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SMBE 2020, June 28th-July 2nd 2020, Québec City, QC, Canada – Registration Launch and Abstracts Submission Deadline

We are delighted to announce that registration for SMBE 2020 is now live. SMBE 2020 is taking place in Québec city, QC, Canada on June 28th-July 2nd 2020 at the Québec Convention Center. Full details on the symposia programme and confirmed keynote speakers can be viewed here.

Information on the registration fees can be viewed here. Register before the early bird deadline on April 1st, 2020 in order to secure discounted registration rates.

Please note that in order to receive a discounted member-rate registration you will be asked to provide your SMBE member number. Active members were sent an email that includes their member number.

You can book your accommodation from a range of city centre properties from inside the registration system.

As always SMBE are keen to ensure good international representation. Support will be provided to all delegates that may require additional documentation in order to secure a visa to Canada. Please click here to check if you require a visa for Canada. You can request support for your Visa application within the registration portal. Select the Visa application support letter and submit the required details. You will then receive a covering letter confirming your attendance at SMBE 2020.

Childcare facility will be provided on-site for SMBE 2020 delegates. During the registration process please advise whether you would like to make use of the facility and add details on the age of your child. Further details will be shared on the facility nearer the time.

Attendees can apply for Carer Awards as part of conference registration rather than abstract submission, or by email to smbe.contact@gmail.com if an earlier response is needed. SMBE will make available up to $2000 to SMBE members with children or dependent adults (including adult children with a disability or elderly relatives) to spend as they wish to facilitate the member’s attendance at the annual SMBE meeting. Examples of eligible expenses include (but are not limited to) providing airfare for your child or for your caregiver to accompany you, flying a relative out to help with care at your home while you’re at the meeting, or extra help paying for on-site daycare. All other awards can be applied for during the Abstract submission portal.

Abstract and Award submission deadline.

The abstract submission deadline is fast approaching. The deadline for abstracts is 20th January 2020 23:59 GMT. Please be aware that the deadline will not be extended. Abstracts should be no longer than 2500 characters (~250 words), with a title no longer than 300 characters. Full details on abstract topics, guidance and the submission portal can be found here.

A range of

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  • Friday, December 20, 2019
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Nominations Due for Prestigious SMBE Awards

SMBE is now calling for nominations to award the Prizes for Early-Career, Mid-Career, Lifetime Research Achievements, and for Service to the SMBE Community. Please consider nominating those of your colleagues you believe deserve to be rewarded for their extraordinary achievements and dedication to the field.

Briefly, the Junior Award for Independent Research is intended for nominees in tenure-track positions at the Assistant Professor level or equivalent; the Mid-Career Award is for the research contributions of faculty nearing promotion to Full Professor or in the early stages as a Full Professor; the Lifetime Contribution Award is for exceptional contributions to the published literature in the field of molecular biology and evolution; and the Community Service Award recognizes outstanding efforts on behalf of the Society and the broader scientific community. Awardees will receive a cash prize and a trip to the upcoming SMBE Annual Meeting in Québec City, Canada (June 28 to July 2, 2020).

Nominations require a nomination letter, which should clearly indicate the award under consideration and also serve as a recommendation letter; a separate one-page summary of the nominee’s qualifications for the award; a CV of the nominee; and an additional letter of recommendation. Self-nomination is not allowed. The nominator need not be an SMBE member, but the nominee must be a member of SMBE to be considered for the award.

The materials should be compiled into a single PDF file, and should be emailed to smbe@allenpress.com before 19 January 2020.

For more information on each award and the specific application details please see the links below:

Allan Wilson Junior Award for Independent Research

Margaret Dayhoff Mid-Career Award

Community Service Award

Motoo K

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  • Friday, December 13, 2019
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SMBE 2020 Call for Abstracts and Travel Award Applications

We invite you to submit an abstract for the 2020 annual conference of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE 2020) at http://smbe2020.org/abstracts/abstract-submission/ .

SMBE 2020 is taking place in Québec City, Canada, from 28 June – 2 July 2020.

The deadline for abstract submission is Monday 20 January 2020, 23:59 (GMT). 

Several awards are available and can be applied for during abstract submission. They require SMBE membership at the time of application (3 years costs $10 for students and $30 for others).

Membership can be applied for at https://www.smbe.org/smbe/MEMBERSHIP.aspx

Carer awards can also be applied for at registration or by email.

Awards include:

1) The Walter M. Fitch Award for current graduate and recent postdoctoral researchers; Extended abstracts are not required, just the conference abstract and a CV. Unsuccessful Fitch Award applicants will automatically be considered for Young Investigator and Registration-only awards.

2) The Young Investigator Award substantially funds the cost of attending, is for any graduate student or postdoc, requires a conference abstract and a CV, and will automatically also be considered for Registration – only awards.

3) The Undergraduate Travel & Mentoring Award (including Masters students under a 3+2 system) requires title, abstract, a short explanation (250 words) of why you want to attend this meeting, including a mention of whether you fall into a group traditionally underrepresented at SMBE such as enrolling in university later in life or being the first in your family to attend university. A short letter of support (250 words) should also be sent from your academic supervisor to Sarah Schaack and Mary O’Connell (SMBE.contact@gmail.com) confirming that you are undergraduate or a Masters student under 3+2, and that the research to be presented is your own.

4) Carer Travel Awards can be applied for during registration, or by email to smbe2020@mci-group.com if an earlier response is needed. Up to $2000 may be awarded for members with children or dependent adults (including adult children with a disability or elderly relatives) to spend as to facilitate member’s attendance at the annual SMBE meeting. Examples of eligible expenses include (but are not limited to) providing airfare for your child or for your caregiver to accompany you, flying a relative out to help with care at your home while you’re at the meeting, or extra help paying for on-site daycare.

If interested in sponsorship of the meeting, please contact SMBE2020@mci-group.com.

For any queries over abstracts or registration, please contact SMBE2020@mci-group.com.

We look forward to welcoming you in Québec City. 

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  • Friday, November 22, 2019
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Call for Proposals to Host SMBE 2023 - Deadline 30 November 2019

Want to meet like-minded colleagues from all over the world?

Wish you could have an international conference in your field closer to home?

SMBE is looking for a local host for its 2023 international meeting. Informal expressions of interest should be from a prospective local organizing committee of scientists headed by an SMBE member, and should reach SMBE President-Elect Marta Wayne by 30 November 2019. Full proposals will need to be submitted using the SMBE template by 30 April 2020. Please email your proposal to Smbe.contact@gmail.com.

For details of meeting organization, please see the SMBE Conference Guidelines (and specifically Appendix 2 which outlines the format of proposals).

The primary role of the local organizing committee will be to plan the scientific programme. All other aspects of the organization will be done in association with SMBE representatives and a professional conference organizer appointed by SMBE.

SMBE rotates its meetings geographically to encourage international participation. For 2023, we are particularly requesting proposals from North America. The next three years' meetings will be in Quebec, Canada (2020), Auckland, NZ (2021) and Ferrera, Italy (2022).

Please note that SMBE is not interested in proposals from professional conference organizers.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Marta Wayne
President-Elect, SMBE

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  • Wednesday, October 30, 2019
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Vote for changes to by-laws

On Friday, Oct 11, if you are a member you should have gotten an email to vote on amendments to the SMBE by-laws. Please read the amendments, follow the link, and vote! Voting is open through October 26, AoE.

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  • Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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Save the Date - SMBE 2020 - June 28 - July 2, 2020

It is our great pleasure to invite you to the SMBE 2020 Meeting that will take place in beautiful Québec City, Canada. The meeting will be held at the Convention Centre.

Québec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the only walled city in North America whose fortifications are still intact. It offers legendary hospitality, joie de vivre, an abundance of historical, tourist, and cultural attractions, and of course Old Québec, the jewel in the city’s crown. Must see attractions like the Plains of Abraham, Old Québec, and the Petit Champlain district, as well as numerous restaurants, hotels, and museums are all within walking distance from the Convention Centre. Québec City stands out for the variety of restaurants, the quality of its local products, and the creative talent of its chefs. The region has all the advantages and amenities of a big city, set against a spectacular natural backdrop. Bienvenue à Québec!

Québec City region is also recognized for its expertise in the life science sector, being home to world-renowned research centers, several industry leaders and a multitude of innovative companies.

