Featured News

Congratulations to the winners of the SMBE 2019 Faculty Awards

2019 SMBE Allan Wilson Junior Award for Independent Research Winner: Claudia Bank

Dr. Claudia Bank heads the Evolutionary Dynamics group at the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Oeiras, Portugal. Her group studies the population genetics of adaptation and speciation using a combination of mathematical modeling, statistical method development and data analysis, and experimental evolution. After an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the University of Bielefeld, Germany, Dr. Bank earned her PhD in Population Genetics from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, supervised by Joachim Hermisson, followed by a postdoc with Jeffrey Jensen at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. During her PhD and postdoc, she undertook two research stays in the group of Mark Kirkpatrick at UT Austin, and at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at UC Berkeley. Dr. Bank is currently supported by grants from the Portuguese Science Foundation, the European Research Council, and the European Molecular Biology Organization to expand her studies of fitness landscapes across environments and biological levels of organization.

2019 SMBE Margaret Dayhoff Mid-Career Award Winner: Patricia Wittkopp

Patricia Wittkopp is Sally L. Allen and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan. She studies the genetic basis of phenotypic differences, with an emphasis on the regulation of gene expression. Molecular and developmental biology, population and quantitative genetics, genomics and bioinformatics are integrated in her work.  Patricia Wittkopp received her B.S. from the University of Michigan working with Greg Gibson, a PhD from the University of Wisconsin working with Sean Carroll, and did postdoctoral work at Cornell University working with Andy Clark. Dr. Wittkopp was a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellow, an Alfred P Sloan Research Fellow, a March of Dimes Starter Scholar, and currently serves as Senior Editor at eLife and Associate Editor at Molecular Biology and Evolution and GENETICS.

2019 SMBE Motoo Kimura Lifetime Contribution Award Winner: Wen-Hsiung Li

Wen-Hsiung Li is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Biodiversity R

Continue Reading →

  • Monday, April 01, 2019
  • Comments (0)

SMBE 2019, 21-25 July 2019, Manchester, UK – Registration Launch and Abstracts Submission Deadline

We are delighted to announce that registration for SMBE 2019 is now live. SMBE 2019 is taking place in Manchester, UK on 21-25 July 2019 at the state of the art venue Manchester Central. 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 Wednesday 8 May 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 membership number.

For questions regarding your membership number, please contact smbe@allenpress.com.

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

Delegates requiring a VISA in order to attend SMBE 2019 can select this option within the registration system. The registration team will be able to assist in creating the documentation in order to support your VISA application.

Carer Travel Awards can be applied for as part of conference registration. 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.

Abstract and Award submission deadline.

The abstract submission deadline is fast approaching. The deadline for abstracts is midnight GMT on Sunday 17 March 2019. 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 awards can be applied for during Abstract submission, all of which require SMBE membership (costing only $10/$30 for 3 years for students/others at https://www.smbe.org/smbe/MEMBERSHIP.aspx) at the time of application.

Current graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who received their primary doctoral-level degree no earlier than one year prior to the start of the annual meeting of the society may apply for the Fitch award. Extended abstracts are no longer required this year, just the conference abstract and a cv. Unsuccessful Fitch applicants will automatically be considered for Young Investigator and Registration awards.

Any graduate student or postdoc may apply for the Young Investigator Award, which substantially funds the cost of attending. Application materials are the same as for the Fitch,

Continue Reading →

  • Thursday, March 14, 2019
  • Comments (0)

SMBE Satellite Workshop on the Molecular Biology and Evolution of Cancer

Dates: April 12 and 13, 2019

Location: Yale University

Meeting description: More than 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, and deaths from the disease are estimated to reach nearly 600,000 in the U.S. alone in 2017. The vast majority of cancer deaths are due to the evolution of therapeutic resistance and metastasis. This emergence of therapy-resistant, metastatic cancer is an evolutionary process, in which a genetically diverse population of cancer cells is subject to selective forces within the body.

This meeting seeks to bridge the gap between the molecular evolutionary community and the cancer biology field. It brings together experts and thought leaders from diverse fields, including molecular biology, cancer biology, genomics, phylogenetics, and evolutionary biology, to address a significant health issue.

Website: https://smbe-cancerandevolution.org/

Registration is free and space is limited!


Jeffrey P. Townsend, Elihu Associate Professor of Biostatistics and of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University

Continue Reading →

  • Thursday, February 28, 2019
  • Comments (0)

SMBE Interdisciplinary Symposium on Population Genomics of Mobile DNA

We are pleased to announce the SMBE Interdisciplinary Symposium on Population Genomics of Mobile DNA, to be held as part of the FASEB Mobile DNA Conference on June 23-28, 2019, in Palm Springs, California.

The conference will bring together researchers studying all aspects of transposable element biology in any taxon, ranging from direct impacts on genome structure to regulatory innovations to the role mobile DNAs play in the realm of human health.

Conference sessions will present the latest research findings and foster engaging discussion on:

·         - Comparative genomics of transposable elements,

·         - Mobile DNA defense and regulation,

·         - Mobile DNA epigenetics and gene regulation,

·         - Mobilization mechanisms,

·         - Mobile DNA and the environment,

·         - Population genomics of mobile DNA.

