SMBE Conference guidelines

Download a PDF of the Conference Guidelines here.

Statement of diversity

SMBE has a strong commitment to diversity. Organizers should place emphasis on diversity of participants, including gender and geographic diversity, at every level of the meeting, including but not limited to the selection of plenary speakers, symposium organizers, and invited and contributed talks. Please ensure that this criterion is considered throughout the organization of the conference.

Professional Conference Organizer (PCO)

Each conference is organized jointly by SMBE’s contracted Professional Conference Organizer (PCO) and the Local Organizing Committee.  The role of the PCO is described in its contract with SMBE.

Local Organizing Committee (LOC)

The SMBE conference Local Organizing Committee should include Local Organizers and one member of SMBE Council. The role of the Council member on the LOC is to make sure the conference organizers adhere to these guidelines. Additionally, one organizer of the meeting from a previous year and one organizer of the meeting for the next year should be included for the purpose of continuity.

The LOC will be required to sign a formal agreement with SMBE agreeing to its responsibilities.

The LOC should send any presentations it makes – usually their proposal and post-conference feedback – to the SMBE Executive Administrator for archiving.


It is very important that the meeting is fully costed, with costs borne by the meeting and not by the Society.  A rolling budget should be set up with precise costs and with frequent updates on income and expenditure. The Society will provide US$100,000, which is the only funding promised by the Society. While these funds can be made available at any time and used temporarily for other expenditures (such as reserving a venue), it is understood that the US$100,000 will ultimately cover travel costs for 50 invited speakers.  In addition, in the event that a short-term loan is required for down-payments on the venue and suppliers, then this can be arranged. Be aware that this loan will be issued in US dollars and all currency change costs, as well as the danger of currency fluctuations, must be borne by the conference.

Size of conference

The conference can currently expect between 1000 and 1500 delegates, although we have seen considerable fluctuations in this number depending on factors such as convenience and cost of travel. Organizers are advised to make two alternative plans for a smaller and a larger conference - i.e. make plans for a smaller conference but include options to expand if registration numbers seem to indicate the meeting will be large. This should happen at the same location with options for a larger auditorium that can hold the entire conference. Conference attendance should be capped at 2000.

Approximate timelines




Last day of the conference of the preceding year.

Initial website goes live



●       venue

●       opportunities for sponsorship

●       composition of the organizing committee

●       contact information for the conference organizer.

10 months before the date of the conference.

Call for symposia opens

See ‘Call for symposia’ below.

9 months before the date of the conference

Call for symposia closes


8.5 months before the conference

Notification of successful Symposia


8 months before the conference

Titles and short description of all symposia, should be placed on the conference website. Note that these are sometimes worded differently from the original proposals, which sometimes contain information related to the submission process.,.


8 months before the conference

Early bird registration opens

This deadline offers discount on the registration fee. Past experience indicates that 50-75% of delegates will take advantage of this early registration deadline.

Early bird registration should be advertised to the society membership, in the society journals, through the social media, on EvolDir, etc.

7 months before the conference

Abstract submission and award applications open

6 months before the conference

Abstract submission and award applications close (though it is common to extend by one week, depending on number of submissions).

Fitch Symposium, Abstract and travel award deadlines all occur at the same time. Fitch finalists are selected first and present in a separate symposium.

2-3 weeks prior to council decision of travel awards

Deadline for symposium organizers’ talk selection

To allow inclusion of talks in symposia to be considered in selection of travel awards

2 weeks before early bird registration closes

Council decision of travel awards: award applicants notified of success or otherwise

This is essential to allow applicants time to register at Early Bird rate if they haven’t received a travel/registration award. Some individuals who do not receive funding or are not selected for a talk will not register. There can be loss of ~100 participants as a result.

4 months before the conference

Early bird registration closes, full price registration opens


2 months before the conference

Full programme available online

Until the conference begins

Full cost registration

Full cost online registration; allows delegates to submit an abstract, though as an additional encouragement to register early, it should be stipulated that late abstracts can be considered only for poster presentations.

Either on the penultimate day of the meeting or up to two days later

Post-meeting survey

To be emailed to all meeting participants and able to run on a computer OR phone 

Structure of the conference


The preferred conference length is at 3.5 days with the acceptable range from 3 to 4 days (not counting the day of the council meeting/opening reception). The LOC is encouraged but not required to organize Public Lectures on Evolution/Molecular Evolution either immediately before or immediately after the meeting.

Council meeting

One council meeting to be held in a room that accommodates the council plus outside participants (about 16 people altogether).  Light breakfast, lunch, and all day coffee, tea, and light refreshments should be provided. This meeting will usually take place on the first day of the conference, starting at 8 or 9 am and must end at least 15 minutes before the Nei lecture. The main conference usually begins in the late afternoon/early evening with the Nei lecture, followed by the opening reception.

Scientific content

Limit oral presentations per person

Each person is limited to one oral presentation (either invited or contributed) for the entire annual SMBE meeting. If the same person is invited to several symposia, the person is given a choice of in which symposium s/he would like to present.

Presenter information

Each presenter should have clear instructions on where their presentation is going to be held, when they have been allocated a speaking time, and how to upload their slides.