More information may be found on this downloadable PDF or by visiting SMBE2020.org.

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  • Friday, September 27, 2019
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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.


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Molecular Biology and Evolution

Treasurer’s Report for Financial Year (FY) 2018Prepared by Jeffrey L. Thorne, SMBE Treasurer Audited by Dr John Archibald

Wed, 08 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Society’s net assets as of May 31, 2019:

Molecular Evolution of Auxin-Mediated Root Initiation in Plants

Sun, 05 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The root originated independently in euphyllophytes (ferns and seed plants) and lycophytes; however, the molecular evolutionary route of root initiation remains elusive. By analyses of the fern Ceratopteris richardii and seed plants, here we show that the molecular pathway involving auxin, intermediate-clade WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX (IC-WOX) genes, and WUSCHEL-clade WOX (WC-WOX) genes could be conserved in root initiation. We propose that the “auxin>IC-WOX>WC-WOX” module in root initiation might have arisen in the common ancestor of euphyllophytes during the second origin of roots, and that this module has further developed during the evolution of different root types in ferns and seed plants.

Infectious Disease Defenses among Primary Ancient Hominid Contributions to Adaptation of Modern Humans

Thu, 27 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

During the past decade, our human evolutionary tree has turned into something more resembling an unwieldy bush. Scientists have discovered swapped segments of DNA that we shared from mating between two other hominids, Neanderthals and Denisovans, which were first sequenced in 2010 and 2014, respectively.

Back from the Deep: Scientists Use “Resurrection Ecology” of 600-Year-Old Water Fleas to Better Understand How Organisms Adapt to Lake Pollution

Thu, 27 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

One of the leading threats to lakes since the rise of agriculture is runoffs from fertilizer, in the form of high phosphorus levels. These can trigger devastating events like eutrophication, where deadly algal blooms thrive on phosphorus, and in the process, outcompete and choke off vital nutrients from the rest of the lake.

CellCoal: Coalescent Simulation of Single-Cell Sequencing Samples

Thu, 06 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Our capacity to study individual cells has enabled a new level of resolution for understanding complex biological systems such as multicellular organisms or microbial communities. Not surprisingly, several methods have been developed in recent years with a formidable potential to investigate the somatic evolution of single cells in both healthy and pathological tissues. However, single-cell sequencing data can be quite noisy due to different technical biases, so inferences resulting from these new methods need to be carefully contrasted. Here, I introduce CellCoal, a software tool for the coalescent simulation of single-cell sequencing genotypes. CellCoal simulates the history of single-cell samples obtained from somatic cell populations with different demographic histories and produces single-nucleotide variants under a variety of mutation models, sequencing read counts, and genotype likelihoods, considering allelic imbalance, allelic dropout, amplification, and sequencing errors, typical of this type of data. CellCoal is a flexible tool that can be used to understand the implications of different somatic evolutionary processes at the single-cell level, and to benchmark dedicated bioinformatic tools for the analysis of single-cell sequencing data. CellCoal is available at https://github.com/dapogon/cellcoal.

IQ-TREE 2: New Models and Efficient Methods for Phylogenetic Inference in the Genomic Era

Mon, 03 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

IQ-TREE (http://www.iqtree.org, last accessed February 6, 2020) is a user-friendly and widely used software package for phylogenetic inference using maximum likelihood. Since the release of version 1 in 2014, we have continuously expanded IQ-TREE to integrate a plethora of new models of sequence evolution and efficient computational approaches of phylogenetic inference to deal with genomic data. Here, we describe notable features of IQ-TREE version 2 and highlight the key advantages over other software.

Evolution of the Autism-Associated Neuroligin-4 Gene Reveals Broad Erosion of Pseudoautosomal Regions in Rodents

Mon, 03 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Variants in genes encoding synaptic adhesion proteins of the neuroligin family, most notably neuroligin-4, are a significant cause of autism spectrum disorders in humans. Although human neuroligin-4 is encoded by two genes, NLGN4X and NLGN4Y, that are localized on the X-specific and male-specific regions of the two sex chromosomes, the chromosomal localization and full genomic sequence of the mouse Nlgn4 gene remain elusive. Here, we analyzed the neuroligin-4 genes of numerous rodent species by direct sequencing and bioinformatics, generated complete drafts of multiple rodent neuroligin-4 genes, and examined their evolution. Surprisingly, we find that the murine Nlgn4 gene is localized to the pseudoautosomal region (PAR) of the sex chromosomes, different from its human orthologs. We show that the sequence differences between various neuroligin-4 proteins are restricted to hotspots in which rodent neuroligin-4 proteins contain short repetitive sequence insertions compared with neuroligin-4 proteins from other species, whereas all other protein sequences are highly conserved. Evolutionarily, these sequence insertions initiate in the clade eumuroidea of the infraorder myomorpha and are additionally associated with dramatic changes in noncoding sequences and gene size. Importantly, these changes are not exclusively restricted to neuroligin-4 genes but reflect major evolutionary changes that substantially altered or even deleted genes from the PARs of both sex chromosomes. Our results show that despite the fact that the PAR in rodents and the neuroligin-4 genes within the rodent PAR underwent massive evolutionary changes, neuroligin-4 proteins maintained a highly conserved core structure, consistent with a substantial evolutionary pressure preserving its physiological function.

Independent Losses of the Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (HIF) Pathway within Crustacea

Fri, 31 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Metazoans respond to hypoxic stress via the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway, a mechanism thought to be extremely conserved due to its importance in monitoring cellular oxygen levels and regulating responses to hypoxia. However, recent work revealed that key members of the HIF pathway have been lost in specific lineages (a tardigrade and a copepod), suggesting that this pathway is not as widespread in animals as previously assumed. Using genomic and transcriptomic data from 70 different species across 12 major crustacean groups, we assessed the degree to which the gene HIFα, the master regulator of the HIF pathway, was conserved. Mining of protein domains, followed by phylogenetic analyses of gene families, uncovered group-level losses of HIFα, including one across three orders within Cirripedia, and in three orders within Copepoda. For these groups, additional assessment showed losses of HIF repression machinery (EGLN and VHL). These results suggest the existence of alternative mechanisms for cellular response to low oxygen and highlight these taxa as models useful for probing these evolutionary outcomes.

Herpes Simplex Viruses: New Relationships between Epidemiology and History

Thu, 30 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Scientists have revised the dating of viral dispersal from Africa: it did not occur during ancient “Out of Africa” migrations, but rather, more recent events, including the transatlantic slave trade of the eighteenth century.

Evolution of a New Function by Fusion between Phage DNA and a Bacterial Gene

Tue, 21 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Mobile genetic elements, such as plasmids, phages, and transposons, are important sources for evolution of novel functions. In this study, we performed a large-scale screening of metagenomic phage libraries for their ability to suppress temperature-sensitivity in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strain LT2 mutants to examine how phage DNA could confer evolutionary novelty to bacteria. We identified an insert encoding 23 amino acids from a phage that when fused with a bacterial DNA-binding repressor protein (LacI) resulted in the formation of a chimeric protein that localized to the outer membrane. This relocalization of the chimeric protein resulted in increased membrane vesicle formation and an associated suppression of the temperature sensitivity of the bacterium. Both the host LacI protein and the extracellular 23-amino acid stretch are necessary for the generation of the novel phenotype. Furthermore, mutational analysis of the chimeric protein showed that although the native repressor function of the LacI protein is maintained in this chimeric structure, it is not necessary for the new function. Thus, our study demonstrates how a gene fusion between foreign DNA and bacterial DNA can generate novelty without compromising the native function of a given gene.