The SMBE Interdisciplinary Symposium on Population Genomics of Mobile DNA will take place on June 25, 2019. It will feature talks from invited speakers and participants. In addition, a poster session will be held to provide additional opportunities for attendants to present their research. Confirmed invited speakers for the SMBE Interdisciplinary Symposium include:

·         - Josefa Gonzalez (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain) will speak on the contribution of transposable
       element insertions to environmental adaptation,

·         - Stéphane Boissinot (New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE) will speak on population genomics of
       transposable elements across vertebrates.

Continue Reading →

  • Monday, February 25, 2019
  • Comments (0)

Call for Best Graduate Student Paper of 2018 Nominations

SMBE is calling for nominations for Best Graduate Student Paper of 2018.

These awards provide recognition for outstanding student papers in both SMBE journals.

All articles published in the calendar year 2018 in the two SMBE journals, Molecular Biology & Evolution (MBE) and Genome Biology & Evolution (GBE), are eligible for nomination. This corresponds to papers published in the printed volume 35 in MBE and volume 10 in GBE.

The best student paper winners will be given a certificate, a prize of $2,000 and a travel award to the next annual meeting.

Eligibility & Nomination

1.   All articles published in the two SMBE journals, Molecular Biology & Evolution and Genome Biology & Evolution (one prize for each journal), in the calendar year 2018 are automatically eligible if the final publication date of the nominated paper is not more than two years later than the date of the nominee's PhD.

2.   The nominated early-stage researcher must be the first author or joint first-author of the nominated paper.

3.   An article and its first author can be nominated by anyone, including the first author.

4.   A signed letter from the PhD advisor, MSc advisor, or equivalent, confirming that the paper was part of the nominee’s thesis or graduate work is required.

5.  The deadline for submitting nominations is March 11, 2019.

How to Enter
Please send the name of the nominee, a scan of the sign

Continue Reading →

  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019
  • Comments (0)

SMBE launches a new Equal Opportunities Initiative: Applications due April 1st, 2019

In its effort to promote diversity and gender equity, SMBE is now launching an Equal Opportunity Initiative that aims to sponsor actions ranging from the organization of dedicated standalone symposia or sessions at the annual SMBE meeting, to financing research actions whose goal is to raise awareness of discrimination in our community (see, for instance, the recent publication on Progress and Prospects in Gender Visibility at SMBE Annual Meetings https://academic.oup.com/gbe/article/10/3/901/4924379).

A budget of $10,000 will be dedicated each year for this call. Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to members of the molecular evolution research community. SMBE is now calling for proposals for activities to take place between Sep 1 2019 and Dec 31 2020. The deadline for submission of proposals is April 1, 2019.


• A detailed projected budget must be submitted with the application. The budget may include travel/food/lodging/registration costs for a standalone symposium or for invited speakers who do not typically attend the SMBE conference (for instance people from social sciences). It may include costs related to research actions such as sponsoring a student to gather data that will help describe current trends in diversity and gender within the molecular evolution research community.

At least one of the organizers must be a member of SMBE.

• Proposals are encouraged to include details for plans about the recruitment of speakers and participants that will ensure broad representation across SMBE membership, including gender and geographical location.

• Proposals will be received and reviewed by three SMBE Council Members that will make a recommendation to SMBE Council, whose decision is final. The SMBE Council may decide not to support any meetings in any particular year. A proposal that was unsuccessful can be invited for revision and reapplication.

• Events will be named “SMBE Equal Opportunity Initiative Symposium/Session/Research”. In the case of organization of a standalone symposium, meeting organizers should host a website for the meeting that highlights the main theme as well as program, including the speaker list. This website should stay active for at least 3 years after the meeting date and be made available for archiving on the main SMBE website. Symposium and lecture organizers should provide a link to be advertised on the SMBE webpage. The sponsorship by SMBE must be mentioned in all pre-meeting publicity and in the meeting program.

Continue Reading →

  • Monday, February 11, 2019
  • Comments (0)


Forgot username/password?

Registration and Membership

Non-Members: You must Register for an account to purchase a membership and conduct other transactions. Future visits to the website will only require login.

After login or registration: You may conduct online transactions such as joining or renewing a membership, registering for an annual meeting and making donations.


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

SMBE 2019

We are delighted to announce that the SMBE 2019 Meeting will be taking place in Manchester, United Kingdom. The Meeting will be held at the state of the art Manchester Central venue.

The programme will provide plenty of opportunities for you to submit your work for consideration as a symposium, oral or poster presentation.

Full details on registration fees, accommodation and exhibition opportunities will be made available in due course. Please do make a note of the key dates included below.

More information can be found HERE


SMBE is a member of the Scientific Society Publisher Alliance

@OfficialSMBE Feed

MBE | Most Read

Molecular Biology and Evolution

How Algae Adapt to the Extreme Antarctic Cold

Mon, 24 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Typically, algae are known as the pond scum associated with extremely warm summer temperatures near the shores of lakes or oceans. Now, a new study shows that when they are shifted to the extreme cold of Antarctica, special antifreeze enzymes and proteins can kick into gear to help them adapt and survive.

