Interdisciplinary and Regional actions, meetings/symposia/lectures will be selected based on the scientific importance, timeliness and anticipated impact on the fields of molecular biology, genome biology, and evolution.

·   Proposals are encouraged to include details for plans about the recruitment of speakers and participants that will ensure broad representation across SMBE membership, including gender and geographical location. Proposals for meetings to be organized in geographical areas that have been traditionally under-represented in SMBE meetings (annual or satellite) are especially encouraged.

• Proposals will be received and reviewed by the SMBE Satellite Workshop Committee and SMBE Interdisciplinary and Regional Actions Committee. Each Committee will consist of four individuals: one SMBE Council Member (who will also serve as Chair) and three other members of SMBE. The committees will make a recommendation to SMBE Council, whose decision is final. The committees or SMBE Council may decide not to support any meeting in any particular year.

• Events will be named “SMBE Satellite Meeting on XYZ”, or “SMBE Interdisciplinary Meeting/Symposium/Lecture” and “SMBE Regional Meeting in XYZ(Geographic Location)”. Meeting organizers should host a website for the meeting that highlights the main theme as well as program, including the speaker list. This website should stay active for at least 3 years after the meeting date. Symposium and lecture organizers should provide a link to be advertised on the SMBE webpage. The sponsorship of the SMBE must be mentioned in all pre-meeting publicity and in the meeting programme.

• The satellite meeting/workshop and a regional meeting must be a standalone event. It should not form a symposium or other part of a larger meeting. It should not immediately follow or precede any other meeting.

• Organizers will be required to submit a copy of the final workshop/symposium/meeting program and a short (~2 page) report of the workshop/symposium/meeting highlights to SMBE Council within 3 months of the event.  The report for satellite meetings should be sent to Kateryna Makova (, and for Interdisciplinary and Regional Actions – to Maud Tenaillon (

Instructions for proposals

Satellite meeting / workshop proposals should be sent by email to the Chair of the SMBE Satellite Workshop Committee Kateryna Makova ( Interdisciplinary and Regional Actions proposals should be sent by email to the Chair of the SMBE Interdisciplinary Regional Actions Committee Maud Tenaillon (

The deadline for submission of proposals is April 10, 2017.

1. Provide the name(s) and full contact information for all organizer(s) and institution(s) involved. Universities/ organizations providing additional financial support, if involved, should also be listed. If additional funding is being simultaneously applied for, please state the status of that request as well.

2. Workshop/action summary  (4 single-spaced pages max, 1 page max for a lecture). Describe the scientific rationale for your proposed workshop. In doing so, be sure to clearly state (1) the importance and timeliness of the topic, (2) the anticipated short-term and long-term impacts of your meeting or action on the fields of molecular biology, genome biology, and evolution, (3) the proposed structure of your workshop/meeting or action (e.g., lectures only, lectures + hands-on training sessions, contributed talks, poster sessions, etc.), (4) an indicative list of proposed invited speakers; (5) for satellite meetings only: why a workshop/small meeting format is preferable to a symposium at the SMBE annual meeting; (6) for interdisciplinary actions only: the relevance of mixing communities (for joint meetings, symposia and plenary lectures at non-evolution meetings); (7) for regional actions outside the US, Europe, and Japan only: the relevance of promoting actions in specific regions; (8) for small regional actions in the US, Europe, and Japan only: the extent and nature of student/postdoctoral fellow involvement.

3. Financial summary. Please summarize your financial request, including estimated total budget, registration costs (if any), travel support for speakers / trainees, and details of non-SMBE funds to be used.

  • Monday, March 13, 2017
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MBE | Most Read

Molecular Biology and Evolution

Using Modern Genomics to Turn Alligator Scales into Birdlike Feathers

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

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the RcGTA, which is widely distributed in a broad range of species; and the BaGTA, which has a restricted host range that includes vector-borne intracellular bacteria of the genus Bartonella. The RcGTA packages chromosomal DNA randomly, whereas the BaGTA particles contain a relatively higher fraction of genes for host interaction factors that are amplified from a nearby phage-derived origin of replication. In this study, we compare the BaGTA genes with homologous bacteriophage genes identified in the genomes of Bartonella species and close relatives. Unlike the BaGTA, the prophage genes are neither present in all species, nor inserted into homologous genomic sites. Phylogenetic inferences and substitution frequency analyses confirm codivergence of the BaGTA with the host genome, as opposed to multiple integration and recombination events in the prophages. Furthermore, the organization of segments flanking the BaGTA differs from that of the prophages by a few rearrangement events, which have abolished the normal coordination between phage genome replication and phage gene expression. Based on the results of our comparative analysis, we propose a model for how a prophage may be transformed into a GTA that transfers amplified bacterial DNA segments.