The Genomes of the Livebearing Fish Species Poeciliopsis retropinna and Poeciliopsis turrubarensis Reflect Their Different Reproductive Strategies

Tue, 21 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The evolution of a placenta is predicted to be accompanied by rapid evolution of genes involved in processes that regulate mother–offspring interactions during pregnancy, such as placenta formation, embryonic development, and nutrient transfer to offspring. However, these predictions have only been tested in mammalian species, where only a single instance of placenta evolution has occurred. In this light, the genus Poeciliopsis is a particularly interesting model for placenta evolution, because in this genus a placenta has evolved independently from the mammalian placenta. Here, we present and compare genome assemblies of two species of the livebearing fish genus Poeciliopsis (family Poeciliidae) that differ in their reproductive strategy: Poeciliopsis retropinna which has a well-developed complex placenta and P. turrubarensis which lacks a placenta. We applied different assembly strategies for each species: PacBio sequencing for P. retropinna (622-Mb assembly, scaffold N50 of 21.6 Mb) and 10× Genomics Chromium technology for P. turrubarensis (597-Mb assembly, scaffold N50 of 4.2 Mb). Using the high contiguity of these genome assemblies and near-completeness of gene annotations to our advantage, we searched for gene duplications and performed a genome-wide scan for genes evolving under positive selection. We find rapid evolution in major parts of several molecular pathways involved in parent–offspring interaction in P. retropinna, both in the form of gene duplications as well as positive selection. We conclude that the evolution of the placenta in the genus Poeciliopsis is accompanied by rapid evolution of genes involved in similar genomic pathways as found in mammals.

Evolutionary Dynamics of Abundant 7-bp Satellites in the Genome of Drosophila virilis

Tue, 21 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The factors that drive the rapid changes in abundance of tandem arrays of highly repetitive sequences, known as satellite DNA, are not well understood. Drosophila virilis has one of the highest relative amounts of simple satellites of any organism that has been studied, with an estimated >40% of its genome composed of a few related 7-bp satellites. Here, we use D. virilis as a model to understand technical biases affecting satellite sequencing and the evolutionary processes that drive satellite composition. By analyzing sequencing data from Illumina, PacBio, and Nanopore platforms, we identify platform-specific biases and suggest best practices for accurate characterization of satellites by sequencing. We use comparative genomics and cytogenetics to demonstrate that the highly abundant AAACTAC satellite family arose from a related satellite in the branch leading to the virilis phylad 4.5–11 Ma before exploding in abundance in some species of the clade. The most abundant satellite is conserved in sequence and location in the pericentromeric region but has diverged widely in abundance among species, whereas the satellites nearest the centromere are rapidly turning over in sequence composition. By analyzing multiple strains of D. virilis, we saw that the abundances of two centromere-proximal satellites are anticorrelated along a geographical gradient, which we suggest could be caused by ongoing conflicts at the centromere. In conclusion, we illuminate several key attributes of satellite evolutionary dynamics that we hypothesize to be driven by processes including selection, meiotic drive, and constraints on satellite sequence and abundance.

Evolution of Transcriptional Repressors Impacts Caenorhabditis Vulval Development

Tue, 21 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Comparative genomic sequence analysis has found that the genes for many chromatin-associated proteins are poorly conserved, but the biological consequences of these sequence changes are not understood. Here, we show that four genes identified for an Inappropriate Vulval cell Proliferation (ivp) phenotype in the nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae exhibit distinct functions and genetic interactions when compared with their orthologs in C. elegans. Specifically, we show that the four C. briggsae ivp genes encode the noncanonical histone HTZ-1/H2A.z and three nematode-specific proteins predicted to function in the nucleus. The mutants exhibit ectopic vulval precursor cell proliferation (the multivulva [Muv] phenotype) due to inappropriate expression of the lin-3/EGF gene, and RNAseq analysis suggests a broad role for these ivp genes in transcriptional repression. Importantly, although the C. briggsae phenotypes have parallels with those seen in the C. elegans synMuv system, except for the highly conserved HTZ-1/H2A.z, comparable mutations in C. elegans ivp orthologs do not exhibit synMuv gene interactions or phenotypes. These results demonstrate the evolutionary changes that can underlie conserved biological outputs and argue that proteins critical to repress inappropriate expression from the genome participate in a rapidly evolving functional landscape.

Genome-Wide Natural Selection Signatures Are Linked to Genetic Risk of Modern Phenotypes in the Japanese Population

Mon, 20 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Elucidation of natural selection signatures and relationships with phenotype spectra is important to understand adaptive evolution of modern humans. Here, we conducted a genome-wide scan of selection signatures of the Japanese population by estimating locus-specific time to the most recent common ancestor using the ascertained sequentially Markovian coalescent (ASMC), from the biobank-based large-scale genome-wide association study data of 170,882 subjects. We identified 29 genetic loci with selection signatures satisfying the genome-wide significance. The signatures were most evident at the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) gene cluster locus at 4q23 (PASMC = 2.2 × 10−36), followed by relatively strong selection at the FAM96A (15q22), MYOF (10q23), 13q21, GRIA2 (4q32), and ASAP2 (2p25) loci (PASMC < 1.0 × 10−10). The additional analysis interrogating extended haplotypes (integrated haplotype score) showed robust concordance of the detected signatures, contributing to fine-mapping of the genes, and provided allelic directional insights into selection pressure (e.g., positive selection for ADH1B-Arg48His and HLA-DPB1*04:01). The phenome-wide selection enrichment analysis with the trait-associated variants identified a variety of the modern human phenotypes involved in the adaptation of Japanese. We observed population-specific evidence of enrichment with the alcohol-related phenotypes, anthropometric and biochemical clinical measurements, and immune-related diseases, differently from the findings in Europeans using the UK Biobank resource. Our study demonstrated population-specific features of the selection signatures in Japanese, highlighting a value of the natural selection study using the nation-wide biobank-scale genome and phenotype data.

Polygenic Patterns of Adaptive Introgression in Modern Humans Are Mainly Shaped by Response to Pathogens

Tue, 14 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Anatomically modern humans carry many introgressed variants from other hominins in their genomes. Some of them affect their phenotype and can thus be negatively or positively selected. Several individual genes have been proposed to be the subject of adaptive introgression, but the possibility of polygenic adaptive introgression has not been extensively investigated yet. In this study, we analyze archaic introgression maps with refined functional enrichment methods to find signals of polygenic adaptation of introgressed variants. We first apply a method to detect sets of connected genes (subnetworks) within biological pathways that present higher-than-expected levels of archaic introgression. We then introduce and apply a new statistical test to distinguish between epistatic and independent selection in gene sets of present-day humans. We identify several known targets of adaptive introgression, and we show that they belong to larger networks of introgressed genes. After correction for genetic linkage, we find that signals of polygenic adaptation are mostly explained by independent and potentially sequential selection episodes. However, we also find some gene sets where introgressed variants present significant signals of epistatic selection. Our results confirm that archaic introgression has facilitated local adaptation, especially in immunity related and metabolic functions and highlight its involvement in a coordinated response to pathogens out of Africa.

Disentangling Population History and Character Evolution among Hybridizing Lineages

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Understanding the origin and maintenance of adaptive phenotypic novelty is a central goal of evolutionary biology. However, both hybridization and incomplete lineage sorting can lead to genealogical discordance between the regions of the genome underlying adaptive traits and the remainder of the genome, decoupling inferences about character evolution from population history. Here, to disentangle these effects, we investigated the evolutionary origins and maintenance of Batesian mimicry between North American admiral butterflies (Limenitis arthemis) and their chemically defended model (Battus philenor) using a combination of de novo genome sequencing, whole-genome resequencing, and statistical introgression mapping. Our results suggest that balancing selection, arising from geographic variation in the presence or absence of the unpalatable model, has maintained two deeply divergent color patterning haplotypes that have been repeatedly sieved among distinct mimetic and nonmimetic lineages of Limenitis via introgressive hybridization.

Genetic Basis of De Novo Appearance of Carotenoid Ornamentation in Bare Parts of Canaries

Mon, 13 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Unlike wild and domestic canaries (Serinus canaria), or any of the three dozen species of finches in genus Serinus, the domestic urucum breed of canaries exhibits bright red bills and legs. This novel trait offers a unique opportunity to understand the mechanisms of bare-part coloration in birds. To identify the mutation producing the colorful phenotype, we resequenced the genome of urucum canaries and performed a range of analyses to search for genotype-to-phenotype associations across the genome. We identified a nonsynonymous mutation in the gene BCO2 (beta-carotene oxygenase 2, also known as BCDO2), an enzyme involved in the cleavage and breakdown of full-length carotenoids into short apocarotenoids. Protein structural models and in vitro functional assays indicate that the urucum mutation abrogates the carotenoid-cleavage activity of BCO2. Consistent with the predicted loss of carotenoid-cleavage activity, urucum canaries tended to have increased levels of full-length carotenoid pigments in bill tissue and reduced levels of carotenoid-cleavage products (apocarotenoids) in retinal tissue compared with other breeds of canaries. We hypothesize that carotenoid-based bare-part coloration might be readily gained, modified, or lost through simple switches in the enzymatic activity or regulation of BCO2 and this gene may be an important mediator in the evolution of bare-part coloration among bird species.