Shark and Ray Vision Come into Focus

Mon, 24 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Vision is a crucial sense for most animals, and vertebrates have evolved a highly adaptable set of opsin genes that generate light-sensitive pigments to decode the retinal image. These opsins include a rod opsin to help see in low light, and four classes of cone opsins to see in bright light and detect colors across the visible light spectrum.

Estimating Pangenomes with Roary

Tue, 17 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

A description of the genetic makeup of a species based on a single genome is often insufficient because it ignores the variability in gene repertoire among multiple strains. The estimation of the pangenome of a species is a solution to this issue as it provides an overview of genes that are shared by all strains and genes that are present in only some of the genomes. These different sets of genes can then be analyzed functionally to explore correlations with unique phenotypes and adaptations. This protocol presents the usage of Roary, a Linux-native pangenome application. Roary is a straightforward software that provides 1) an overview about core and accessory genes for those interested in general trends and, also, 2) detailed information on gene presence/absence in each genome for in-depth analyses. Results are provided both in text and graphic format.

The Loci of Behavioral Evolution: Evidence That Fas2 and tilB Underlie Differences in Pupation Site Choice Behavior between Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The behaviors of closely related species can be remarkably different, and these differences have important ecological and evolutionary consequences. Although the recent boom in genotype–phenotype studies has led to a greater understanding of the genetic architecture and evolution of a variety of traits, studies identifying the genetic basis of behaviors are, comparatively, still lacking. This is likely because they are complex and environmentally sensitive phenotypes, making them difficult to measure reliably for association studies. The Drosophila species complex holds promise for addressing these challenges, as the behaviors of closely related species can be readily assayed in a common environment. Here, we investigate the genetic basis of an evolved behavioral difference, pupation site choice, between Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. In this study, we demonstrate a significant contribution of the X chromosome to the difference in pupation site choice behavior between these species. Using a panel of X-chromosome deficiencies, we screened the majority of the X chromosome for causal loci and identified two regions associated with this X-effect. We then collect gene disruption and RNAi data supporting a single gene that affects pupation behavior within each region: Fas2 and tilB. Finally, we show that differences in tilB expression correlate with the differences in pupation site choice behavior between species. This evidence associating two genes with differences in a complex, environmentally sensitive behavior represents the first step toward a functional and evolutionary understanding of this behavioral divergence.

Visual Opsin Diversity in Sharks and Rays

Tue, 26 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The diversity of color vision systems found in extant vertebrates suggests that different evolutionary selection pressures have driven specializations in photoreceptor complement and visual pigment spectral tuning appropriate for an animal’s behavior, habitat, and life history. Aquatic vertebrates in particular show high variability in chromatic vision and have become important models for understanding the role of color vision in prey detection, predator avoidance, and social interactions. In this study, we examined the capacity for chromatic vision in elasmobranch fishes, a group that have received relatively little attention to date. We used microspectrophotometry to measure the spectral absorbance of the visual pigments in the outer segments of individual photoreceptors from several ray and shark species, and we sequenced the opsin mRNAs obtained from the retinas of the same species, as well as from additional elasmobranch species. We reveal the phylogenetically widespread occurrence of dichromatic color vision in rays based on two cone opsins, RH2 and LWS. We also confirm that all shark species studied to date appear to be cone monochromats but report that in different species the single cone opsin may be of either the LWS or the RH2 class. From this, we infer that cone monochromacy in sharks has evolved independently on multiple occasions. Together with earlier discoveries in secondarily aquatic marine mammals, this suggests that cone-based color vision may be of little use for large marine predators, such as sharks, pinnipeds, and cetaceans.

Early Stage Adaptation of a Mesophilic Green Alga to Antarctica: Systematic Increases in Abundance of Enzymes and LEA Proteins

Wed, 20 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

It is known that adaptive evolution in permanently cold environments drives cold adaptation in enzymes. However, how the relatively high enzyme activities were achieved in cold environments prior to cold adaptation of enzymes is unclear. Here we report that an Antarctic strain of Chlorella vulgaris, called NJ-7, acquired the capability to grow at near 0 °C temperatures and greatly enhanced freezing tolerance after systematic increases in abundance of enzymes/proteins and positive selection of certain genes. Having diverged from the temperate strain UTEX259 of the same species 2.5 (1.1–4.1) to 2.6 (1.0–4.5) Ma, NJ-7 retained the basic mesophilic characteristics and genome structures. Nitrate reductases in the two strains are highly similar in amino acid sequence and optimal temperature, but the NJ-7 one showed significantly higher abundance and activity. Quantitative proteomic analyses indicated that several cryoprotective proteins (LEA), many enzymes involved in carbon metabolism and a large number of other enzymes/proteins, were more abundant in NJ-7 than in UTEX259. Like nitrate reductase, most of these enzymes were not upregulated in response to cold stress. Thus, compensation of low specific activities by increased enzyme abundance appears to be an important strategy for early stage cold adaptation to Antarctica, but such enzymes are mostly not involved in cold acclimation upon transfer from favorable temperatures to near 0 °C temperatures.