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

the Initial Darwinian Ancestor. Here, we suggest that nucleopeptide reciprocal replicators could have carried out this important role and contend that this is the simplest way to explain extant replication systems in a mathematically consistent way. We propose short nucleic acid templates on which amino-acylated adapters assembled. Spatial localization drives peptide ligation from activated precursors to generate phosphodiester-bond-catalytic peptides. Comprising autocatalytic protein and nucleic acid sequences, this dynamical system links and unifies several previous hypotheses and provides a plausible model for the emergence of DNA and the operational code.

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Timing the Radiation of Avian Parasites

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Leucocytozoon, Haemoproteus, Hepatocystis, and Plasmodium. Contrary to previous assertions, the mtDNA is phylogenetically informative. The inferred phylogeny showed that, like the genus Plasmodium, the Leucocytozoon and Haemoproteus genera are not monophyletic groups. Although sensitive to the assumptions of the molecular dating method used, the estimated times indicate that the diversification of the avian haemosporidian subgenera/genera took place after the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary following the radiation of modern birds. Furthermore, parasite clade differences in mtDNA substitution rates and strength of negative selection were detected. These differences may affect the biological interpretation of mtDNA gene lineages used as a proxy to species in ecological and parasitological investigations. Given that the mitochondria are critically important in the parasite life cycle stages that take place in the vector and that the transmission of parasites belonging to particular clades has been linked to specific insect families/subfamilies, this study suggests that differences in vectors have affected the mode of evolution of haemosporidian mtDNA genes. The observed patterns also suggest that the radiation of haemosporidian parasites may be the result of community-level evolutionary processes between their vertebrate and invertebrate hosts.

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Improving the Ultrafast Bootstrap Approximation

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

that the key processes of the Central Dogma of molecular biology emerged simultaneously and naturally from simple origins in a peptide•RNA partnership, eliminating the epistemological utility of a prior RNA world. First, the two aaRS classes likely arose from opposite strands of the same ancestral gene, implying a simple genetic alphabet. The resulting inversion symmetries in aaRS structural biology would have stabilized the initial and subsequent differentiation of coding specificities, rapidly promoting diversity in the proteome. Second, amino acid physical chemistry maps onto tRNA identity elements, establishing reflexive, nanoenvironmental sensing in protein aaRS. Bootstrapping of increasingly detailed coding is thus intrinsic to polypeptide aaRS, but impossible in an RNA world. These notions underline the following concepts that contradict gradual replacement of ribozymal aaRS by polypeptide aaRS: 1) aaRS enzymes must be interdependent; 2) reflexivity intrinsic to polypeptide aaRS production dynamics promotes bootstrapping; 3) takeover of RNA-catalyzed aminoacylation by enzymes will necessarily degrade specificity; and 4) the Central Dogma’s emergence is most probable when replication and translation error rates remain comparable. These characteristics are necessary and sufficient for the essentially de novo emergence of a coupled gene–replicase–translatase system of genetic coding that would have continuously preserved the functional meaning of genetically encoded protein genes whose phylogenetic relationships match those observed today.

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GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

Fitness Tradeoffs of Antibiotic Resistance in Extraintestinal Pathogenic Escherichia coli

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Evolutionary trade-offs occur when selection on one trait has detrimental effects on other traits. In pathogenic microbes, it has been hypothesized that antibiotic resistance trades off with fitness in the absence of antibiotic. Although studies of single resistance mutations support this hypothesis, it is unclear whether trade-offs are maintained over time, due to compensatory evolution and broader effects of genetic background. Here, we leverage natural variation in 39 extraintestinal clinical isolates of Escherichia coli to assess trade-offs between growth rates and resistance to fluoroquinolone and cephalosporin antibiotics. Whole-genome sequencing identifies a broad range of clinically relevant resistance determinants in these strains. We find evidence for a negative correlation between growth rate and antibiotic resistance, consistent with a persistent trade-off between resistance and growth. However, this relationship is sometimes weak and depends on the environment in which growth rates are measured. Using in vitro selection experiments, we find that compensatory evolution in one environment does not guarantee compensation in other environments. Thus, even in the face of compensatory evolution and other genetic background effects, resistance may be broadly costly, supporting the use of drug restriction protocols to limit the spread of resistance. Furthermore, our study demonstrates the power of using natural variation to study evolutionary trade-offs in microbes.