Snake Recombination Landscapes Are Concentrated in Functional Regions despite PRDM9

Sat, 11 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Meiotic recombination in vertebrates is concentrated in hotspots throughout the genome. The location and stability of hotspots have been linked to the presence or absence of PRDM9, leading to two primary models for hotspot evolution derived from mammals and birds. Species with PRDM9-directed recombination have rapid turnover of hotspots concentrated in intergenic regions (i.e., mammals), whereas hotspots in species lacking PRDM9 are concentrated in functional regions and have greater stability over time (i.e., birds). Snakes possess PRDM9, yet virtually nothing is known about snake recombination. Here, we examine the recombination landscape and test hypotheses about the roles of PRDM9 in rattlesnakes. We find substantial variation in recombination rate within and among snake chromosomes, and positive correlations between recombination rate and gene density, GC content, and genetic diversity. Like mammals, snakes appear to have a functional and active PRDM9, but rather than being directed away from genes, snake hotspots are concentrated in promoters and functional regions—a pattern previously associated only with species that lack a functional PRDM9. Snakes therefore provide a unique example of recombination landscapes in which PRDM9 is functional, yet recombination hotspots are associated with functional genic regions—a combination of features that defy existing paradigms for recombination landscapes in vertebrates. Our findings also provide evidence that high recombination rates are a shared feature of vertebrate microchromosomes. Our results challenge previous assumptions about the adaptive role of PRDM9 and highlight the diversity of recombination landscape features among vertebrate lineages.

Recent Out-of-Africa Migration of Human Herpes Simplex Viruses

Thu, 09 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) are ubiquitous human pathogens. Both viruses evolved from simplex viruses infecting African primates and they are thus thought to have left Africa during early human migrations. We analyzed the population structure of HSV-1 and HSV-2 circulating strains. Results indicated that HSV-1 populations have limited geographic structure and the most evident clustering by geography is likely due to recent bottlenecks. For HSV-2, the only level of population structure is accounted for by the so-called “worldwide” and “African” lineages. Analysis of ancestry components and nucleotide diversity, however, did not support the view that the worldwide lineage followed early humans during out-of-Africa dispersal. Although phylogeographic analysis confirmed an African origin for both viruses, molecular dating with a method that corrects for the time-dependent rate phenomenon indicated that HSV-1 and HSV-2 migrated from Africa in relatively recent times. In particular, we estimated that the HSV-2 worldwide lineage left the continent in the 18th century, which corresponds to the height of the transatlantic slave trade, possibly explaining the high prevalence of HSV-2 in the Americas (second highest after Africa). The limited geographic clustering of HSV-1 makes it difficult to date its exit from Africa. The split between the basal clade, containing mostly African sequences, and all other strains was dated at ∼5,000 years ago. Our data do not imply that herpes simplex viruses did not infect early humans but show that the worldwide distribution of circulating strains is the result of relatively recent events.

Ancient DNA Evidence from China Reveals the Expansion of Pacific Dogs

Wed, 08 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The ancestral homeland of Australian dingoes and Pacific dogs is proposed to be in South China. However, the location and timing of their dispersal and relationship to dog domestication is unclear. Here, we sequenced 7,000- to 2,000-year-old complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genomes of 27 ancient canids (one gray wolf and 26 domestic dogs) from the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins (YYRB). These are the first complete ancient mtDNA of Chinese dogs from the cradle of early Chinese civilization. We found that most ancient dogs (18/26) belong to the haplogroup A1b lineage that is found in high frequency in present-day Australian dingoes and precolonial Pacific Island dogs but low frequency in present-day China. Particularly, a 7,000-year-old dog from the Tianluoshan site in Zhejiang province possesses a haplotype basal to the entire haplogroup A1b lineage. We propose that A1b lineage dogs were once widely distributed in the YYRB area. Following their dispersal to South China, and then into Southeast Asia, New Guinea and remote Oceania, they were largely replaced by dogs belonging to other lineages in the last 2,000 years in present-day China, especially North China.

Reduced Translational Efficiency of Eukaryotic Genes after Duplication Events

Mon, 06 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Control of gene expression has been found to be predominantly determined at the level of protein translation. However, to date, reduced expression from duplicated genes in eukaryotes for dosage maintenance has only been linked to transcriptional control involving epigenetic mechanisms. Here, we hypothesize that dosage maintenance following gene duplication also involves regulation at the protein level. To test this hypothesis, we compared transcriptome and proteome data of yeast models, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and worm models, Caenorhabditis elegans and Caenorhabditis briggsae, to investigate lineage-specifically duplicated genes. Duplicated genes in both eukaryotic models exhibited a reduced protein-to-mRNA abundance ratio. Moreover, dosage sensitive genes, represented by genes encoding protein complex subunits, reduced their protein-to-mRNA abundance ratios more significantly than the other genes after duplication events. An analysis of ribosome profiling (Ribo-Seq) data further showed that reduced translational efficiency was more prominent for dosage sensitive genes than for the other genes. Meanwhile, no difference in protein degradation rate was associated with duplication events. Translationally repressed duplicated genes were also more likely to be inhibited at the level of transcription. Taken together, these results suggest that translation-mediated dosage control is partially contributed by natural selection and it enhances transcriptional control in maintaining gene dosage after gene duplication events during eukaryotic genome evolution.

Origin and Evolution of Carboxysome Positioning Systems in Cyanobacteria

Fri, 03 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Carboxysomes are protein-based organelles that are essential for allowing cyanobacteria to fix CO2. Previously, we identified a two-component system, McdAB, responsible for equidistantly positioning carboxysomes in the model cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 (MacCready JS, Hakim P, Young EJ, Hu L, Liu J, Osteryoung KW, Vecchiarelli AG, Ducat DC. 2018. Protein gradients on the nucleoid position the carbon-fixing organelles of cyanobacteria. eLife 7:pii:e39723). McdA, a ParA-type ATPase, nonspecifically binds the nucleoid in the presence of ATP. McdB, a novel factor that directly binds carboxysomes, displaces McdA from the nucleoid. Removal of McdA from the nucleoid in the vicinity of carboxysomes by McdB causes a global break in McdA symmetry, and carboxysome motion occurs via a Brownian-ratchet-based mechanism toward the highest concentration of McdA. Despite the importance for cyanobacteria to properly position their carboxysomes, whether the McdAB system is widespread among cyanobacteria remains an open question. Here, we show that the McdAB system is widespread among β-cyanobacteria, often clustering with carboxysome-related components, and is absent in α-cyanobacteria. Moreover, we show that two distinct McdAB systems exist in β-cyanobacteria, with Type 2 systems being the most ancestral and abundant, and Type 1 systems, like that of S. elongatus, possibly being acquired more recently. Lastly, all McdB proteins share the sequence signatures of a protein capable of undergoing liquid–liquid phase separation. Indeed, we find that representatives of both McdB types undergo liquid–liquid phase separation in vitro, the first example of a ParA-type ATPase partner protein to exhibit this behavior. Our results have broader implications for understanding carboxysome evolution, biogenesis, homeostasis, and positioning in cyanobacteria.

Insights from Empirical Analyses and Simulations on Using Multiple Fossil Calibrations with Relaxed Clocks to Estimate Divergence Times

Fri, 03 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Relaxed clock methods account for among-branch-rate-variation when estimating divergence times by inferring different rates for individual branches. In order to infer different rates for individual branches, important assumptions are required. This is because molecular sequence data do not provide direct information about rates but instead provide direct information about the total number of substitutions along any branch, which is a product of the rate and time for that branch. Often, the assumptions required for estimating rates for individual branches depend heavily on the implementation of multiple fossil calibrations in a single phylogeny. Here, we show that the basis of these assumptions is often critically undermined. First, we highlight that the temporal distribution of the fossil record often violates key assumptions of methods that use multiple fossil calibrations with relaxed clocks. With respect to “node calibration” methods, this conclusion is based on our inference that different fossil calibrations are unlikely to reflect the relative ages of different clades. With respect to the fossilized birth–death process, this conclusion is based on our inference that the fossil recovery rate is often highly heterogeneous. We then demonstrate that methods of divergence time estimation that use multiple fossil calibrations are highly sensitive to assumptions about the fossil record and among-branch-rate-variation. Given the problems associated with these assumptions, our results highlight that using multiple fossil calibrations with relaxed clocks often does little to improve the accuracy of divergence time estimates.