Recurrent Collection of Drosophila melanogaster from Wild African Environments and Genomic Insights into Species History

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

A long-standing enigma concerns the geographic and ecological origins of the intensively studied vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This globally distributed human commensal is thought to originate from sub-Saharan Africa, yet until recently, it had never been reported from undisturbed wilderness environments that could reflect its precommensal niche. Here, we document the collection of 288 D. melanogaster individuals from multiple African wilderness areas in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. The presence of D. melanogaster in these remote woodland environments is consistent with an ancestral range in southern-central Africa, as opposed to equatorial regions. After sequencing the genomes of 17 wilderness-collected flies collected from Kafue National Park in Zambia, we found reduced genetic diversity relative to town populations, elevated chromosomal inversion frequencies, and strong differences at specific genes including known insecticide targets. Combining these genomes with existing data, we probed the history of this species’ geographic expansion. Demographic estimates indicated that expansion from southern-central Africa began ∼10,000 years ago, with a Saharan crossing soon after, but expansion from the Middle East into Europe did not begin until roughly 1,400 years ago. This improved model of demographic history will provide an important resource for future evolutionary and genomic studies of this key model organism. Our findings add context to the history of D. melanogaster, while opening the door for future studies on the biological basis of adaptation to human environments.

Domestication of High-Copy Transposons Underlays the Wheat Small RNA Response to an Obligate Pathogen

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Plant genomes have evolved several evolutionary mechanisms to tolerate and make use of transposable elements (TEs). Of these, transposon domestication into cis-regulatory and microRNA (miRNA) sequences is proposed to contribute to abiotic/biotic stress adaptation in plants. The wheat genome is derived at 85% from TEs, and contains thousands of miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs), whose sequences are particularly prone for domestication into miRNA precursors. In this study, we investigate the contribution of TEs to the wheat small RNA immune response to the lineage-specific, obligate powdery mildew pathogen. We show that MITEs of the Mariner superfamily contribute the largest diversity of miRNAs to the wheat immune response. In particular, MITE precursors of miRNAs are wide-spread over the wheat genome, and highly conserved copies are found in the Lr34 and QPm.tut-4A mildew resistance loci. Our work suggests that transposon domestication is an important evolutionary force driving miRNA functional innovation in wheat immunity.

Unbiased Estimation of Linkage Disequilibrium from Unphased Data

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Linkage disequilibrium (LD) is used to infer evolutionary history, to identify genomic regions under selection, and to dissect the relationship between genotype and phenotype. In each case, we require accurate estimates of LD statistics from sequencing data. Unphased data present a challenge because multilocus haplotypes cannot be inferred exactly. Widely used estimators for the common statistics r2 and D2 exhibit large and variable upward biases that complicate interpretation and comparison across cohorts. Here, we show how to find unbiased estimators for a wide range of two-locus statistics, including D2, for both single and multiple randomly mating populations. These unbiased statistics are particularly well suited to estimate effective population sizes from unlinked loci in small populations. We develop a simple inference pipeline and use it to refine estimates of recent effective population sizes of the threatened Channel Island Fox populations.

Somatic Mutations and Genome Stability Maintenance in Clonal Coral Colonies

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

One challenge for multicellular organisms is maintaining genome stability in the face of mutagens across long life spans. Imperfect genome maintenance leads to mutation accumulation in somatic cells, which is associated with tumors and senescence in vertebrates. Colonial reef-building corals are often large, can live for hundreds of years, rarely develop recognizable tumors, and are thought to convert somatic cells into gamete producers, so they are a pivotal group in which to understand long-term genome maintenance. To measure rates and patterns of somatic mutations, we analyzed transcriptomes from 17 to 22 branches from each of four Acropora hyacinthus colonies, determined putative single nucleotide variants, and verified them with Sanger resequencing. Unlike for human skin carcinomas, there is no signature of mutations caused by UV damage, indicating either higher efficiency of repair than in vertebrates, or strong sunscreen protection in these shallow water tropical animals. The somatic mutation frequency per nucleotide in A. hyacinthus is on the same order of magnitude (10−7) as noncancerous human somatic cells, and accumulation of mutations with age is similar. Loss of heterozygosity variants outnumber gain of heterozygosity mutations ∼2:1. Although the mutation frequency is similar in mammals and corals, the preponderance of loss of heterozygosity changes and potential selection may reduce the frequency of deleterious mutations in colonial animals like corals. This may limit the deleterious effects of somatic mutations on the coral organism as well as potential offspring.