Positively Selected Effector Genes and Their Contribution to Virulence in the Smut Fungus Sporisorium reilianum

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Plants and fungi display a broad range of interactions in natural and agricultural ecosystems ranging from symbiosis to parasitism. These ecological interactions result in coevolution between genes belonging to different partners. A well-understood example is secreted fungal effector proteins and their host targets, which play an important role in pathogenic interactions. Biotrophic smut fungi (Basidiomycota) are well-suited to investigate the evolution of plant pathogens, because several reference genomes and genetic tools are available for these species. Here, we used the genomes of Sporisorium reilianum f. sp. zeae and S. reilianum f. sp. reilianum, two closely related formae speciales infecting maize and sorghum, respectively, together with the genomes of Ustilago hordei, Ustilago maydis, and Sporisorium scitamineum to identify and characterize genes displaying signatures of positive selection. We identified 154 gene families having undergone positive selection during species divergence in at least one lineage, among which 77% were identified in the two investigated formae speciales of S. reilianum. Remarkably, only 29% of positively selected genes encode predicted secreted proteins. We assessed the contribution to virulence of nine of these candidate effector genes in S. reilianum f. sp. zeae by deleting individual genes, including a homologue of the effector gene pit2 previously characterized in U. maydis. Only the pit2 deletion mutant was found to be strongly reduced in virulence. Additional experiments are required to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the selection forces acting on the other candidate effector genes, as well as the large fraction of positively selected genes encoding predicted cytoplasmic proteins.

Unusual Genomic Traits Suggest Methylocystis bryophila S285 to Be Well Adapted for Life in Peatlands

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The genus Methylocystis belongs to the class Alphaproteobacteria, the family Methylocystaceae, and encompasses aerobic methanotrophic bacteria with the serine pathway of carbon assimilation. All Methylocystis species are able to fix dinitrogen and several members of this genus are also capable of using acetate or ethanol in the absence of methane, which explains their wide distribution in various habitats. One additional trait that enables their survival in the environment is possession of two methane-oxidizing isozymes, the conventional particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO) with low-affinity to substrate (pMMO1) and the high-affinity enzyme (pMMO2). Here, we report the finished genome sequence of Methylocystis bryophila S285, a pMMO2-possessing methanotroph from a Sphagnum-dominated wetland, and compare it to the genome of Methylocystis sp. strain SC2, which is the first methanotroph with confirmed high-affinity methane oxidation potential. The complete genome of Methylocystis bryophila S285 consists of a 4.53 Mb chromosome and one plasmid, 175 kb in size. The genome encodes two types of particulate MMO (pMMO1 and pMMO2), soluble MMO and, in addition, contains a pxmABC-like gene cluster similar to that present in some gammaproteobacterial methanotrophs. The full set of genes related to the serine pathway, the tricarboxylic acid cycle as well as the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway is present. In contrast to most described methanotrophs including Methylocystis sp. strain SC2, two different types of nitrogenases, that is, molybdenum–iron and vanadium–iron types, are encoded in the genome of strain S285. This unique combination of genome-based traits makes Methylocystis bryophila well adapted to the fluctuation of carbon and nitrogen sources in wetlands.

More than the “Killer Trait”: Infection with the Bacterial Endosymbiont Caedibacter taeniospiralis Causes Transcriptomic Modulation in Paramecium Host

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Endosymbiosis is a widespread phenomenon and hosts of bacterial endosymbionts can be found all-over the eukaryotic tree of life. Likely, this evolutionary success is connected to the altered phenotype arising from a symbiotic association. The potential variety of symbiont’s contributions to new characteristics or abilities of host organisms are largely unstudied. Addressing this aspect, we focused on an obligate bacterial endosymbiont that confers an intraspecific killer phenotype to its host. The symbiosis between Paramecium tetraurelia and Caedibacter taeniospiralis, living in the host’s cytoplasm, enables the infected paramecia to release Caedibacter symbionts, which can simultaneously produce a peculiar protein structure and a toxin. The ingestion of bacteria that harbor both components leads to the death of symbiont-free congeners. Thus, the symbiosis provides Caedibacter-infected cells a competitive advantage, the “killer trait.” We characterized the adaptive gene expression patterns in symbiont-harboring Paramecium as a second symbiosis-derived aspect next to the killer phenotype. Comparative transcriptomics of infected P. tetraurelia and genetically identical symbiont-free cells confirmed altered gene expression in the symbiont-bearing line. Our results show up-regulation of specific metabolic and heat shock genes whereas down-regulated genes were involved in signaling pathways and cell cycle regulation. Functional analyses to validate the transcriptomics results demonstrated that the symbiont increases host density hence providing a fitness advantage. Comparative transcriptomics shows gene expression modulation of a ciliate caused by its bacterial endosymbiont thus revealing new adaptive advantages of the symbiosis. Caedibacter taeniospiralis apparently increases its host fitness via manipulation of metabolic pathways and cell cycle control.