Deep Residual Neural Networks Resolve Quartet Molecular Phylogenies

Mon, 23 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Phylogenetic inference is of fundamental importance to evolutionary as well as other fields of biology, and molecular sequences have emerged as the primary data for this task. Although many phylogenetic methods have been developed to explicitly take into account substitution models of sequence evolution, such methods could fail due to model misspecification or insufficiency, especially in the face of heterogeneities in substitution processes across sites and among lineages. In this study, we propose to infer topologies of four-taxon trees using deep residual neural networks, a machine learning approach needing no explicit modeling of the subject system and having a record of success in solving complex nonlinear inference problems. We train residual networks on simulated protein sequence data with extensive amino acid substitution heterogeneities. We show that the well-trained residual network predictors can outperform existing state-of-the-art inference methods such as the maximum likelihood method on diverse simulated test data, especially under extensive substitution heterogeneities. Reassuringly, residual network predictors generally agree with existing methods in the trees inferred from real phylogenetic data with known or widely believed topologies. Furthermore, when combined with the quartet puzzling algorithm, residual network predictors can be used to reconstruct trees with more than four taxa. We conclude that deep learning represents a powerful new approach to phylogenetic reconstruction, especially when sequences evolve via heterogeneous substitution processes. We present our best trained predictor in a freely available program named Phylogenetics by Deep Learning (PhyDL, https://gitlab.com/ztzou/phydl; last accessed January 3, 2020).

Horizontal Gene Transfer Phylogenetics: A Random Walk Approach

Mon, 23 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The dramatic decrease in time and cost for generating genetic sequence data has opened up vast opportunities in molecular systematics, one of which is the ability to decipher the evolutionary history of strains of a species. Under this fine systematic resolution, the standard markers are too crude to provide a phylogenetic signal. Nevertheless, among prokaryotes, genome dynamics in the form of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between organisms and gene loss seem to provide far richer information by affecting both gene order and gene content. The “synteny index” (SI) between a pair of genomes combines these latter two factors, allowing comparison of genomes with unequal gene content, together with order considerations of their common genes. Although this approach is useful for classifying close relatives, no rigorous statistical modeling for it has been suggested. Such modeling is valuable, as it allows observed measures to be transformed into estimates of time periods during evolution, yielding the “additivity” of the measure. To the best of our knowledge, there is no other additivity proof for other gene order/content measures under HGT. Here, we provide a first statistical model and analysis for the SI measure. We model the “gene neighborhood” as a “birth–death–immigration” process affected by the HGT activity over the genome, and analytically relate the HGT rate and time to the expected SI. This model is asymptotic and thus provides accurate results, assuming infinite size genomes. Therefore, we also developed a heuristic model following an “exponential decay” function, accounting for biologically realistic values, which performed well in simulations. Applying this model to 1,133 prokaryotes partitioned to 39 clusters by the rank of genus yields that the average number of genome dynamics events per gene in the phylogenetic depth of genus is around half with significant variability between genera. This result extends and confirms similar results obtained for individual genera in different manners.

Parallel Seed Color Adaptation during Multiple Domestication Attempts of an Ancient New World Grain

Fri, 20 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Thousands of plants have been selected as crops; yet, only a few are fully domesticated. The lack of adaptation to agroecological environments of many crop plants with few characteristic domestication traits potentially has genetic causes. Here, we investigate the incomplete domestication of an ancient grain from the Americas, amaranth. Although three grain amaranth species have been cultivated as crop for millennia, all three lack key domestication traits. We sequenced 121 crop and wild individuals to investigate the genomic signature of repeated incomplete adaptation. Our analysis shows that grain amaranth has been domesticated three times from a single wild ancestor. One trait that has been selected during domestication in all three grain species is the seed color, which changed from dark seeds to white seeds. We were able to map the genetic control of the seed color adaptation to two genomic regions on chromosomes 3 and 9, employing three independent mapping populations. Within the locus on chromosome 9, we identify an MYB-like transcription factor gene, a known regulator for seed color variation in other plant species. We identify a soft selective sweep in this genomic region in one of the crop species but not in the other two species. The demographic analysis of wild and domesticated amaranths revealed a population bottleneck predating the domestication of grain amaranth. Our results indicate that a reduced level of ancestral genetic variation did not prevent the selection of traits with a simple genetic architecture but may have limited the adaptation of complex domestication traits.

Probabilities of Unranked and Ranked Anomaly Zones under Birth–Death Models

Fri, 20 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

A labeled gene tree topology that is more probable than the labeled gene tree topology matching a species tree is called “anomalous.” Species trees that can generate such anomalous gene trees are said to be in the “anomaly zone.” Here, probabilities of “unranked” and “ranked” gene tree topologies under the multispecies coalescent are considered. A ranked tree depicts not only the topological relationship among gene lineages, as an unranked tree does, but also the sequence in which the lineages coalesce. In this article, we study how the parameters of a species tree simulated under a constant-rate birth–death process can affect the probability that the species tree lies in the anomaly zone. We find that with more than five taxa, it is possible for species trees to have both anomalous unranked and ranked gene trees. The probability of being in either type of anomaly zone increases with more taxa. The probability of anomalous gene trees also increases with higher speciation rates. We observe that the probabilities of unranked anomaly zones are higher and grow much faster than those of ranked anomaly zones as the speciation rate increases. Our simulation shows that the most probable ranked gene tree is likely to have the same unranked topology as the species tree. We design the software PRANC, which computes probabilities of ranked gene tree topologies given a species tree under the coalescent model.

Using Selection by Nonantibiotic Stressors to Sensitize Bacteria to Antibiotics

Wed, 18 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Evolutionary adaptation of bacteria to nonantibiotic selective forces, such as osmotic stress, has been previously associated with increased antibiotic resistance, but much less is known about potentially sensitizing effects of nonantibiotic stressors. In this study, we use laboratory evolution to investigate adaptation of Enterococcus faecalis, an opportunistic bacterial pathogen, to a broad collection of environmental agents, ranging from antibiotics and biocides to extreme pH and osmotic stress. We find that nonantibiotic selection frequently leads to increased sensitivity to other conditions, including multiple antibiotics. Using population sequencing and whole-genome sequencing of single isolates from the evolved populations, we identify multiple mutations in genes previously linked with resistance to the selecting conditions, including genes corresponding to known drug targets or multidrug efflux systems previously tied to collateral sensitivity. Finally, we hypothesized based on the measured sensitivity profiles that sequential rounds of antibiotic and nonantibiotic selection may lead to hypersensitive populations by harnessing the orthogonal collateral effects of particular pairs of selective forces. To test this hypothesis, we show experimentally that populations evolved to a sequence of linezolid (an oxazolidinone antibiotic) and sodium benzoate (a common preservative) exhibit increased sensitivity to more stressors than adaptation to either condition alone. The results demonstrate how sequential adaptation to drug and nondrug environments can be used to sensitize bacteria to antibiotics and highlight new potential strategies for exploiting shared constraints governing adaptation to diverse environmental challenges.

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Genome Biology & Evolution

mstree: A Multispecies Coalescent Approach for Estimating Ancestral Population Size and Divergence Time during Speciation with Gene Flow

Mon, 04 May 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Gene flow between species may cause variations in branch length and topology of gene tree, which are beyond the expected variations from ancestral processes. These additional variations make it difficult to estimate parameters during speciation with gene flow, as the pattern of these additional variations differs with the relationship between isolation and migration. As far as we know, most methods rely on the assumption about the relationship between isolation and migration by a given model, such as the isolation-with-migration model, when estimating parameters during speciation with gene flow. In this article, we develop a multispecies coalescent approach which does not rely on any assumption about the relationship between isolation and migration when estimating parameters and is called mstree. mstree is available at https://github.com/liujunfengtop/MStree/ and uses some mathematical inequalities among several factors, which include the species divergence time, the ancestral population size, and the number of gene trees, to estimate parameters during speciation with gene flow. Using simulations, we show that the estimated values of ancestral population sizes and species divergence times are close to the true values when analyzing the simulation data sets, which are generated based on the isolation-with-initial-migration model, secondary contact model, and isolation-with-migration model. Therefore, our method is able to estimate ancestral population sizes and speciation times in the presence of different modes of gene flow and may be helpful to test different theories of speciation.