Developmental Systems Drift and the Drivers of Sex Chromosome Evolution

Mon, 11 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Phenotypic invariance—the outcome of purifying selection—is a hallmark of biological importance. However, invariant phenotypes might be controlled by diverged genetic systems in different species. Here, we explore how an important and invariant phenotype—the development of sexually differentiated individuals—is controlled in over two dozen species in the frog family Pipidae. We uncovered evidence in different species for 1) an ancestral W chromosome that is not found in many females and is found in some males, 2) independent losses and 3) autosomal segregation of this W chromosome, 4) changes in male versus female heterogamy, and 5) substantial variation among species in recombination suppression on sex chromosomes. We further provide evidence of, and evolutionary context for, the origins of at least seven distinct systems for regulating sex determination among three closely related genera. These systems are distinct in their genomic locations, evolutionary origins, and/or male versus female heterogamy. Our findings demonstrate that the developmental control of sexual differentiation changed via loss, sidelining, and empowerment of a mechanistically influential gene, and offer insights into novel factors that impinge on the diverse evolutionary fates of sex chromosomes.

Ancient DNA Reconstructs the Genetic Legacies of Precontact Puerto Rico Communities

Sat, 09 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Indigenous peoples have occupied the island of Puerto Rico since at least 3000 BC. Due to the demographic shifts that occurred after European contact, the origin(s) of these ancient populations, and their genetic relationship to present-day islanders, are unclear. We use ancient DNA to characterize the population history and genetic legacies of precontact Indigenous communities from Puerto Rico. Bone, tooth, and dental calculus samples were collected from 124 individuals from three precontact archaeological sites: Tibes, Punta Candelero, and Paso del Indio. Despite poor DNA preservation, we used target enrichment and high-throughput sequencing to obtain complete mitochondrial genomes (mtDNA) from 45 individuals and autosomal genotypes from two individuals. We found a high proportion of Native American mtDNA haplogroups A2 and C1 in the precontact Puerto Rico sample (40% and 44%, respectively). This distribution, as well as the haplotypes represented, supports a primarily Amazonian South American origin for these populations and mirrors the Native American mtDNA diversity patterns found in present-day islanders. Three mtDNA haplotypes from precontact Puerto Rico persist among Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean islanders, indicating that present-day populations are reservoirs of precontact mtDNA diversity. Lastly, we find similarity in autosomal ancestry patterns between precontact individuals from Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, suggesting a shared component of Indigenous Caribbean ancestry with close affinity to South American populations. Our findings contribute to a more complete reconstruction of precontact Caribbean population history and explore the role of Indigenous peoples in shaping the biocultural diversity of present-day Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean islanders.

Optimizing Phylogenomics with Rapidly Evolving Long Exons: Comparison with Anchored Hybrid Enrichment and Ultraconserved Elements

Sat, 09 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Marker selection has emerged as an important component of phylogenomic study design due to rising concerns of the effects of gene tree estimation error, model misspecification, and data-type differences. Researchers must balance various trade-offs associated with locus length and evolutionary rate among other factors. The most commonly used reduced representation data sets for phylogenomics are ultraconserved elements (UCEs) and Anchored Hybrid Enrichment (AHE). Here, we introduce Rapidly Evolving Long Exon Capture (RELEC), a new set of loci that targets single exons that are both rapidly evolving (evolutionary rate faster than RAG1) and relatively long in length (>1,500 bp), while at the same time avoiding paralogy issues across amniotes. We compare the RELEC data set to UCEs and AHE in squamate reptiles by aligning and analyzing orthologous sequences from 17 squamate genomes, composed of 10 snakes and 7 lizards. The RELEC data set (179 loci) outperforms AHE and UCEs by maximizing per-locus genetic variation while maintaining presence and orthology across a range of evolutionary scales. RELEC markers show higher phylogenetic informativeness than UCE and AHE loci, and RELEC gene trees show greater similarity to the species tree than AHE or UCE gene trees. Furthermore, with fewer loci, RELEC remains computationally tractable for full Bayesian coalescent species tree analyses. We contrast RELEC to and discuss important aspects of comparable methods, and demonstrate how RELEC may be the most effective set of loci for resolving difficult nodes and rapid radiations. We provide several resources for capturing or extracting RELEC loci from other amniote groups.

Diet and Adaptive Evolution of Alanine-Glyoxylate Aminotransferase Mitochondrial Targeting in Birds

Fri, 08 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Adaptations to different diets represent a hallmark of animal diversity. The diets of birds are highly variable, making them an excellent model system for studying adaptive evolution driven by dietary changes. To test whether molecular adaptations to diet have occurred during the evolution of birds, we examined a dietary enzyme alanine-glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT), which tends to target mitochondria in carnivorous mammals, peroxisomes in herbivorous mammals, and both mitochondria and peroxisomes in omnivorous mammals. A total of 31 bird species were examined in this study, which included representatives of most major avian lineages. Of these, 29 have an intact mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) of AGT. This finding is in stark contrast to mammals, which showed a number of independent losses of the MTS. Our cell-based functional assays revealed that the efficiency of AGT mitochondrial targeting was greatly reduced in unrelated lineages of granivorous birds, yet it tended to be high in insectivorous and carnivorous lineages. Furthermore, we found that proportions of animal tissue in avian diets were positively correlated with mitochondrial targeting efficiencies that were experimentally determined, but not with those that were computationally predicted. Adaptive evolution of AGT mitochondrial targeting in birds was further supported by the detection of positive selection on MTS regions. Our study contributes to the understanding of how diet drives molecular adaptations in animals, and suggests that caution must be taken when computationally predicting protein subcellular targeting.