Plenary lectures

There should be 3-4 plenary lectures, which are attended by all delegates, and usually last one hour. The number of plenary lectures should be limited to keep costs down and maximize  the number of multi-speaker symposia. Refer to the ‘Statement of Diversity’ above in the selection of plenary speakers. 

One of these plenary lectures is the Nei Lecture, named in honour of Professor Masatoshi Nei, and is given by the President of the society. Usually this lecture takes place near the beginning of the conference. SMBE has funds for this lecture to be published in MBE. The other plenary lectures are invited by the LOC and the invitees are usually fully funded in terms of the registration fee, travel and accommodation by the meeting.

Special symposia

Fitch Symposium

The Fitch Symposium occurs as an exclusive event when no other events or symposia are taking place.

Graduate students and postdocs in their first year of their first postdoc are eligible to apply to present their work in the Fitch Symposium, which is a plenary symposium, again attended by all delegates at the conference. A committee is convened each year by the Past-President to select the 8 talks from the submitted abstracts. The President-Elect will moderate the Fitch Symposium. The President will convene a committee to select the winner.

Open Symposium

The LOC is strongly encouraged to include an Open Symposium at which ground-breaking work not covered by the accepted symposium topics can be presented, Faculty award recipients can present, and potentially to allow more student/postdoc talks accepted.

Faculty awards symposium

There may also be a separate symposium for recipients of the Allan Wilson, Margaret Dayhoff, Motoo Kimura, and Community Service Awards.  Recipients of these awards should all be given the opportunity at the meeting, either in an ordinary symposium, or the special symposium, or in slots set aside for them in the Open Symposium.  The Council members responsible for these awards should be informed of the latest dates that lectures can incorporated into the programme.

Parallel symposia

The LOC should have a (usually audible) mechanism to ensure that concurrent sessions stay on time and try to minimize similarity in content or theme of overlapping concurrent sessions.

Number of symposia

There should be approximately 20-30 symposia, usually with no more than four parallel sessions (fewer than four is fine). SMBE Council considers that if there are more than four parallel sessions then delegates feel they are missing too many talks, while fewer parallel sessions restrict the diversity of the conference. Moreover, recent experience has shown that more sessions and/or additional plenary speakers can put the meeting into financial jeopardy.

Call for symposia

The call for symposia should indicate that if a symposium is selected, the invited speakers will have all or most of their registration fee, accommodation, and travel covered by the conference (at the level of approximately $2000 per invited speaker against receipts; adjusted reimbursement for intra- and intercontinental travel is allowed. This $2000 support for invited speakers should be maintained by the LOC under all circumstances.

A list of at least two confirmed invited speakers per symposium should be requested in response to the call for symposia.

Selection of the symposia

Most symposia are selected by the LOC on the basis of proposals and depending on whether the same topics were covered by symposia at recent SMBE meetings.

Symposia should reflect the broad diversity of interests in the SMBE community, not simply the most popular topics. Symposium organizers select abstracts for talks, taking speaker diversity into consideration (see Statement of diversity above) as well as diversity of career stage (student/postdoc/junior/senior investigators).

Symposium proposals should include a summary of the topic, why it is timely for the SMBE meeting, and which speakers have been invited and confirmed. If there are two or more proposals on the same topic, the LOC has a choice of selecting one proposal or merging two or more proposals. Merging two or more symposia either reduces the number of invited speakers that can be supported by SMBE or the number of slots available for contributed talks and is therefore discouraged.

Each symposium organizer can only select one talk from her/his own research group. That includes his/her own talk. In the event of too few submissions, exceptions to this rule may permit one additional talk from the organizer’s group, after consultation with the LOC.

The LOC selects the talks for the Open Symposium.


Recent conferences have settled on a structure where a ‘unit’ of time is 15 minutes. This includes time for questions (usually, 12 minutes for the talk and 3 minutes for questions and movement between rooms). This makes it especially important to have rooms in close proximity to each other. Invited speakers can be allocated 15 or 30 mins. It is also prudent to remind symposium organizers that delegates frequently move between symposia, so it is useful to allow one minute of moving time between talks (if adequate for travel between rooms) within the allocated 15 minutes and to be sure that the layout of seating is conducive to movement between rooms.. Some symposium organizers may choose to use the first 15 minutes to provide an overview of the study area at the beginning, but this is subject to time availability.

Selecting speakers

Each symposium of contributed talks will select its preferred speaker list from the list of contributed talk abstracts. It is best if a delegate is allowed to submit their abstract to more than one symposium (though logistically, it is probably best to restrict this to two symposia). When the symposium organizers are given their list of abstracts and delegates who wish to speak in their symposium, they can choose their preferred list of speakers. However, the exact details of this process are to be worked out by the LOC. In the end, the LOC will match delegates and symposia and communicate to both the symposium organizers and the delegates the outcome of this process. This decision should be reached before Early Bird registration closes as it affects many scientists’ travel funding, and no later than 4 months before the conference.

Poster sessions

Poster presenters frequently feel that they do not get adequate opportunity to present their work, so it is important that each poster presenter is given enough time both to talk to other delegates and to have the posters visible (at breaks, etc.). Poster sessions should have accompanying refreshments and each poster should have at least two sessions when they are available to be seen. Although not always possible, it is desirable to have sufficient space that all posters can be viewed throughout the meeting, so that participants (and poster judges) have plenty of opportunity for viewing. The website should also indicate when posters can go up. Poster space should only be made available to participants who have registered and sent payment, to minimize “no-shows.”