Translational Selection for Speed Is Not Sufficient to Explain Variation in Bacterial Codon Usage Bias

Mon, 29 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Increasing growth rate across bacteria strengthens selection for faster translation, concomitantly increasing the total number of tRNA genes and codon usage bias (CUB: enrichment of specific synonymous codons in highly expressed genes). Typically, enriched codons are translated by tRNAs with higher gene copy numbers (GCN). A model of tRNA–CUB coevolution based on fast growth-associated selection on translational speed recapitulates these patterns. A key untested implication of the coevolution model is that translational selection should favor higher tRNA GCN for more frequently used amino acids, potentially weakening the effect of growth-associated selection on CUB. Surprisingly, we find that CUB saturates with increasing growth rate across γ-proteobacteria, even as the number of tRNA genes continues to increase. As predicted, amino acid-specific tRNA GCN is positively correlated with the usage of corresponding amino acids, but there is no correlation between growth rate associated changes in CUB and amino acid usage. Instead, we find that some amino acids—cysteine and those in the NNA/G codon family—show weak CUB that does not increase with growth rate, despite large variation in the corresponding tRNA GCN. We suggest that amino acid-specific variation in CUB is not explained by tRNA GCN because GCN does not influence the difference between translation times of synonymous codons as expected. Thus, selection on translational speed alone cannot fully explain quantitative variation in overall or amino acid-specific CUB, suggesting a significant role for other functional constraints and amino acid-specific codon features.

Multiple Acquisitions of Pathogen-Derived Francisella Endosymbionts in Soft Ticks

Mon, 29 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Bacterial endosymbionts of ticks are of interest due to their close evolutionary relationships with tick-vectored pathogens. For instance, whereas many ticks contain Francisella-like endosymbionts (FLEs), others transmit the mammalian pathogen Francisella tularensis. We recently sequenced the genome of an FLE present in the hard tick Amblyomma maculatum (FLE-Am) and showed that it likely evolved from a pathogenic ancestor. In order to expand our understanding of FLEs, in the current study we sequenced the genome of an FLE in the soft tick Ornithodoros moubata and compared it to the genomes of FLE-Am, Francisella persica—an FLE in the soft tick Argus (Persicargas) arboreus, Francisella sp. MA067296—a clinical isolate responsible for an opportunistic human infection, and F. tularensis, the established human pathogen. We determined that FLEs and MA067296 belonged to a sister taxon of mammalian pathogens, and contained inactivated versions of virulence genes present in F. tularensis, indicating that the most recent common ancestor shared by FLEs and F. tularensis was a potential mammalian pathogen. Our analyses also revealed that the two soft ticks (O. moubata and A. arboreus) probably acquired their FLEs separately, suggesting that the virulence attenuation observed in FLEs are not the consequence of a single acquisition event followed by speciation, but probably due to independent transitions of pathogenic francisellae into nonpathogenic FLEs within separate tick lineages. Additionally, we show that FLEs encode intact pathways for the production of several B vitamins and cofactors, denoting that they could function as nutrient-provisioning endosymbionts in ticks.

Elucidating the Small Regulatory RNA Repertoire of the Sea Anemone Anemonia viridis Based on Whole Genome and Small RNA Sequencing

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Cnidarians harbor a variety of small regulatory RNAs that include microRNAs (miRNAs) and PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), but detailed information is limited. Here, we report the identification and expression of novel miRNAs and putative piRNAs, as well as their genomic loci, in the symbiotic sea anemone Anemonia viridis. We generated a draft assembly of the A. viridis genome with putative size of 313 Mb that appeared to be composed of about 36% repeats, including known transposable elements. We detected approximately equal fractions of DNA transposons and retrotransposons. Deep sequencing of small RNA libraries constructed from A. viridis adults sampled at a natural CO2 gradient off Vulcano Island, Italy, identified 70 distinct miRNAs. Eight were homologous to previously reported miRNAs in cnidarians, whereas 62 appeared novel. Nine miRNAs were recognized as differentially expressed along the natural seawater pH gradient. We found a highly abundant and diverse population of piRNAs, with a substantial fraction showing ping–pong signatures. We identified nearly 22% putative piRNAs potentially targeting transposable elements within the A. viridis genome. The A. viridis genome appeared similar in size to that of other hexacorals with a very high divergence of transposable elements resembling that of the sea anemone genus Exaiptasia. The genome encodes and expresses a high number of small regulatory RNAs, which include novel miRNAs and piRNAs. Differentially expressed small RNAs along the seawater pH gradient indicated regulatory gene responses to environmental stressors.

Illumina Library Preparation for Sequencing the GC-Rich Fraction of Heterogeneous Genomic DNA

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Standard Illumina libraries are biased toward sequences of intermediate GC-content. This results in an underrepresentation of GC-rich regions in sequencing projects of genomes with heterogeneous base composition, such as mammals and birds. We developed a simple, cost-effective protocol to enrich sheared genomic DNA in its GC-rich fraction by subtracting AT-rich DNA. This was achieved by heating DNA up to 90 °C before applying Illumina library preparation. We tested the new approach on chicken DNA and found that heated DNA increased average coverage in the GC-richest chromosomes by a factor up to six. Using a Taq polymerase supposedly appropriate for PCR amplification of GC-rich sequences had a much weaker effect. Our protocol should greatly facilitate sequencing and resequencing of the GC-richest regions of heterogeneous genomes, in combination with standard short-read and long-read technologies.