Phylogenomics Identifies an Ancestral Burst of Gene Duplications Predating the Diversification of Aphidomorpha

Fri, 08 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Aphids (Aphidoidea) are a diverse group of hemipteran insects that feed on plant phloem sap. A common finding in studies of aphid genomes is the presence of a large number of duplicated genes. However, when these duplications occurred remains unclear, partly due to the high relatedness of sequenced species. To better understand the origin of aphid duplications we sequenced and assembled the genome of Cinara cedri, an early branching lineage (Lachninae) of the Aphididae family. We performed a phylogenomic comparison of this genome with 20 other sequenced genomes, including the available genomes of five other aphids, along with the transcriptomes of two species belonging to Adelgidae (a closely related clade to the aphids) and Coccoidea. We found that gene duplication has been pervasive throughout the evolution of aphids, including many parallel waves of recent, species-specific duplications. Most notably, we identified a consistent set of very ancestral duplications, originating from a large-scale gene duplication predating the diversification of Aphidomorpha (comprising aphids, phylloxerids, and adelgids). Genes duplicated in this ancestral wave are enriched in functions related to traits shared by Aphidomorpha, such as association with endosymbionts, and adaptation to plant defenses and phloem-sap-based diet. The ancestral nature of this duplication wave (106–227 Ma) and the lack of sufficiently conserved synteny make it difficult to conclude whether it originated from a whole-genome duplication event or, alternatively, from a burst of large-scale segmental duplications. Genome sequencing of other aphid species belonging to different Aphidomorpha and related lineages may clarify these findings.

Plasmodium vivax Malaria Viewed through the Lens of an Eradicated European Strain

Thu, 07 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The protozoan Plasmodium vivax is responsible for 42% of all cases of malaria outside Africa. The parasite is currently largely restricted to tropical and subtropical latitudes in Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. Though, it was historically present in most of Europe before being finally eradicated during the second half of the 20th century. The lack of genomic information on the extinct European lineage has prevented a clear understanding of historical population structuring and past migrations of P. vivax. We used medical microscope slides prepared in 1944 from malaria-affected patients from the Ebro Delta in Spain, one of the last footholds of malaria in Europe, to generate a genome of a European P. vivax strain. Population genetics and phylogenetic analyses placed this strain basal to a cluster including samples from the Americas. This genome allowed us to calibrate a genomic mutation rate for P. vivax, and to estimate the mean age of the last common ancestor between European and American strains to the 15th century. This date points to an introduction of the parasite during the European colonization of the Americas. In addition, we found that some known variants for resistance to antimalarial drugs, including Chloroquine and Sulfadoxine, were already present in this European strain, predating their use. Our results shed light on the evolution of an important human pathogen and illustrate the value of antique medical collections as a resource for retrieving genomic information on pathogens from the past.

A Burst of Genetic Innovation in Drosophila Actin-Related Proteins for Testis-Specific Function

Thu, 07 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Many cytoskeletal proteins perform fundamental biological processes and are evolutionarily ancient. For example, the superfamily of actin-related proteins (Arps) specialized early in eukaryotic evolution for diverse cellular roles in the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Despite its strict conservation across eukaryotes, we find that the Arp superfamily has undergone dramatic lineage-specific diversification in Drosophila. Our phylogenomic analyses reveal four independent Arp gene duplications that occurred in the common ancestor of the obscura group of Drosophila and have been mostly preserved in this lineage. All four obscura-specific Arp paralogs are predominantly expressed in the male germline and have evolved under positive selection. We focus our analyses on the divergent Arp2D paralog, which arose via a retroduplication event from Arp2, a component of the Arp2/3 complex that polymerizes branched actin networks. Computational modeling analyses suggest that Arp2D can replace Arp2 in the Arp2/3 complex and bind actin monomers. Together with the signature of positive selection, our findings suggest that Arp2D may augment Arp2’s functions in the male germline. Indeed, we find that Arp2D is expressed during and following male meiosis, where it localizes to distinct locations such as actin cones—specialized cytoskeletal structures that separate bundled spermatids into individual mature sperm. We hypothesize that this unprecedented burst of genetic innovation in cytoskeletal proteins may have been driven by the evolution of sperm heteromorphism in the obscura group of Drosophila.

Ancient Adaptive Lateral Gene Transfers in the Symbiotic Opalina–Blastocystis Stramenopile Lineage

Wed, 06 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Lateral gene transfer is a very common process in bacterial and archaeal evolution, playing an important role in the adaptation to new environments. In eukaryotes, its role and frequency remain highly debated, although recent research supports that gene transfer from bacteria to diverse eukaryotes may be much more common than previously appreciated. However, most of this research focused on animals and the true phylogenetic and functional impact of bacterial genes in less-studied microbial eukaryotic groups remains largely unknown. Here, we have analyzed transcriptome data from the deep-branching stramenopile Opalinidae, common members of frog gut microbiomes, and distantly related to the well-known genus Blastocystis. Phylogenetic analyses suggest the early acquisition of several bacterial genes in a common ancestor of both lineages. Those lateral gene transfers most likely facilitated the adaptation of the free-living ancestor of the Opalinidae–Blastocystis symbiotic group to new niches in the oxygen-depleted animal gut environment.