Social events

Please provide vegetarian/vegan options with all catering.

Breaks and catering

It is expected that the conference will provide morning coffee break, lunch on all days, afternoon coffee breaks on each day, preferably with some small snack (fruit, cookies, pastry, etc.), and poster sessions.

Welcome reception

This typically provides ample snacks, enough for all participants, in addition to at most one or two drink tickets. Additional drinks can usually be purchased at the bar.

Gala Dinner  (banquet)

Delegates can choose to pay extra for this dinner or choose not to attend.

This is the preferred venue for distributing awards, and awardees present at the meeting, including all Fitch participants, should have free Gala tickets. A few venues include an after-dinner speaker, and some venues include dancing Drink tickets may be provided at registration for the Gala, with additional drinks available for purchase.

Awards Ceremony

The preferred venue for the Awards Ceremony (which lasts about 20 minutes) is the Gala Dinner.

If the awards are not distributed at the Gala Dinner, then 20-30 minutes should be set aside for an Awards Ceremony in the middle of the last morning (to allow enough time for decisions to be made on poster prizes and to maximize attendance). This ceremony is usually combined with an invitation to the next meeting (10-15 minutes), but the Gala is the preferred venue for awards.

While not all poster participants typically attend the Gala, due to cost, unless it is covered in registration, not all participants attend a separate Awards Ceremony, due to other choices on the last day, including packing and checking out of the hotel.

Post-conference survey

Each delegate should be invited to evaluate the conference, either using a paper form that can be dropped into a box onsite or an online form that can be completed either on a computer or smart phone.  The survey should be organized by the PCO and its content checked by the SMBE Council representative before distribution.

Certificates of attendance

Some delegates will require a certificate of attendance for their home institutions or for funding agencies that have supported their travel. These certificates should be provided on request and made available at the conference venue or sent after the meeting.

Post meeting reporting

Meeting organizers are required to provide a summary document to the Council after the

meeting, including the diversity statistics of the meeting participants, (gender, geography, and career stage).

Awards (see

SMBE provides several types of pre-conference awards, which should be administered via the conference abstract submission system. It is essential that time is allowed for awardees to be chosen and applicants notified before Early Bird registration closes so that attendees can make informed financial decisions about registration options and travel.

Those receiving awards that include registration and travel need to pay in the first instance and will then be reimbursed by SMBE.  This applies to all but recipients of Registration-only awards, who need  a code to put in to the online registration system to avoid payment.

SMBE-appointed committees select the recipients of travel awards.  All award applicants should be SMBE members.

SMBE’s Faculty, Best Paper, Fitch, and best poster awards are presented at the Awards Ceremony. All awardess, including all eight Fitch presenters, attending the meeting are eligible for free Gala Dinner tickets.

1.     Faculty awards

Faculty award-winners are reimbursed for registration and travel to the meeting.

Recipients of these awards should all be given the opportunity to present talks at the meeting, either in an ordinary symposium or the special symposium or in slots set aside for them in the Open Symposium.  The Council members responsible for these awards should be informed of the latest dates that lectures can be incorporated  into the programme.

2.     Fitch awards

All those selected to present in the Fitch Symposium are eligible for a free Gala Dinner ticket, and will be reimbursed for travel and accommodation.

The Council will appoint two separate committees, one to review the initial applicants to the Fitch symposium and another to determine the winner among the 8 finalists (see timeline above). Banquet tickets should be reserved for the 8 finalists.

3.     Undergraduate mentoring and diversity travel awards

Award-winners are reimbursed for registration and a contribution toward travel to the meeting.

10 undergraduate mentoring and diversity awards are available each year to undergraduate students that submit abstracts. The total value of each of  these awards is $1500 to $2000, depending whether intercontinental travel is involved. This covers registration, with the rest intended for travel.   Registration fees are to be charged directly to SMBE, so that students do not have to pay themselves (the amount of registration cost being deducted from the final value of their award, and the award recipients informed at time of notification of the value of their award to be used for travel and lodging).

One or two SMBE Councillors assigned by the Council will take charge of this selection, with a recommended bias towards funding those selected to give oral presentations, keeping the Statement of Diversity in mind.

The process consists of finding a mentor for each student so that they can be guided through the conference. In addition, a dinner should be arranged for all 10 students, their 10 mentors and the Council members who organize the activity. The conference organizers should reserve 10 banquet tickets for the awardees (to be charged to SMBE) and liaise with the Councillors in order to find an appropriate restaurant for the mentoring dinner, which is usually on the first full day.). The Councillors will send the list of awardees and their details to the meeting organizers and the PCO so that they can be registered automatically.

All undergraduate awardees should present their posters in the same poster session and their posters grouped together.

4.     Graduate and postdoc travel awards

Award-winners are reimbursed for registration and travel to the meeting.

SMBE provides graduate and postdoc travel awards for the purpose of enhancing gender and geographic diversity. The awards are chosen from eligible applicants who are SMBE members and who have expressed a desire to be considered for such awards. The Past-President, usually in conjunction with the LOC, will head a committee to determine the awards.

