Motoo Kimura Lifetime Contribution Award

This award is intended for outstanding senior members of the SMBE community.  The primary criterion is a record of truly outstanding research that has contributed broadly to the field of Molecular Biology and Evolution.  The prize includes recognition at the annual SMBE banquet, a cash prize of $2000 and a travel award to attend the annual meeting.  This award will be made annually and initiated by the SMBE council.


2016 SMBE Motoo Kimura Lifetime Contribution Award Winner:
Nancy Moran

Nancy Moran’s long-term interests are in the evolution of biological complexity, such as that apparent in complex life histories, in intimate interactions among species and in species-diversity of clades and communities. Her research has focused extensively on symbiosis, particularly between multicellular hosts and microbes.  In her storied career, she has demonstrated ancient coevolution between aphids and their plant hosts, and has characterized mutualistic symbiotic interactions between aphids and Buchnera bacteria and between other insect and symbiont clades. She found that these mutualisms are ancient, dating to the origins of major insect clades, and that the long term vertical transmission of the bacterial symbionts has caused extreme genome degradation and shrinkage. Her ongoing projects include phylogenetic and genomic studies of previously unstudied insect symbioses, experiments on gene expression of symbionts within hosts, computational reconstruction of the content and arrangement of genes in bacterial ancestors, and experimental investigations of coevolved gut communities within social bees. She has previously been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and the International Prize for Biology, and has been a member of that National Academy of the Sciences since 2004.  She is currently the Leslie Surginer Endowed Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, Austin.  


Award Information

Eligibility: Awardees are likely to be at least 25 years past their doctoral degrees. Members of the SMBE Council are not eligible for any awards during their years on council or in the year immediately following their service.

Nomination:  Nomination will be an open process that begins with a call to SMBE members, typically early in the calendar year.

All nominations will include:

  • A nomination letter that includes a recommendation for the candidate.

  • A one-page statement summarizing the candidate’s work and its fit to the award. 
  • A CV of the candidate.  
  • A second recommendation letter

Process:  The President will convene an awards committee that will choose among those nominated.  It may also choose not to award the prize if no suitable candidates are nominated.

 

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A Markov Clustering Approach to Study Population Genetic Structure

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the polycystine radiolarian Lithomelissa setosa (Nassellaria) and Sticholonche zanclea (Taxopodida). A phylogenomic approach using 255 genes finds Radiolaria and Foraminifera as separate monophyletic groups (together as Retaria), while Cercozoa is shown to be paraphyletic where Endomyxa is sister to Retaria. Analysis of the genetic components of the cytoskeleton and mapping of the evolution of these on the revised phylogeny of Rhizaria reveal lineage-specific gene duplications and neofunctionalization of α and β tubulin in Retaria, actin in Retaria and Endomyxa, and Arp2/3 complex genes in Chlorarachniophyta. We show how genetic innovations have shaped cytoskeletal structures in Rhizaria, and how single cell transcriptomics can be applied for resolving deep phylogenies and studying gene evolution in uncultured protist species.

GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

Extreme Mitogenomic Variation in Natural Populations of Chaetognaths

2017-06-14

Abstract
The extent of within-species genetic variation across the diversity of animal life is an underexplored problem in ecology and evolution. Although neutral genetic variation should scale positively with population size, mitochondrial diversity levels are believed to show little variation across animal species. Here, we report an unprecedented case of extreme mitochondrial diversity within natural populations of two morphospecies of chaetognaths (arrow worms). We determine that this diversity is composed of deep sympatric mitochondrial lineages, which are in some cases as divergent as human and platypus. Additionally, based on 54 complete mitogenomes, we observed mitochondrial gene order differences between several of these lineages. We examined nuclear divergence patterns (18S, 28S, and an intron) to determine the possible origin of these lineages, but did not find congruent patterns between mitochondrial and nuclear markers. We also show that extreme mitochondrial divergence in chaetognaths is not driven by positive selection. Hence, we propose that the extreme levels of mitochondrial variation could be the result of either a complex scenario of reproductive isolation, or a combination of large population size and accelerated mitochondrial mutation rate. These findings emphasize the importance of characterizing genome-wide levels of nuclear variation in these species and promote chaetognaths as a remarkable model to study mitochondrial evolution.

Unraveling the Population History of Indian Siddis

2017-06-14

Abstract
The Siddis are a unique Indian tribe of African, South Asian, and European ancestry. While previous investigations have traced their ancestral origins to the Bantu populations from subSaharan Africa, the geographic localization of their ancestry has remained elusive. Here, we performed biogeographical analysis to delineate the ancestral origin of the Siddis employing an admixture based algorithm, Geographical Population Structure (GPS). We evaluated the Siddi genomes in reference to five African populations from the 1000 Genomes project, two Bantu groups from the Human Genome Diversity Panel (HGDP) and five South Indian populations. The Geographic Population Structure analysis localized the ancestral Siddis to Botsawana and its present-day northeastern border with Zimbabwe, overlapping with one of the principal areas of secondary Bantu settlement in southeast Africa. Our results further indicated that while the Siddi genomes are significantly diverged from that of the Bantus, they manifested the highest genomic proximity to the North-East Bantus and the Luhyas from Kenya. Our findings resonate with evidences supporting secondary Bantu dispersal routes that progressed southward from the east African Bantu center, in the interlacustrine region and likely brought the ancestral Siddis to settlement sites in south and southeastern Africa from where they were disseminated to India, by the Portuguese. We evaluated our results in the light of existing historical, linguistic and genetic evidences, to glean an improved resolution into the reconstruction of the distinctive population history of the Siddis, and advance our knowledge of the demographic factors that likely contributed to the contemporary Siddi genomes.

The Genomic Impact of Gene Retrocopies: What Have We Learned from Comparative Genomics, Population Genomics, and Transcriptomic Analyses?

2017-06-14

Abstract
Gene duplication is a major driver of organismal evolution. Gene retroposition is a mechanism of gene duplication whereby a gene’s transcript is used as a template to generate retroposed gene copies, or retrocopies. Intriguingly, the formation of retrocopies depends upon the enzymatic machinery encoded by retrotransposable elements, genomic parasites occurring in the majority of eukaryotes. Most retrocopies are depleted of the regulatory regions found upstream of their parental genes; therefore, they were initially considered transcriptionally incompetent gene copies, or retropseudogenes. However, examples of functional retrocopies, or retrogenes, have accumulated since the 1980s. Here, we review what we have learned about retrocopies in animals, plants and other eukaryotic organisms, with a particular emphasis on comparative and population genomic analyses complemented with transcriptomic datasets. In addition, these data have provided information about the dynamics of the different “life cycle” stages of retrocopies (i.e., polymorphic retrocopy number variants, fixed retropseudogenes and retrogenes) and have provided key insights into the retroduplication mechanisms, the patterns and evolutionary forces at work during the fixation process and the biological function of retrogenes. Functional genomic and transcriptomic data have also revealed that many retropseudogenes are transcriptionally active and a biological role has been experimentally determined for many. Finally, we have learned that not only non-long terminal repeat retroelements but also long terminal repeat retroelements play a role in the emergence of retrocopies across eukaryotes. This body of work has shown that mRNA-mediated duplication represents a widespread phenomenon that produces an array of new genes that contribute to organismal diversity and adaptation.