Divergent Selection and Primary Gene Flow Shape Incipient Speciation of a Riparian Tree on Hawaii Island

Wed, 06 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

A long-standing goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the mechanisms underlying the formation of species. Of particular interest is whether or not speciation can occur in the presence of gene flow and without a period of physical isolation. Here, we investigated this process within Hawaiian Metrosideros, a hypervariable and highly dispersible woody species complex that dominates the Hawaiian Islands in continuous stands. Specifically, we investigated the origin of Metrosideros polymorpha var. newellii (newellii), a riparian ecotype endemic to Hawaii Island that is purportedly derived from the archipelago-wide M. polymorpha var. glaberrima (glaberrima). Disruptive selection across a sharp forest-riparian ecotone contributes to the isolation of these varieties and is a likely driver of newellii’s origin. We examined genome-wide variation of 42 trees from Hawaii Island and older islands. Results revealed a split between glaberrima and newellii within the past 0.3–1.2 My. Admixture was extensive between lineages within Hawaii Island and between islands, but introgression from populations on older islands (i.e., secondary gene flow) did not appear to contribute to the emergence of newellii. In contrast, recurrent gene flow (i.e., primary gene flow) between glaberrima and newellii contributed to the formation of genomic islands of elevated absolute and relative divergence. These regions were enriched for genes with regulatory functions as well as for signals of positive selection, especially in newellii, consistent with divergent selection underlying their formation. In sum, our results support riparian newellii as a rare case of incipient ecological speciation with primary gene flow in trees.

Genomic Resources for Darters (Percidae: Etheostominae) Provide Insight into Postzygotic Barriers Implicated in Speciation

Tue, 05 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Comparative genomic approaches are increasingly being used to study the evolution of reproductive barriers in nonmodel species. Although numerous studies have examined prezygotic isolation in darters (Percidae), investigations into postzygotic barriers have remained rare due to long generation times and a lack of genomic resources. Orangethroat and rainbow darters naturally hybridize and provide a remarkable example of male-driven speciation via character displacement. Backcross hybrids suffer from high mortality, which appears to promote behavioral isolation in sympatry. To investigate the genomic architecture of postzygotic isolation, we used Illumina and PacBio sequencing to generate a chromosome-level, annotated assembly of the orangethroat darter genome and high-density linkage maps for orangethroat and rainbow darters. We also analyzed genome-wide RADseq data from wild-caught adults of both species and laboratory-generated backcrosses to identify genomic regions associated with hybrid incompatibles. Several putative chromosomal translocations and inversions were observed between orangethroat and rainbow darters, suggesting structural rearrangements may underlie postzygotic isolation. We also found evidence of selection against recombinant haplotypes and transmission ratio distortion in backcross hybrid genomes, providing further insight into the genomic architecture of genetic incompatibilities. Notably, regions with high levels of genetic divergence between species were enriched for genes associated with developmental and meiotic processes, providing strong candidates for postzygotic isolating barriers. These findings mark significant contributions to our understanding of the genetic basis of reproductive isolation between species undergoing character displacement. Furthermore, the genomic resources presented here will be instrumental for studying speciation in darters, the most diverse vertebrate group in North America.

A Bayesian Framework for Inferring the Influence of Sequence Context on Point Mutations

Tue, 05 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The probability of point mutations is expected to be highly influenced by the flanking nucleotides that surround them, known as the sequence context. This phenomenon may be mainly attributed to the enzyme that modifies or mutates the genetic material, because most enzymes tend to have specific sequence contexts that dictate their activity. Here, we develop a statistical model that allows for the detection and evaluation of the effects of different sequence contexts on mutation rates from deep population sequencing data. This task is computationally challenging, as the complexity of the model increases exponentially as the context size increases. We established our novel Bayesian method based on sparse model selection methods, with the leading assumption that the number of actual sequence contexts that directly influence mutation rates is minuscule compared with the number of possible sequence contexts. We show that our method is highly accurate on simulated data using pentanucleotide contexts, even when accounting for noisy data. We next analyze empirical population sequencing data from polioviruses and HIV-1 and detect a significant enrichment in sequence contexts associated with deamination by the cellular deaminases ADAR 1/2 and APOBEC3G, respectively. In the current era, where next-generation sequencing data are highly abundant, our approach can be used on any population sequencing data to reveal context-dependent base alterations and may assist in the discovery of novel mutable sites or editing sites.