5.     Poster awards

The poster prizes will be decided by a committee convened by the President-Elect. Poster prizes consist of up to 9 prizes of $500 each, to be distributed in the 3 categories of postdoc, graduate student, and undergraduate prizes (it does not have to be 3 each).

6.     Best GBE and MBE papers awards

Award recipients receive registration waivers, travel awards to attend the meeting, and a Gala ticket.

7.     Registration awards

These are registration only awards, and there are usually more of these than awards that include travel.

8.     Carer travel awards

SMBE provides additional travel awards for our members who are also primary carers (for example caring for children or dependent adults, including adult children with a disability or an elderly relative). This award can be used in the manner of choosing of the awardee, for example for procuring child care or dependent care at home (e.g., flying a relative to help at home while the delegate is at the meeting; hiring a professional). Priority will be given to early-career scientists and according to need (e.g., younger children, disabled children or adults).

Information about Carer Travel Awards should be included in emails promoting conference registration and applications should be through the registration system. The decision on who is granted an award will be made by a committee of at least one person designated by Council. It shall be noted that people in need of an early decision can email a request to the organizers and/or council member in charge of the Carer Travel Award process.  


Payment for registration

The online registration system should accept all major credit and debit cards using the conventional inputting mechanism.  Credit card fees charged to the conference should be less than 3% per transaction.

Registration fees

SMBE members receive discounted registration. The discount for SMBE members must be at least $30, but a higher differential between member and non-member registration is allowed. Students and postdocs should be given a further discounted registration rate as well; the discount should be larger for graduate students than for postdocs.  The conference registration page should allow conference delegates the opportunity to join SMBE on the spot, e.g. by linking to the SMBE website membership page in a new window (currently Finally, while most registrants will use the website, it should also be possible to register onsite (‘walk-ins’).

Registration data

Registration data, including lists of delegates, should only be given to SMBE officials and used for SMBE business.  Third parties, including organizers of future conferences, should not be given the lists without express permission from SMBE.

This determines eligibility for certain awards and allows SMBE to maintain a participant database with student or postdoc status recorded (this is essential for determining poster and travel award eligibility, for instance). The conference organizers must maintain a database of participants with this information, as well as abstract numbers and titles as separate entries, email addresses, affiliations, etc.

Registration should include declarations of:

·  career stage (faculty, postdoc, graduate student, undergraduate, other)

gender,(with both a write-in option for non-gender conforming participants who prefer to specify and the option omit             this question).

Registration giveaways at the meeting

Printed conference material should be kept to a minimum. Sponsors should be encouraged to provide advertisements and information on the conference website or app or instead of printed flyers.


Each delegate should be provided with a badge. This must not include advertising promotion for any journal or society other than MBE/GBE and SMBE, though non-journal sponsors may sponsor lanyards. It is desirable to have badges that designate Editors and Associate Editors of the journals (sometimes provided by the MBE EiC) as well as a separate designation for Council members, and/or speakers, though this is the option of the organizers.

Other swag (bags, bottles, USB thumb drives, etc.)

Should be kept to a minimum to reduce environmental impact and should avoid advertising for journals directly competing with society journals.  

Conference website, programme, and app

SMBE conference promotion should consider environmental impact and minimize the use of printed materials.


Must include:

promotion of travel and child care awards

SMBE policies on harassment and broadcasting (text in Appendix to this document)

All images either posted online or used in emails related to the conference should be approved by the Council liaison and take gender balance and other demographic issues into consideration, regarding the people shown in the images. When possible, images from previous SMBE meetings should be used.


The timetable should ideally be available in three formats:

●       “at-a-glance” format, simply detailing the session/symposia times and locations.

●       a more detailed version with each speaker shown in column format so that parallel talks are on the same row. This helps         participants plan their schedule. Once the meeting starts, it should be updated live online (or at least daily), since changes       do arise.

●       a detailed online-only booklet with each speaker listed along with all co-authors, affiliations, and abstract.

Be sure that all authors are visible in the complete online program, not just the presenting author, since many people choose to attend a talk based on the laboratory or senior author. It is helpful if this information can be provided in column format.

The programme should include SMBE policies on harassment and broadcasting (text in Appendix) and an email contact to report any violations of these policies. 

The most updated printed or printable conference programme should be the version with concurrent sessions in columns and concurrent talks in rows to make it easy to choose a path.

Additional requirements for the online programme

A participant list should be provided in the web programme.

The entire conference program, complete with timetables, should be made available for download to laptops or mobile devices, usually in PDF or Excel format.

The online programme should also contain all the logistical details for the conference, including the best and most cost-effective means of ground and air transportation to the meeting location.

Essential conference app features

●       Available in both iPhone and Android formats

●       Useable offline, since many travelers do not have a data plan and some hotels charge fees for wifi. Wifi quality can also be unreliable at large meeting venues.

●       If possible should not require registration (unless necessary for those who want  to customize it, for example to create a personalized program)

●       Updateable and updated daily

●       Include first author name, surname, and talk title, hyperlinked to abstract with all authors.