Transcriptomic Profiling Reveals Extraordinary Diversity of Venom Peptides in Unexplored Predatory Gastropods of the Genus Clavus

Thu, 23 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Predatory gastropods of the superfamily Conoidea number over 12,000 living species. The evolutionary success of this lineage can be explained by the ability of conoideans to produce complex venoms for hunting, defense, and competitive interactions. Whereas venoms of cone snails (family Conidae) have become increasingly well studied, the venoms of most other conoidean lineages remain largely uncharacterized. In the present study, we present the venom gland transcriptomes of two species of the genus Clavus that belong to the family Drilliidae. Venom gland transcriptomes of two specimens of Clavus canalicularis and two specimens of Clavus davidgilmouri were analyzed, leading to the identification of a total of 1,176 putative venom peptide toxins (drillipeptides). Based on the combined evidence of secretion signal sequence identity, entire precursor similarity search (BLAST), and the orthology inference, putative Clavus toxins were assigned to 158 different gene families. The majority of identified transcripts comprise signal, pro-, mature peptide, and post-regions, with a typically short (<50 amino acids) and cysteine-rich mature peptide region. Thus, drillipeptides are structurally similar to conotoxins. However, convincing homology with known groups of Conus toxins was only detected for very few toxin families. Among these are Clavus counterparts of Conus venom insulins (drillinsulins), porins (drilliporins), and highly diversified lectins (drillilectins). The short size of most drillipeptides and structural similarity to conotoxins were unexpected, given that most related conoidean gastropod families (Terebridae and Turridae) possess longer mature peptide regions. Our findings indicate that, similar to conotoxins, drillipeptides may represent a valuable resource for future pharmacological exploration.

Highlight: Sex As Stress Management in Microbes

Wed, 22 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Why is sex so popular? The question of why so many organisms reproduce sexually has mystified evolutionary biologists since before Darwin, who wrote that “The whole subject is as yet hidden in darkness.” In a recent article in Genome Biology and Evolution titled “What’s genetic variation got to do with it? Starvation-induced self-fertilization enhances survival in Paramecium,” the authors suggest that the molecular mechanisms underlying sex and the stress response may be more tightly coupled than previously appreciated, providing a new explanation for the widespread prevalence of sex in nature (Thind et al. 2020).

Gene Function Rather than Reproductive Mode Drives the Evolution of RNA Helicases in Sexual and Apomictic Boechera

Wed, 22 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

In higher plants, sexual and asexual reproductions through seeds (apomixis) have evolved as alternative strategies. Evolutionary advantages leading to coexistence of both reproductive modes are currently not well understood. It is expected that accumulation of deleterious mutations leads to a rapid elimination of apomictic lineages from populations. In this line, apomixis originated repeatedly, likely from deregulation of the sexual pathway, leading to alterations in the development of reproductive lineages (germlines) in apomicts as compared with sexual plants. This potentially involves mutations in genes controlling reproduction.Increasing evidence suggests that RNA helicases are crucial regulators of germline development. To gain insights into the evolution of 58 members of this diverse gene family in sexual and apomictic plants, we applied target enrichment combined with next-generation sequencing to identify allelic variants from 24 accessions of the genus Boechera, comprising sexual, facultative, and obligate apomicts. Interestingly, allelic variants from apomicts did not show consistently increased mutation frequency. Either sequences were highly conserved in any accession, or allelic variants preferentially harbored mutations in evolutionary less conserved C- and N-terminal domains, or presented high mutation load independent of the reproductive mode. Only for a few genes allelic variants harboring deleterious mutations were only identified in apomicts. To test if high sequence conservation correlates with roles in fundamental cellular or developmental processes, we analyzed Arabidopsis thaliana mutant lines in VASA-LIKE (VASL), and identified pleiotropic defects during ovule and reproductive development. This indicates that also in apomicts mechanisms of selection are in place based on gene function.

Loss of the Polyketide Synthase StlB Results in Stalk Cell Overproduction in Polysphondylium violaceum

Sat, 18 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Major phenotypic innovations in social amoeba evolution occurred at the transition between the Polysphondylia and group 4 Dictyostelia, which comprise the model organism Dictyostelium discoideum, such as the formation of a new structure, the basal disk. Basal disk differentiation and robust stalk formation require the morphogen DIF-1, synthesized by the polyketide synthase StlB, the des-methyl-DIF-1 methyltransferase DmtA, and the chlorinase ChlA, which are conserved throughout Dictyostelia. To understand how the basal disk and other innovations evolved in group 4, we sequenced and annotated the Polysphondylium violaceum (Pvio) genome, performed cell type-specific transcriptomics to identify cell-type marker genes, and developed transformation and gene knock-out procedures for Pvio. We used the novel methods to delete the Pvio stlB gene. The Pvio stlB− mutants formed misshapen curly sorogens with thick and irregular stalks. As fruiting body formation continued, the upper stalks became more regular, but structures contained 40% less spores. The stlB− sorogens overexpressed a stalk gene and underexpressed a (pre)spore gene. Normal fruiting body formation and sporulation were restored in Pvio stlB− by including DIF-1 in the supporting agar. These data indicate that, although conserved, stlB and its product(s) acquired both a novel role in the group 4 Dictyostelia and a role opposite to that in its sister group.

Unprecedented Intraindividual Structural Heteroplasmy in Eleocharis (Cyperaceae, Poales) Plastomes

Sat, 18 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Plastid genomes (plastomes) of land plants have a conserved quadripartite structure in a gene-dense unit genome consisting of a large inverted repeat that separates two single copy regions. Recently, alternative plastome structures were suggested in Geraniaceae and in some conifers and Medicago the coexistence of inversion isomers has been noted. In this study, plastome sequences of two Cyperaceae, Eleocharis dulcis (water chestnut) and Eleocharis cellulosa (gulf coast spikerush), were completed. Unlike the conserved plastomes in basal groups of Poales, these Eleocharis plastomes have remarkably divergent features, including large plastome sizes, high rates of sequence rearrangements, low GC content and gene density, gene duplications and losses, and increased repetitive DNA sequences. A novel finding among these features was the unprecedented level of heteroplasmy with the presence of multiple plastome structural types within a single individual. Illumina paired-end assemblies combined with PacBio single-molecule real-time sequencing, long-range polymerase chain reaction, and Sanger sequencing data identified at least four different plastome structural types in both Eleocharis species. PacBio long read data suggested that one of the four E. dulcis plastome types predominates.

Characterization of Clostridioides difficile DSM 101085 with A−B−CDT+ Phenotype from a Late Recurrent Colonization

Fri, 17 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

During the last decades, hypervirulent strains of Clostridioides difficile with frequent disease recurrence and increased mortality appeared. Clostridioides difficile DSM 101085 was isolated from a patient who suffered from several recurrent infections and colonizations, likely contributing to a fatal outcome. Analysis of the toxin repertoire revealed the presence of a complete binary toxin locus and an atypical pathogenicity locus consisting of only a tcdA pseudogene and a disrupted tcdC gene sequence. The pathogenicity locus shows upstream a transposon and has been subject to homologous recombination or lateral gene transfer events. Matching the results of the genome analysis, neither TcdA nor TcdB production but the expression of cdtA and cdtB was detected. This highlights a potential role of the binary toxin C. difficile toxin in this recurrent colonization and possibly further in a host-dependent virulence.Compared with the C. difficile metabolic model strains DSM 28645 (630Δerm) and DSM 27147 (R20291), strain DSM 101085 showed a specific metabolic profile, featuring changes in the threonine degradation pathways and alterations in the central carbon metabolism. Moreover, products originating from Stickland pathways processing leucine, aromatic amino acids, and methionine were more abundant in strain DSM 101085, indicating a more efficient use of these substrates. The particular characteristics of strain C. difficile DSM 101085 may represent an adaptation to a low-protein diet in a patient with recurrent infections.