Single-Base Resolution Map of Evolutionary Constraints and Annotation of Conserved Elements across Major Grass Genomes

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Conserved noncoding sequences (CNSs) are evolutionarily conserved DNA sequences that do not encode proteins but may have potential regulatory roles in gene expression. CNS in crop genomes could be linked to many important agronomic traits and ecological adaptations. Compared with the relatively mature exon annotation protocols, efficient methods are lacking to predict the location of noncoding sequences in the plant genomes. We implemented a computational pipeline that is tailored to the comparisons of plant genomes, yielding a large number of conserved sequences using rice genome as the reference. In this study, we used 17 published grass genomes, along with five monocot genomes as well as the basal angiosperm genome of Amborella trichopoda. Genome alignments among these genomes suggest that at least 12.05% of the rice genome appears to be evolving under constraints in the Poaceae lineage, with close to half of the evolutionarily constrained sequences located outside protein-coding regions. We found evidence for purifying selection acting on the conserved sequences by analyzing segregating SNPs within the rice population. Furthermore, we found that known functional motifs were significantly enriched within CNS, with many motifs associated with the preferred binding of ubiquitous transcription factors. The conserved elements that we have curated are accessible through our public database and the JBrowse server. In-depth functional annotations and evolutionary dynamics of the identified conserved sequences provide a solid foundation for studying gene regulation, genome evolution, as well as to inform gene isolation for cereal biologists.

Multiple Roots of Fruiting Body Formation in Amoebozoa

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Establishment of multicellularity represents a major transition in eukaryote evolution. A subgroup of Amoebozoa, the dictyosteliids, has evolved a relatively simple aggregative multicellular stage resulting in a fruiting body supported by a stalk. Protosteloid amoeba, which are scattered throughout the amoebozoan tree, differ by producing only one or few single stalked spores. Thus, one obvious difference in the developmental cycle of protosteliids and dictyosteliids seems to be the establishment of multicellularity. To separate spore development from multicellular interactions, we compared the genome and transcriptome of a Protostelium species (Protostelium aurantium var. fungivorum) with those of social and solitary members of the Amoebozoa. During fruiting body formation nearly 4,000 genes, corresponding to specific pathways required for differentiation processes, are upregulated. A comparison with genes involved in the development of dictyosteliids revealed conservation of >500 genes, but most of them are also present in Acanthamoeba castellanii for which fruiting bodies have not been documented. Moreover, expression regulation of those genes differs between P. aurantium and Dictyostelium discoideum. Within Amoebozoa differentiation to fruiting bodies is common, but our current genome analysis suggests that protosteliids and dictyosteliids used different routes to achieve this. Most remarkable is both the large repertoire and diversity between species in genes that mediate environmental sensing and signal processing. This likely reflects an immense adaptability of the single cell stage to varying environmental conditions. We surmise that this signaling repertoire provided sufficient building blocks to accommodate the relatively simple demands for cell–cell communication in the early multicellular forms.

Pervasive Correlated Evolution in Gene Expression Shapes Cell and Tissue Type Transcriptomes

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The evolution and diversification of cell types is a key means by which animal complexity evolves. Recently, hierarchical clustering and phylogenetic methods have been applied to RNA-seq data to infer cell type evolutionary history and homology. A major challenge for interpreting this data is that cell type transcriptomes may not evolve independently due to correlated changes in gene expression. This nonindependence can arise for several reasons, such as common regulatory sequences for genes expressed in multiple tissues, that is, pleiotropic effects of mutations. We develop a model to estimate the level of correlated transcriptome evolution (LCE) and apply it to different data sets. The results reveal pervasive correlated transcriptome evolution among different cell and tissue types. In general, tissues related by morphology or developmental lineage exhibit higher LCE than more distantly related tissues. Analyzing new data collected from bird skin appendages suggests that LCE decreases with the phylogenetic age of tissues compared, with recently evolved tissues exhibiting the highest LCE. Furthermore, we show correlated evolution can alter patterns of hierarchical clustering, causing different tissue types from the same species to cluster together. To identify genes that most strongly contribute to the correlated evolution signal, we performed a gene-wise estimation of LCE on a data set with ten species. Removing genes with high LCE allows for accurate reconstruction of evolutionary relationships among tissue types. Our study provides a statistical method to measure and account for correlated gene expression evolution when interpreting comparative transcriptome data.