●       Allow announcements

●       Include SMBE policies on harassment and social media (text in Appendix) with quick email link to report violations

●       Include quick link so that a poster presenter can invite another meeting participant to her/his poster. (This should not require composing an email each time.)

●        Include, if possible, the ability to create a personalized schedule, selecting talks and/or abstracts to attend, by clicking on (such as “liking” or saving to schedule) either the talk title, speaker name, or abstract from any of its views.  This may include the option to set reminders. Reminders, alerts, or notifications (for example of poster sessions closing or a talk about to start) should always be inaudible.



The conference venue should have at least one room that can hold at least 80% of delegates. Past experience indicates that for the plenary talks approximately 80% of the delegates will attend. Therefore, it is preferable that there is a room to hold this number. If this is not possible, then there should be a facility to relay the plenary lectures to another comfortable room via video link.

The venue should additionally have enough rooms for all parallel sessions and these should be sufficiently large to accommodate approximately one third of the conference, given the difficulty in predicting the numbers of delegates that attend any given talk. The rooms should be located no more than a 1-2 min walk from each other and have seating or aisles arranged to facilitate movement between sessions.

Kindly ask the venue to refrain from using air freshener during the conference in all locations, including registration desk and lobbies. Some participants are allergic to it and it exposes all participants to poor air quality.

Free, secure wifi should be available throughout the venue.

Onsite child care

Organizers will arrange for onsite (in the same building as the conference) child care, as this is an issue of great importance to the members of the Society. SMBE will help defray the cost of child care. Please communicate early and often with the Society as to the costs, barriers and opportunities for child care. Ideally the onsite location should be no more than a 5 minute walk from the sessions but not right next to a room where there are talks. Parents need quick access but the sound level can be that of a play-room setting.

Speaker set-up

There should be a set-up room for speakers to check their presentations. The preferred presentation file format is pdf, but ideally both Powerpoint and Keynote should be accepted. Both modern (current OS) Apple and PC computers should be provided for presenters.


The LOC is responsible for liaising with SMBE and the PCO to ensure that all insurance requirements are met.

Appendix 1: SMBE policies

Policy on harassment, discrimination and liability
SMBE and the Annual Meeting organizers are dedicated to providing a safe, hospitable, and productive environment for all attendees. Accordingly, the SMBE Annual Meeting prohibits all forms of discrimination and harassment. Behaviour that undermines the integrity of intellectual discourse and interactions will not be tolerated. This applies to all conference participants, including staff, volunteers, and attendees. If a participant engages in harassing or discriminatory behaviour, the SMBE Annual Meeting organizers reserve the right to take action ranging from a simple warning to the offender to expulsion from the conference. If you have a question or concern about this policy or would like to report an incident involving yourself or another person, please contact any member of the Local Organizing Committee or email [email address for the appropriate year’s conference PCO]. We take such issues seriously and will maintain your confidentiality (unless legally compelled otherwise). Neither SMBE nor the SMBE Annual Meeting organizers shall be responsible for any defamatory, offensive, or illegal conduct of Meeting participants, and shall not be held liable for personal injury, property damage, theft or damage of any kind suffered by the participants at or in connection with the SMBE Annual Meeting.

Broadcasting policy
The SMBE Annual Meeting supports the communication and discussion of science. Information presented at the Meeting (in oral or poster format) may be reported and discussed by attendees and science writers via blogs, Twitter, or other formats, unless any of the authors requests otherwise. We do request that communications are respectful and do not directly reproduce visual materials (e.g., no posting of photos of slides or posters) unless permission is obtained from the presenter or if they have already made this information freely available in an open-source forum. If a presenter does not want information from his/her presentation to be photographed at all, or broadcast, they should make this clear in their talk/poster and we ask that attendees respect this. If you have questions or concerns about this policy, or would like to report an abuse of it, please contact any member of the Local Organizing Committee or email [email address for that year’s conference PCO].

Appendix 2: Call for proposals for conference

The President-Elect issues a call for proposals five years (e.g. call issued in 2017 for meeting in 2021) before the conference year, following the rotation below:

●       North America

●       Europe

●       Rest of the World

Applicants will be required to submit written proposals following a standard template to SMBE Council.  Applicants are required to work with SMBE’s designated PCO.

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Pseudovibrio is a marine bacterial genus members of which are predominantly isolated from sessile marine animals, and particularly sponges. It has been hypothesized that Pseudovibrio spp. form mutualistic relationships with their hosts. Here, we studied Pseudovibrio phylogeny and genetic adaptations that may play a role in host colonization by comparative genomics of 31 Pseudovibrio strains, including 25 sponge isolates. All genomes were highly similar in terms of encoded core metabolic pathways, albeit with substantial differences in overall gene content. Based on gene composition, Pseudovibrio spp. clustered by geographic region, indicating geographic speciation. Furthermore, the fact that isolates from the Mediterranean Sea clustered by sponge species suggested host-specific adaptation or colonization. Genome analyses suggest that Pseudovibrio hongkongensis UST20140214-015BT is only distantly related to other Pseudovibrio spp., thereby challenging its status as typical Pseudovibrio member. All Pseudovibrio genomes were found to encode numerous proteins with SEL1 and tetratricopeptide repeats, which have been suggested to play a role in host colonization. For evasion of the host immune system, Pseudovibrio spp. may depend on type III, IV, and VI secretion systems that can inject effector molecules into eukaryotic cells. Furthermore, Pseudovibrio genomes carry on average seven secondary metabolite biosynthesis clusters, reinforcing the role of Pseudovibrio spp. as potential producers of novel bioactive compounds. Tropodithietic acid, bacteriocin, and terpene biosynthesis clusters were highly conserved within the genus, suggesting an essential role in survival, for example through growth inhibition of bacterial competitors. Taken together, these results support the hypothesis that Pseudovibrio spp. have mutualistic relations with sponges.