Differential Expression of Immune Genes between Two Closely Related Beetle Species with Different Immunocompetence following Attack by Asecodes parviclava

Mon, 13 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Endoparasitoid wasps are important natural enemies of many insect species and are major selective forces on the host immune system. Despite increased interest in insect antiparasitoid immunity, there is sparse information on the evolutionary dynamics of biological pathways and gene regulation involved in host immune defense outside Drosophila species. We de novo assembled transcriptomes from two beetle species and used time-course differential expression analysis to investigate gene expression differences in closely related species Galerucella pusilla and G. calmariensis that are, respectively, resistant and susceptible against parasitoid infection by Asecodes parviclava parasitoids. Approximately 271 million and 224 million paired-ended reads were assembled and filtered to form 52,563 and 59,781 transcripts for G. pusilla and G. calmariensis, respectively. In the whole-transcriptome level, an enrichment of functional categories related to energy production, biosynthetic process, and metabolic process was exhibited in both species. The main difference between species appears to be immune response and wound healing process mounted by G. pusilla larvae. Using reciprocal BLAST against the Drosophila melanogaster proteome, 120 and 121 immune-related genes were identified in G. pusilla and G. calmariensis, respectively. More immune genes were differentially expressed in G. pusilla than in G. calmariensis, in particular genes involved in signaling, hematopoiesis, and melanization. In contrast, only one gene was differentially expressed in G. calmariensis. Our study characterizes important genes and pathways involved in different immune functions after parasitoid infection and supports the role of signaling and hematopoiesis genes as key players in host immunity in Galerucella against parasitoid wasps.

Nudivirus Remnants in the Genomes of Arthropods

Mon, 13 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Endogenous viral elements (EVEs), derived from all major types of viruses, have been discovered in many eukaryotic genomes, representing “fossil records” of past viral infections. The endogenization of nudiviruses has been reported in several insects, leading to the question of whether genomic integration is a common phenomenon for these viruses. In this study, genomic assemblies of insects and other arthropods were analyzed to identify endogenous sequences related to Nudiviridae. A total of 359 nudivirus-like genes were identified in 43 species belonging to different groups; however, none of these genes were detected in the known hosts of nudiviruses. A large proportion of the putative EVEs identified in this study encode intact open reading frames or are transcribed as mRNAs, suggesting that they result from recent endogenization of nudiviruses. Phylogenetic analyses of the identified EVEs and inspections of their flanking regions indicated that integration of nudiviruses has occurred recurrently during the evolution of arthropods. This is the first report of a comprehensive screening for nudivirus-derived EVEs in arthropod genomes. The results of this study demonstrated that a large variety of arthropods, especially hemipteran and hymenopteran insects, have previously been or are still infected by nudiviruses. These findings have greatly extended the host range of Nudiviridae and provide new insights into viral diversity, evolution, and host–virus interactions.

First Genome Sequence of the Gunnison’s Prairie Dog (Cynomys gunnisoni), a Keystone Species and Player in the Transmission of Sylvatic Plague

Sat, 11 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are a charismatic symbol of the American West. Their large social aggregations and complex vocalizations have been the subject of scientific and popular interest for decades. A large body of literature has documented their role as keystone species of western North America’s grasslands: They generate habitat for other vertebrates, increase nutrient availability for plants, and act as a food source for mammalian, squamate, and avian predators. An additional keystone role lies in their extreme susceptibility to sylvatic plague (caused by Yersinia pestis), which results in periodic population extinctions, thereby generating spatiotemporal heterogeneity in both biotic communities and ecological processes. Here, we report the first Cynomys genome for a Gunnison’s prairie dog (C. gunnisoni gunnisoni) from Telluride, Colorado (USA). The genome was constructed using a hybrid assembly of PacBio and Illumina reads and assembled with MaSuRCA and PBJelly, which resulted in a scaffold N50 of 824 kb. Total genome size was 2.67 Gb, with 32.46% of the bases occurring in repeat regions. We recovered 94.9% (91% complete) of the single copy orthologs using the mammalian Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs database and detected 49,377 gene models (332,141 coding regions). Pairwise Sequentially Markovian Coalescent showed support for long-term stable population size followed by a steady decline beginning near the end of the Pleistocene, as well as a recent population reduction. The genome will aid in studies of mammalian evolution, disease resistance, and the genomic basis of life history traits in ground squirrels.

Distinct Life Histories Impact Dikaryotic Genome Evolution in the Rust Fungus Puccinia striiformis Causing Stripe Rust in Wheat

Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Stripe rust of wheat, caused by the obligate biotrophic fungus Puccinia striiformis f.sp. tritici, is a major threat to wheat production worldwide with an estimated yearly loss of US $1 billion. The recent advances in long-read sequencing technologies and tailored-assembly algorithms enabled us to disentangle the two haploid genomes of Pst. This provides us with haplotype-specific information at a whole-genome level. Exploiting this novel information, we perform whole-genome comparative genomics of two P. striiformis f.sp. tritici isolates with contrasting life histories. We compare one isolate of the old European lineage (PstS0), which has been asexual for over 50 years, and a Warrior isolate (PstS7 lineage) from a novel incursion into Europe in 2011 from a sexual population in the Himalayan region. This comparison provides evidence that long-term asexual evolution leads to genome expansion, accumulation of transposable elements, and increased heterozygosity at the single nucleotide, structural, and allele levels. At the whole-genome level, candidate effectors are not compartmentalized and do not exhibit reduced levels of synteny. Yet we were able to identify two subsets of candidate effector populations. About 70% of candidate effectors are invariant between the two isolates, whereas 30% are hypervariable. The latter might be involved in host adaptation on wheat and explain the different phenotypes of the two isolates. Overall, this detailed comparative analysis of two haplotype-aware assemblies of P. striiformis f.sp. tritici is the first step in understanding the evolution of dikaryotic rust fungi at a whole-genome level.

Vertebrate Lineages Exhibit Diverse Patterns of Transposable Element Regulation and Expression across Tissues

Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Transposable elements (TEs) comprise a major fraction of vertebrate genomes, yet little is known about their expression and regulation across tissues, and how this varies across major vertebrate lineages. We present the first comparative analysis integrating TE expression and TE regulatory pathway activity in somatic and gametic tissues for a diverse set of 12 vertebrates. We conduct simultaneous gene and TE expression analyses to characterize patterns of TE expression and TE regulation across vertebrates and examine relationships between these features. We find remarkable variation in the expression of genes involved in TE negative regulation across tissues and species, yet consistently high expression in germline tissues, particularly in testes. Most vertebrates show comparably high levels of TE regulatory pathway activity across gonadal tissues except for mammals, where reduced activity of TE regulatory pathways in ovarian tissues may be the result of lower relative germ cell densities. We also find that all vertebrate lineages examined exhibit remarkably high levels of TE-derived transcripts in somatic and gametic tissues, with recently active TE families showing higher expression in gametic tissues. Although most TE-derived transcripts originate from inactive ancient TE families (and are likely incapable of transposition), such high levels of TE-derived RNA in the cytoplasm may have secondary, unappreciated biological relevance.

Fine-Scale Population Structure but Limited Genetic Differentiation in a Cooperatively Breeding Paper Wasp

Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Relatively little is known about the processes shaping population structure in cooperatively breeding insect species, despite the long-hypothesized importance of population structure in shaping patterns of cooperative breeding. Polistes paper wasps are primitively eusocial insects, with a cooperative breeding system in which females often found nests in cooperative associations. Prior mark-recapture studies of Polistes have documented extreme female philopatry, although genetic studies frequently fail to detect the strong population structure expected for highly philopatric species. Together these findings have led to lack of consensus on the degree of dispersal and population structure in these species. This study assessed population structure of female Polistes fuscatus wasps at three scales: within a single site, throughout Central New York, and across the Northeastern United States. Patterns of spatial genetic clustering and isolation by distance were observed in nuclear and mitochondrial genomes at the continental scale. Remarkably, population structure was evident even at fine spatial scales within a single collection site. However, P. fuscatus had low levels of genetic differentiation across long distances. These results suggest that P. fuscatus wasps may employ multiple dispersal strategies, including extreme natal philopatry as well as longer-distance dispersal. We observed greater genetic differentiation in mitochondrial genes than in the nuclear genome, indicative of increased dispersal distances in males. Our findings support the hypothesis that limited female dispersal contributes toward population structure in paper wasps.