PhyloChromoMap, a Tool for Mapping Phylogenomic History along Chromosomes, Reveals the Dynamic Nature of Karyotype Evolution in Plasmodium falciparum

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The genome of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria in Africa, has been extensively studied since it was first fully sequenced in 2002. However, many open questions remain, including understanding the chromosomal context of molecular evolutionary changes (e.g., relationship between chromosome map and phylogenetic conservation, patterns of gene duplication, and patterns of selection). Here, we present PhyloChromoMap, a method that generates a phylogenomic map of chromosomes from a custom-built bioinformatics pipeline. Using P. falciparum 3D7 as a model, we analyze 2,116 genes with homologs in up to 941 diverse eukaryotic, bacterial and archaeal lineages. We estimate the level of conservation along chromosomes based on conservation across clades, and identify “young” regions (i.e., those with recent or fast evolving genes) that are enriched in subtelomeric regions as compared with internal regions. We also demonstrate that patterns of molecular evolution for paralogous genes differ significantly depending on their location as younger paralogs tend to be found in subtelomeric regions whereas older paralogs are enriched in internal regions. Combining these observations with analyses of synteny, we demonstrate that subtelomeric regions are actively shuffled among chromosome ends, which is consistent with the hypothesis that these regions are prone to ectopic recombination. We also assess patterns of selection by comparing dN/dS ratios of gene family members in subtelomeric versus internal regions, and we include the important antigenic gene family var. These analyses illustrate the highly dynamic nature of the karyotype of P. falciparum, and provide a method for exploring genome dynamics in other lineages.

Comparative Genomics Reveals Accelerated Evolution in Conserved Pathways during the Diversification of Anole Lizards

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Squamates include all lizards and snakes, and display some of the most diverse and extreme morphological adaptations among vertebrates. However, compared with birds and mammals, relatively few resources exist for comparative genomic analyses of squamates, hampering efforts to understand the molecular bases of phenotypic diversification in such a speciose clade. In particular, the ∼400 species of anole lizard represent an extensive squamate radiation. Here, we sequence and assemble the draft genomes of three anole species—Anolis frenatus, Anolis auratus, and Anolis apletophallus—for comparison with the available reference genome of Anolis carolinensis. Comparative analyses reveal a rapid background rate of molecular evolution consistent with a model of punctuated equilibrium, and strong purifying selection on functional genomic elements in anoles. We find evidence for accelerated evolution in genes involved in behavior, sensory perception, and reproduction, as well as in genes regulating limb bud development and hindlimb specification. Morphometric analyses of anole fore and hindlimbs corroborated these findings. We detect signatures of positive selection across several genes related to the development and regulation of the forebrain, hormones, and the iguanian lizard dewlap, suggesting molecular changes underlying behavioral adaptations known to reinforce species boundaries were a key component in the diversification of anole lizards.

Disentangling the Causes for Faster-X Evolution in Aphids

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The faster evolution of X chromosomes has been documented in several species, and results from the increased efficiency of selection on recessive alleles in hemizygous males and/or from increased drift due to the smaller effective population size of X chromosomes. Aphids are excellent models for evaluating the importance of selection in faster-X evolution because their peculiar life cycle and unusual inheritance of sex chromosomes should generally lead to equivalent effective population sizes for X and autosomes. Because we lack a high-density genetic map for the pea aphid, whose complete genome has been sequenced, we first assigned its entire genome to the X or autosomes based on ratios of sequencing depth in males (X0) to females (XX). Then, we computed nonsynonymous to synonymous substitutions ratios (dN/dS) for the pea aphid gene set and found faster evolution of X-linked genes. Our analyses of substitution rates, together with polymorphism and expression data, showed that relaxed selection is likely to be the greatest contributor to faster-X because a large fraction of X-linked genes are expressed at low rates and thus escape selection. Yet, a minor role for positive selection is also suggested by the difference between substitution rates for X and autosomes for male-biased genes (but not for asexual female-biased genes) and by lower Tajima’s D for X-linked compared with autosomal genes with highly male-biased expression patterns. This study highlights the relevance of organisms displaying alternative chromosomal inheritance to the understanding of forces shaping genome evolution.

Deciphering the Link between Doubly Uniparental Inheritance of mtDNA and Sex Determination in Bivalves: Clues from Comparative Transcriptomics

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Bivalves exhibit an astonishing diversity of sexual systems and sex-determining mechanisms. They can be gonochoric, hermaphroditic or androgenetic, with both genetic and environmental factors known to determine or influence sex. One unique sex-determining system involving the mitochondrial genome has also been hypothesized to exist in bivalves with doubly uniparental inheritance (DUI) of mtDNA. However, the link between DUI and sex determination remains obscure. In this study, we performed a comparative gonad transcriptomics analysis for two DUI-possessing freshwater mussel species to better understand the mechanisms underlying sex determination and DUI in these bivalves. We used a BLAST reciprocal analysis to identify orthologs between Venustaconcha ellipsiformis and Utterbackia peninsularis and compared our results with previously published sex-specific bivalve transcriptomes to identify conserved sex-determining genes. We also compared our data with other DUI species to identify candidate genes possibly involved in the regulation of DUI. A total of ∼12,000 orthologous relationships were found, with 2,583 genes differentially expressed in both species. Among these genes, key sex-determining factors previously reported in vertebrates and in bivalves (e.g., Sry, Dmrt1, Foxl2) were identified, suggesting that some steps of the sex-determination pathway may be deeply conserved in metazoans. Our results also support the hypothesis that a modified ubiquitination mechanism could be responsible for the retention of the paternal mtDNA in male bivalves, and revealed that DNA methylation could also be involved in the regulation of DUI. Globally, our results suggest that sets of genes associated with sex determination and DUI are similar in distantly-related DUI species.