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Tue, 26 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Rod cells of many nocturnal mammals have a “non-standard” nuclear architecture, which is called the inverted nuclear architecture. Heterochromatin localizes to the central region of the nucleus. This leads to an efficient light transmission to the outer segments of photoreceptors. Rod cells of diurnal mammals have the conventional nuclear architecture. Owl monkeys (genus Aotus) are the only taxon of simian primates that has a nocturnal or cathemeral lifestyle, and this adaptation is widely thought to be secondary. Their rod cells were shown to exhibit an intermediate chromatin distribution: a spherical heterochromatin block was found in the central region of the nucleus although it was less complete than that of typical nocturnal mammals. We recently demonstrated that the primary DNA component of this heterochromatin block was OwlRep, a megasatellite DNA consisting of 187-bp-long repeat units. However, the origin of OwlRep was not known. Here we show that OwlRep was derived from HSAT6, a simple repeat sequence found in the centromere regions of human chromosomes. HSAT6 occurs widely in primates, suggesting that it was already present in the last common ancestor of extant primates. Notably, Strepsirrhini and Tarsiformes apparently carry a single HSAT6 copy, whereas many species of Simiiformes contain multiple copies. Comparison of nucleotide sequences of these copies revealed the entire process of the OwlRep formation. HSAT6, with or without flanking sequences, was segmentally duplicated in New World monkeys. Then, in the owl monkey linage after its divergence from other New World monkeys, a copy of HSAT6 was tandemly amplified, eventually forming a megasatellite DNA.

A New Standard for Crustacean Genomes: The Highly Contiguous, Annotated Genome Assembly of the Clam Shrimp Eulimnadia texana Reveals HOX Gene Order and Identifies the Sex Chromosome

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Vernal pool clam shrimp (Eulimnadia texana) are a promising model system due to their ease of lab culture, short generation time, modest sized genome, a somewhat rare stable androdioecious sex determination system, and a requirement to reproduce via desiccated diapaused eggs. We generated a highly contiguous genome assembly using 46× of PacBio long read data and 216× of Illumina short reads, and annotated using Illumina RNAseq obtained from adult males or hermaphrodites. Of the 120 Mb genome 85% is contained in the largest eight contigs, the smallest of which is 4.6 Mb. The assembly contains 98% of transcripts predicted via RNAseq. This assembly is qualitatively different from scaffolded Illumina assemblies: It is produced from long reads that contain sequence data along their entire length, and is thus gap free. The contiguity of the assembly allows us to order the HOX genes within the genome, identifying two loci that contain HOX gene orthologs, and which approximately maintain the order observed in other arthropods. We identified a partial duplication of the Antennapedia complex adjacent to the few genes homologous to the Bithorax locus. Because the sex chromosome of an androdioecious species is of special interest, we used existing allozyme and microsatellite markers to identify the E. texana sex chromosome, and find that it comprises nearly half of the genome of this species. Linkage patterns indicate that recombination is extremely rare and perhaps absent in hermaphrodites, and as a result the location of the sex determining locus will be difficult to refine using recombination mapping.

Modularity Facilitates Flexible Tuning of Plastic and Evolutionary Gene Expression Responses during Early Divergence

Sat, 23 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Gene expression changes have been recognized as important drivers of adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Little is known about the relative roles of plastic and evolutionary responses in complex gene expression networks during the early stages of divergence. Large gene expression data sets coupled with in silico methods for identifying coexpressed modules now enable systems genetics approaches also in nonmodel species for better understanding of gene expression responses during early divergence. Here, we combined gene coexpression analyses with population genetics to separate plastic and population (evolutionary) effects in expression networks using small salmonid populations as a model system. We show that plastic and population effects were highly variable among the six identified modules and that the plastic effects explained larger proportion of the total eigengene expression than population effects. A more detailed analysis of the population effects using a QST - FST comparison across 16,622 annotated transcripts revealed that gene expression followed neutral expectations within modules and at the global level. Furthermore, two modules showed enrichment for genes coding for early developmental traits that have been previously identified as important phenotypic traits in thermal responses in the same model system indicating that coexpression analysis can capture expression patterns underlying ecologically important traits. We suggest that module-specific responses may facilitate the flexible tuning of expression levels to local thermal conditions. Overall, our study indicates that plasticity and neutral evolution are the main drivers of gene expression variance in the early stages of thermal adaptation in this system.