An Overexpression Experiment Does Not Support the Hypothesis That Avoidance of Toxicity Determines the Rate of Protein Evolution

Tue, 07 Apr 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The misfolding avoidance hypothesis postulates that sequence mutations render proteins cytotoxic and therefore the higher the gene expression, the stronger the operation of selection against substitutions. This translates into prediction that relative toxicity of extant proteins is higher for those evolving faster. In the present experiment, we selected pairs of yeast genes which were paralogous but evolving at different rates. We expressed them artificially to high levels. We expected that toxicity would be higher for ones bearing more mutations, especially that overcrowding should rather exacerbate than reverse the already existing differences in misfolding rates. We did find that the applied mode of overexpression caused a considerable decrease in fitness and that the decrease was proportional to the amount of excessive protein. However, it was not higher for proteins which are normally expressed at lower levels (and have less conserved sequence). This result was obtained consistently, regardless whether the rate of growth or ability to compete in common cultures was used as a proxy for fitness. In additional experiments, we applied factors that reduce accuracy of translation or enhance structural instability of proteins. It did not change a consistent pattern of independence between the fitness cost caused by overexpression of a protein and the rate of its sequence evolution.

piRNA Clusters Need a Minimum Size to Control Transposable Element Invasions

Fri, 27 Mar 2020 00:00:00 GMT

piRNA clusters are thought to repress transposable element (TE) activity in mammals and invertebrates. Here, we show that a simple population genetics model reveals a constraint on the size of piRNA clusters: The total size of the piRNA clusters of an organism must exceed 0.2% of a genome to repress TE invasions. Moreover, larger piRNA clusters accounting for up to 3% of the genome may be necessary when populations are small, transposition rates are high, and TE insertions are recessive. If piRNA clusters are too small, the load of deleterious TE insertions that accumulate during a TE invasion may drive populations extinct before an effective piRNA-based defense against the TE can be established. Our findings are solely based on three well-supported assumptions: 1) TEs multiply within genomes, 2) TEs are mostly deleterious, and 3) piRNA clusters act as transposon traps, where a single insertion in a cluster silences all TE copies in trans. Interestingly, the piRNA clusters of some species meet our observed minimum size requirements, whereas the clusters of other species do not. Species with small piRNA clusters, such as humans and mice, may experience severe fitness reductions during invasions of novel TEs, which is possibly even threatening the persistence of some populations. This work also raises the important question of how piRNA clusters evolve. We propose that the size of piRNA clusters may be at an equilibrium between evolutionary forces that act to expand and contract piRNA clusters.

The Origin and Composition of Korean Ethnicity Analyzed by Ancient and Present-Day Genome Sequences

Fri, 27 Mar 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Koreans are thought to be an ethnic group of admixed northern and southern subgroups. However, the exact genetic origins of these two remain unclear. In addition, the past admixture is presumed to have taken place on the Korean peninsula, but there is no genomic scale analysis exploring the origin, composition, admixture, or the past migration of Koreans. Here, 88 Korean genomes compared with 91 other present-day populations showed two major genetic components of East Siberia and Southeast Asia. Additional paleogenomic analysis with 115 ancient genomes from Pleistocene hunter-gatherers to Iron Age farmers showed a gradual admixture of Tianyuan (40 ka) and Devil’s gate (8 ka) ancestries throughout East Asia and East Siberia up until the Neolithic era. Afterward, the current genetic foundation of Koreans may have been established through a rapid admixture with ancient Southern Chinese populations associated with Iron Age Cambodians. We speculate that this admixing trend initially occurred mostly outside the Korean peninsula followed by continuous spread and localization in Korea, corresponding to the general admixture trend of East Asia. Over 70% of extant Korean genetic diversity is explained to be derived from such a recent population expansion and admixture from the South.

Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics of Isolates Provide Insight into the Pathoadaptation of Aeromonas

Fri, 20 Mar 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Aeromonads are ubiquitous aquatic bacteria that cause opportunistic infections in humans, but their pathogenesis remains poorly understood. A pathogenomic approach was undertaken to provide insights into the emergence and evolution of pathogenic traits in aeromonads. The genomes of 64 Aeromonas strains representative of the whole genus were analyzed to study the distribution, phylogeny, and synteny of the flanking sequences of 13 virulence-associated genes. The reconstructed evolutionary histories varied markedly depending on the gene analyzed and ranged from vertical evolution, which followed the core genome evolution (alt and colAh), to complex evolution, involving gene loss by insertion sequence-driven gene disruption, horizontal gene transfer, and paraphyly with some virulence genes associated with a phylogroup (aer, ser, and type 3 secretion system components) or no phylogroup (type 3 secretion system effectors, Ast, ExoA, and RtxA toxins). The general pathogenomic overview of aeromonads showed great complexity with diverse evolution modes and gene organization and uneven distribution of virulence genes in the genus; the results provided insights into aeromonad pathoadaptation or the ability of members of this group to emerge as pathogens. Finally, these findings suggest that aeromonad virulence-associated genes should be examined at the population level and that studies performed on type or model strains at the species level cannot be generalized to the whole species.

Complex Evolutionary History of the Y Chromosome in Flies of the Drosophila obscura Species Group

Mon, 16 Mar 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The Drosophila obscura species group shows dramatic variation in karyotype, including transitions among sex chromosomes. Members of the affinis and pseudoobscura subgroups contain a neo-X chromosome (a fusion of the X with an autosome), and ancestral Y genes have become autosomal in species harboring the neo-X. Detailed analysis of species in the pseudoobscura subgroup revealed that ancestral Y genes became autosomal through a translocation to the small dot chromosome. Here, we show that the Y-dot translocation is restricted to the pseudoobscura subgroup, and translocation of ancestral Y genes in the affinis subgroup likely followed a different route. We find that most ancestral Y genes have translocated to unique autosomal or X-linked locations in different taxa of the affinis subgroup, and we propose a dynamic model of sex chromosome formation and turnover in the obscura species group. Our results suggest that Y genes can find unique paths to escape unfavorable genomic environments that form after sex chromosome–autosome fusions.

What’s Genetic Variation Got to Do with It? Starvation-Induced Self-Fertilization Enhances Survival in Paramecium

Thu, 12 Mar 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The pervasiveness of sex despite its well-known costs is a long-standing puzzle in evolutionary biology. Current explanations for the success of sex in nature largely rely on the adaptive significance of the new or rare genotypes that sex may generate. Less explored is the possibility that sex-underlying molecular mechanisms can enhance fitness and convey benefits to the individuals that bear the immediate costs of sex. Here, we show that the molecular environment associated with self-fertilization can increase stress resistance in the ciliate Paramecium tetraurelia. This advantage is independent of new genetic variation, coupled with a reduced nutritional input, and offers fresh insights into the mechanistic origin of sex. In addition to providing evidence that the molecular underpinnings of sexual reproduction and the stress response are linked in P. tetraurelia, these findings supply an integrative explanation for the persistence of self-fertilization in this ciliate.

Parallel Sequencing of Wolbachia wCer2 from Donor and Novel Hosts Reveals Multiple Incompatibility Factors and Genome Stability after Host Transfers

Thu, 12 Mar 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The application of Wolbachia in insect pest and vector control requires the establishment of genotypically stable host associations. The cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) inducing Wolbachia strain wCer2 naturally occurs in the cherry fruit fly Rhagoletis cerasi as co-infection with other strains and was transferred to other fruit fly species by embryonic microinjections. We obtained wCer2 genome data from its native and three novel hosts, Drosophila simulans, Drosophila melanogaster, and Ceratitis capitata and assessed its genome stability, characteristics, and CI factor (cif) genes. De novo assembly was successful from Wolbachia cell-enriched singly infected D. simulans embryos, with minimal host and other bacterial genome traces. The low yield of Wolbachia sequence reads from total genomic extracts of one multiply infected R. cerasi pupa and one singly infected C. capitata adult limited de novo assemblies but was sufficient for comparative analyses. Across hosts wCer2 was stable in genome synteny and content. Polymorphic nucleotide sites were found in wCer2 of each host; however, only one nucleotide was different between R. cerasi and C. capitata, and none between replicated D. simulans lines. The wCer2 genome is highly similar to wAu (D. simulans), wMel (D. melanogaster), and wRec (Drosophila recens). In contrast to wMel and wRec (each with one cif gene pair) and wAu (without any cif genes), wCer2 has three pairs of Type I cif genes, and one Type V cifB gene without a cifA complement. This may explain previously reported CI patterns of wCer2, including incomplete rescue of its own CI modification in three novel host species.