Phylogenomics Places Orphan Protistan Lineages in a Novel Eukaryotic Super-Group

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Recent phylogenetic analyses position certain “orphan” protist lineages deep in the tree of eukaryotic life, but their exact placements are poorly resolved. We conducted phylogenomic analyses that incorporate deeply sequenced transcriptomes from representatives of collodictyonids (diphylleids), rigifilids, Mantamonas, and ancyromonads (planomonads). Analyses of 351 genes, using site-heterogeneous mixture models, strongly support a novel super-group-level clade that includes collodictyonids, rigifilids, and Mantamonas, which we name “CRuMs”. Further, they robustly place CRuMs as the closest branch to Amorphea (including animals and fungi). Ancyromonads are strongly inferred to be more distantly related to Amorphea than are CRuMs. They emerge either as sister to malawimonads, or as a separate deeper branch. CRuMs and ancyromonads represent two distinct major groups that branch deeply on the lineage that includes animals, near the most commonly inferred root of the eukaryote tree. This makes both groups crucial in examinations of the deepest-level history of extant eukaryotes.

Comparative Genomics of Tenacibaculum dicentrarchi and “Tenacibaculum finnmarkense” Highlights Intricate Evolution of Fish-Pathogenic Species

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The genus Tenacibaculum encompasses several species pathogenic for marine fish. Tenacibaculum dicentrarchi and “Tenacibaculum finnmarkense” (Quotation marks denote species that have not been validly named.) were retrieved from skin lesions of farmed fish such as European sea bass or Atlantic salmon. They cause a condition referred to as tenacibaculosis and severe outbreaks and important fish losses have been reported in Spanish, Norwegian, and Chilean marine farms. We report here the draft genomes of the T. dicentrarchi and “T. finnmarkense” type strains. These genomes were compared with draft genomes from field isolates retrieved from Chile and Norway and with previously published Tenacibaculum genomes. We used Average Nucleotide Identity and core genome-based phylogeny as a proxy index for species boundary delineation. This work highlights evolution of closely related fish-pathogenic species and suggests that homologous recombination likely contributes to genome evolution. It also corrects the species affiliation of strain AYD7486TD claimed by Grothusen et al. (2016).

Evolutionary Genetics of Cytoplasmic Incompatibility Genes cifA and cifB in Prophage WO of Wolbachia

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia manipulates arthropod reproduction to facilitate its maternal spread through host populations. The most common manipulation is cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI): Wolbachia-infected males produce modified sperm that cause embryonic mortality, unless rescued by embryos harboring the same Wolbachia. The genes underlying CI, cifA and cifB, were recently identified in the eukaryotic association module of Wolbachia’s prophage WO. Here, we use transcriptomic and genomic approaches to address three important evolutionary facets of the cif genes. First, we assess whether or not cifA and cifB comprise a classic toxin–antitoxin operon in wMel and show that the two genes exhibit striking, transcriptional differences across host development. They can produce a bicistronic message despite a predicted hairpin termination element in their intergenic region. Second, cifA and cifB strongly coevolve across the diversity of phage WO. Third, we provide new domain and functional predictions across homologs within Wolbachia, and show that amino acid sequences vary substantially across the genus. Finally, we investigate conservation of cifA and cifB and find frequent degradation and loss of the genes in strains that no longer induce CI. Taken together, we demonstrate that cifA and cifB exhibit complex transcriptional regulation in wMel, provide functional annotations that broaden the potential mechanisms of CI induction, and report recurrent erosion of cifA and cifB in non-CI strains, thus expanding our understanding of the most widespread form of reproductive parasitism.

Genome Sequencing of Museum Specimens Reveals Rapid Changes in the Genetic Composition of Honey Bees in California

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is an enormously influential pollinator in both natural and managed ecosystems. In North America, this species has been introduced numerous times from a variety of different source populations in Europe and Africa. Since then, feral populations have expanded into many different environments across their broad introduced range. Here, we used whole genome sequencing of historical museum specimens and newly collected modern populations from California (USA) to analyze the impact of demography and selection on introduced populations during the past 105 years. We find that populations from both northern and southern California exhibit pronounced genetic changes, but have changed in different ways. In northern populations, honey bees underwent a substantial shift from western European to eastern European ancestry since the 1960s, whereas southern populations are dominated by the introgression of Africanized genomes during the past two decades. Additionally, we identify an isolated island population that has experienced comparatively little change over a large time span. Fine-scale comparison of different populations and time points also revealed SNPs that differ in frequency, highlighting a number of genes that may be important for recent adaptations in these introduced populations.