Comparative Genomics of Bacteriophage of the Genus Seuratvirus

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Despite being more abundant and having smaller genomes than their bacterial host, relatively few bacteriophages have had their genomes sequenced. Here, we isolated 14 bacteriophages from cattle slurry and performed de novo genome sequencing, assembly, and annotation. The commonly used marker genes polB and terL showed these bacteriophages to be closely related to members of the genus Seuratvirus. We performed a core-gene analysis using the 14 new and four closely related genomes. A total of 58 core genes were identified, the majority of which has no known function. These genes were used to construct a core-gene phylogeny, the results of which confirmed the new isolates to be part of the genus Seuratvirus and expanded the number of species within this genus to four. All bacteriophages within the genus contained the genes queCDE encoding enzymes involved in queuosine biosynthesis. We suggest these genes are carried as a mechanism to modify DNA in order to protect these bacteriophages against host endonucleases.

Genetic Competence Drives Genome Diversity in Bacillus subtilis

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Prokaryote genomes are the result of a dynamic flux of genes, with increases achieved via horizontal gene transfer and reductions occurring through gene loss. The ecological and selective forces that drive this genomic flexibility vary across species. Bacillus subtilis is a naturally competent bacterium that occupies various environments, including plant-associated, soil, and marine niches, and the gut of both invertebrates and vertebrates. Here, we quantify the genomic diversity of B. subtilis and infer the genome dynamics that explain the high genetic and phenotypic diversity observed. Phylogenomic and comparative genomic analyses of 42 B. subtilis genomes uncover a remarkable genome diversity that translates into a core genome of 1,659 genes and an asymptotic pangenome growth rate of 57 new genes per new genome added. This diversity is due to a large proportion of low-frequency genes that are acquired from closely related species. We find no gene-loss bias among wild isolates, which explains why the cloud genome, 43% of the species pangenome, represents only a small proportion of each genome. We show that B. subtilis can acquire xenologous copies of core genes that propagate laterally among strains within a niche. While not excluding the contributions of other mechanisms, our results strongly suggest a process of gene acquisition that is largely driven by competence, where the long-term maintenance of acquired genes depends on local and global fitness effects. This competence-driven genomic diversity provides B. subtilis with its generalist character, enabling it to occupy a wide range of ecological niches and cycle through them.

A Novel Hantavirus of the European Mole, Bruges Virus, Is Involved in Frequent Nova Virus Coinfections

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Hantaviruses are zoonotic viruses with a complex evolutionary history of virus–host coevolution and cross-species transmission. Although hantaviruses have a broad reservoir host range, virus–host relationships were previously thought to be strict, with a single virus species infecting a single host species. Here, we describe Bruges virus, a novel hantavirus harbored by the European mole (Talpa europaea), which is the well-known host of Nova virus. Phylogenetic analyses of all three genomic segments showed tree topology inconsistencies, suggesting that Bruges virus has emerged from cross-species transmission and ancient reassortment events. A high number of coinfections with Bruges and Nova viruses was detected, but no evidence was found for reassortment between these two hantaviruses. These findings highlight the complexity of hantavirus evolution and the importance of further investigation of hantavirus–reservoir relationships.

At the Origin of a Worldwide Invasion: Unraveling the Genetic Makeup of the Caribbean Bridgehead Populations of the Dengue Vector Aedes aegypti

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Human-driven global environmental changes have considerably increased the risk of biological invasions, especially the spread of human parasites and their vectors. Among exotic species that have major impacts on public health, the dengue fever mosquito Aedes aegypti originating from Africa has spread worldwide during the last three centuries. Although considerable progress has been recently made in understanding the history of this invasion, the respective roles of human and abiotic factors in shaping patterns of genetic diversity remain largely unexplored. Using a genome-wide sample of genetic variants (3,530 ddRAD SNPs), we analyzed the genetic structure of Ae. aegypti populations in the Caribbean, the first introduced territories in the Americas. Fourteen populations were sampled in Guyane and in four islands of the Antilles that differ in climatic conditions, intensity of urbanization, and vector control history. The genetic diversity in the Caribbean was low (He = 0.14–0.17), as compared with a single African collection from Benin (He = 0.26) and site-frequency spectrum analysis detected an ancient bottleneck dating back ∼300 years ago, supporting a founder event during the introduction of Ae. aegypti. Evidence for a more recent bottleneck may be related to the eradication program undertaken on the American continent in the 1950s. Among 12 loci detected as FST-outliers, two were located in candidate genes for insecticide resistance (cytochrome P450 and voltage-gated sodium channel). Genome–environment association tests identified additional loci associated with human density and/or deltamethrin resistance. Our results highlight the high impact of human pressures on the demographic history and genetic variation of Ae. aegypti Caribbean populations.