The Effect of RNA Substitution Models on Viroid and RNA Virus Phylogenies

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Many viroids and RNA viruses have genomes that exhibit secondary structure, with paired nucleotides forming stems and loops. Such structures violate a key assumption of most methods of phylogenetic reconstruction, that sequence change is independent among sites. However, phylogenetic analyses of these transmissible agents rarely use evolutionary models that account for RNA secondary structure. Here, we assess the effect of using RNA-specific nucleotide substitution models on the phylogenetic inference of viroids and RNA viruses. We obtained data sets comprising full-genome nucleotide sequences from six viroid and ten single-stranded RNA virus species. For each alignment, we inferred consensus RNA secondary structures, then evaluated different DNA and RNA substitution models. We used model selection to choose the best-fitting model and evaluate estimated Bayesian phylogenies. Further, for each data set we generated and compared Robinson–Foulds (RF) statistics in order to test whether the distributions of trees generated under alternative models are notably different to each other. In all alignments, the best-fitting model was one that considers RNA secondary structure: RNA models that allow a nonzero rate of double substitution (RNA16A and RNA16C) fitted best for both viral and viroid data sets. In 14 of 16 data sets, the use of an RNA-specific model led to significantly longer tree lengths, but only in three cases did it have a significant effect on RFs. In conclusion, using RNA model when undertaking phylogenetic inference of viroids and RNA viruses can provide a better model fit than standard approaches and model choice can significantly affect branch length estimates.

An Evolutionary Landscape of A-to-I RNA Editome across Metazoan Species

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Adenosine-to-inosine (A-to-I) editing is widespread across the kingdom Metazoa. However, for the lack of comprehensive analysis in nonmodel animals, the evolutionary history of A-to-I editing remains largely unexplored. Here, we detect high-confidence editing sites using clustering and conservation strategies based on RNA sequencing data alone, without using single-nucleotide polymorphism information or genome sequencing data from the same sample. We thereby unveil the first evolutionary landscape of A-to-I editing maps across 20 metazoan species (from worm to human), providing unprecedented evidence on how the editing mechanism gradually expands its territory and increases its influence along the history of evolution. Our result revealed that highly clustered and conserved editing sites tended to have a higher editing level and a higher magnitude of the ADAR motif. The ratio of the frequencies of nonsynonymous editing to that of synonymous editing remarkably increased with increasing the conservation level of A-to-I editing. These results thus suggest potentially functional benefit of highly clustered and conserved editing sites. In addition, spatiotemporal dynamics analyses reveal a conserved enrichment of editing and ADAR expression in the central nervous system throughout more than 300 Myr of divergent evolution in complex animals and the comparability of editing patterns between invertebrates and between vertebrates during development. This study provides evolutionary and dynamic aspects of A-to-I editome across metazoan species, expanding this important but understudied class of nongenomically encoded events for comprehensive characterization.

A Genome Resequencing-Based Genetic Map Reveals the Recombination Landscape of an Outbred Parasitic Nematode in the Presence of Polyploidy and Polyandry

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus is an economically and clinically important pathogen of small ruminants, and a model system for understanding the mechanisms and evolution of traits such as anthelmintic resistance. Anthelmintic resistance is widespread and is a major threat to the sustainability of livestock agriculture globally; however, little is known about the genome architecture and parameters such as recombination that will ultimately influence the rate at which resistance may evolve and spread. Here, we performed a genetic cross between two divergent strains of H. contortus, and subsequently used whole-genome resequencing of a female worm and her brood to identify the distribution of genome-wide variation that characterizes these strains. Using a novel bioinformatic approach to identify variants that segregate as expected in a pseudotestcross, we characterized linkage groups and estimated genetic distances between markers to generate a chromosome-scale F1 genetic map. We exploited this map to reveal the recombination landscape, the first for any helminth species, demonstrating extensive variation in recombination rate within and between chromosomes. Analyses of these data also revealed the extent of polyandry, whereby at least eight males were found to have contributed to the genetic variation of the progeny analyzed. Triploid offspring were also identified, which we hypothesize are the result of nondisjunction during female meiosis or polyspermy. These results expand our knowledge of the genetics of parasitic helminths and the unusual life-history of H. contortus, and enhance ongoing efforts to understand the genetic basis of resistance to the drugs used to control these worms and for related species that infect livestock and humans throughout the world. This study also demonstrates the feasibility of using whole-genome resequencing data to directly construct a genetic map in a single generation cross from a noninbred nonmodel organism with a complex lifecycle.