Plant-Mediated Female Transcriptomic Changes Post-Mating in a Tephritid Fruit Fly, Bactrocera tryoni

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Female post-mating behaviors are regulated by complex factors involving males, females, and the environment. In insects, plant secondary compounds that males actively forage for, may indirectly modify female behaviors by altering male behavior and physiology. In the tephritid fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni, females mated with males previously fed on plant-derived phenylpropanoids (=“lures” based on usage in tephritid literature), have longer mating refractoriness, greater fecundity, and reduced longevity than females mated with non-lure fed males. This system thus provides a model for studying transcriptional changes associated with those post-mating behaviors, as the genes regulating the phenotypic changes are likely to be expressed at a greater magnitude than in control females. We performed comparative transcriptome analyses using virgin B. tryoni females, females mated with control males (control-mated), and females mated with lure-fed males (lure-mated). We found 331 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in control-mated females and 80 additional DEGs in lure-mated females. Although DEGs in control-mated females are mostly immune response genes and chorion proteins, as reported in Drosophila species, DEGs in lure-mated females are titin-like muscle proteins, histones, sperm, and testis expressed proteins which have not been previously reported. While transcripts regulating mating (e.g., lingerer) did not show differential expression in either of the mated female classes, the odorant binding protein Obp56a was down-regulated. The exclusively enriched or suppressed genes in lure-mated females, novel transcripts such as titin and histones, and several taxa-specific transcripts reported here can shed more light on post-mating transcriptional changes, and this can help understand factors possibly regulating female post-mating behaviors.

Migration-Selection Balance Drives Genetic Differentiation in Genes Associated with High-Altitude Function in the Speckled Teal (Anas flavirostris) in the Andes

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Local adaptation frequently occurs across populations as a result of migration-selection balance between divergent selective pressures and gene flow associated with life in heterogeneous landscapes. Studying the effects of selection and gene flow on the adaptation process can be achieved in systems that have recently colonized extreme environments. This study utilizes an endemic South American duck species, the speckled teal (Anas flavirostris), which has both high- and low-altitude populations. High-altitude speckled teal (A. f. oxyptera) are locally adapted to the Andean environment and mostly allopatric from low-altitude birds (A. f. flavirostris); however, there is occasional gene flow across altitudinal gradients. In this study, we used next-generation sequencing to explore genetic patterns associated with high-altitude adaptation in speckled teal populations, as well as the extent to which the balance between selection and migration have affected genetic architecture. We identified a set of loci with allele frequencies strongly correlated with altitude, including those involved in the insulin-like signaling pathway, bone morphogenesis, oxidative phosphorylation, responders to hypoxia-induced DNA damage, and feedback loops to the hypoxia-inducible factor pathway. These same outlier loci were found to have depressed gene flow estimates, as well as being highly concentrated on the Z-chromosome. Our results suggest a multifactorial response to life at high altitudes through an array of interconnected pathways that are likely under positive selection and whose genetic components seem to be providing an effective genomic barrier to interbreeding, potentially functioning as an avenue for population divergence and speciation.

Distribution and Evolution of Peroxisomes in Alveolates (Apicomplexa, Dinoflagellates, Ciliates)

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The peroxisome was the last organelle to be discovered and five decades later it is still the Cinderella of eukaryotic compartments. Peroxisomes have a crucial role in the detoxification of reactive oxygen species, the beta-oxidation of fatty acids, and the biosynthesis of etherphospholipids, and they are assumed to be present in virtually all aerobic eukaryotes. Apicomplexan parasites including the malaria and toxoplasmosis agents were described as the first group of mitochondriate protists devoid of peroxisomes. This study was initiated to reassess the distribution and evolution of peroxisomes in the superensemble Alveolata (apicomplexans, dinoflagellates, ciliates). We established transcriptome data from two chromerid algae (Chromera velia, Vitrella brassicaformis), and two dinoflagellates (Prorocentrum minimum, Perkinsus olseni) and identified the complete set of essential peroxins in all four reference species. Our comparative genome analysis provides unequivocal evidence for the presence of peroxisomes in Toxoplasma gondii and related genera. Our working hypothesis of a common peroxisomal origin of all alveolates is supported by phylogenetic analyses of essential markers such as the import receptor Pex5. Vitrella harbors the most comprehensive set of peroxisomal proteins including the catalase and the glyoxylate cycle and it is thus a promising model organism to investigate the functional role of this organelle in Apicomplexa.

Speciation Generates Mosaic Genomes in Kangaroos

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The iconic Australasian kangaroos and wallabies represent a successful marsupial radiation. However, the evolutionary relationship within the two genera, Macropus and Wallabia, is controversial: mitochondrial and nuclear genes, and morphological data have produced conflicting scenarios regarding the phylogenetic relationships, which in turn impact the classification and taxonomy. We sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 11 kangaroos to investigate the evolutionary cause of the observed phylogenetic conflict. A multilocus coalescent analysis using ∼14,900 genome fragments, each 10 kb long, significantly resolved the species relationships between and among the sister-genera Macropus and Wallabia. The phylogenomic approach reconstructed the swamp wallaby (Wallabia) as nested inside Macropus, making this genus paraphyletic. However, the phylogenomic analyses indicate multiple conflicting phylogenetic signals in the swamp wallaby genome. This is interpreted as at least one introgression event between the ancestor of the genus Wallabia and a now extinct ghost lineage outside the genus Macropus. Additional phylogenetic signals must therefore be caused by incomplete lineage sorting and/or introgression, but available statistical methods cannot convincingly disentangle the two processes. In addition, the relationships inside the Macropus subgenus M. (Notamacropus) represent a hard polytomy. Thus, the relationships between tammar, red-necked, agile, and parma wallabies remain unresolvable even with whole-genome data. Even if most methods resolve bifurcating trees from genomic data, hard polytomies, incomplete lineage sorting, and introgression complicate the interpretation of the phylogeny and thus taxonomy.