Mitochondrial Metagenomics Reveals the Ancient Origin and Phylodiversity of Soil Mites and Provides a Phylogeny of the Acari

Thu, 31 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

High-throughput DNA methods hold great promise for phylogenetic analysis of lineages that are difficult to study with conventional molecular and morphological approaches. The mites (Acari), and in particular the highly diverse soil-dwelling lineages, are among the least known branches of the metazoan Tree-of-Life. We extracted numerous minute mites from soils in an area of mixed forest and grassland in southern Iberia. Selected specimens representing the full morphological diversity were shotgun sequenced in bulk, followed by genome assembly of short reads from the mixture, which produced >100 mitochondrial genomes representing diverse acarine lineages. Phylogenetic analyses in combination with taxonomically limited mitogenomes available publicly resulted in plausible trees defining basal relationships of the Acari. Several critical nodes were supported by ancestral-state reconstructions of mitochondrial gene rearrangements. Molecular calibration placed the minimum age for the common ancestor of the superorder Acariformes, which includes most soil-dwelling mites, to the Cambrian–Ordovician (likely within 455–552 Ma), whereas the origin of the superorder Parasitiformes was placed later in the Carboniferous-Permian. Most family-level taxa within the Acariformes were dated to the Jurassic and Triassic. The ancient origin of Acariformes and the early diversification of major extant lineages linked to the soil are consistent with a pioneering role for mites in building the earliest terrestrial ecosystems.

Higher Gene Flow in Sex-Related Chromosomes than in Autosomes during Fungal Divergence

Fri, 25 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Nonrecombining sex chromosomes are widely found to be more differentiated than autosomes among closely related species, due to smaller effective population size and/or to a disproportionally large-X effect in reproductive isolation. Although fungal mating-type chromosomes can also display large nonrecombining regions, their levels of differentiation compared with autosomes have been little studied. Anther-smut fungi from the Microbotryum genus are castrating pathogens of Caryophyllaceae plants with largely nonrecombining mating-type chromosomes. Using whole genome sequences of 40 fungal strains, we quantified genetic differentiation among strains isolated from the geographically overlapping North American species and subspecies of Silene virginica and S. caroliniana. We inferred that gene flow likely occurred at the early stages of divergence and then completely stopped. We identified large autosomal genomic regions with chromosomal inversions, with higher genetic divergence than the rest of the genomes and highly enriched in selective sweeps, supporting a role of rearrangements in preventing gene flow in genomic regions involved in ecological divergence. Unexpectedly, the nonrecombining mating-type chromosomes showed lower divergence than autosomes due to higher gene flow, which may be promoted by adaptive introgressions of less degenerated mating-type chromosomes. The fact that both mating-type chromosomes are always heterozygous and nonrecombining may explain such patterns that oppose to those found for XY or ZW sex chromosomes. The specific features of mating-type chromosomes may also apply to the UV sex chromosomes determining sexes at the haploid stage in algae and bryophytes and may help test general hypotheses on the evolutionary specificities of sex-related chromosomes.

OxyR Is a Convergent Target for Mutations Acquired during Adaptation to Oxidative Stress-Prone Metabolic States

Fri, 25 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Oxidative stress is concomitant with aerobic metabolism. Thus, bacterial genomes encode elaborate mechanisms to achieve redox homeostasis. Here we report that the peroxide-sensing transcription factor, oxyR, is a common mutational target using bacterial species belonging to two genera, Escherichia coli and Vibrio natriegens, in separate growth conditions implemented during laboratory evolution. The mutations clustered in the redox active site, dimer interface, and flexible redox loop of the protein. These mutations favor the oxidized conformation of OxyR that results in constitutive expression of the genes it regulates. Independent component analysis of the transcriptome revealed that the constitutive activity of OxyR reduces DNA damage from reactive oxygen species, as inferred from the activity of the SOS response regulator LexA. This adaptation to peroxide stress came at a cost of lower growth, as revealed by calculations of proteome allocation using genome-scale models of metabolism and macromolecular expression. Further, identification of similar sequence changes in natural isolates of E. coli indicates that adaptation to oxidative stress through genetic changes in oxyR can be a common occurrence.

Asymmetric Distribution of Gene Trees Can Arise under Purifying Selection If Differences in Population Size Exist

Tue, 22 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) is an important factor that causes gene tree discordance. For gene trees of three species, under neutrality, random mating, and the absence of interspecific gene flow, ILS creates a symmetric distribution of gene trees: the gene tree that accords with the species tree has the highest frequency, and the two discordant trees are equally frequent. If the neutral condition is violated, the impact of ILS may change, altering the gene tree distribution. Here, we show that under purifying selection, even assuming that the fitness effect of mutations is constant throughout the species tree, if differences in population size exist among species, asymmetric distributions of gene trees will arise, which is different from the expectation under neutrality. In extremes, one of the discordant trees rather than the concordant tree becomes the most frequent gene tree. In addition, we found that in a real case, the position of Scandentia relative to Primate and Glires, the symmetry in the gene tree distribution can be influenced by the strength of purifying selection. In current phylogenetic inference, the impact of purifying selection on the gene tree distribution is rarely considered by researchers. This study highlights the necessity of considering this impact.

HLA Heterozygote Advantage against HIV-1 Is Driven by Quantitative and Qualitative Differences in HLA Allele-Specific Peptide Presentation

Tue, 22 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Pathogen-mediated balancing selection is regarded as a key driver of host immunogenetic diversity. A hallmark for balancing selection in humans is the heterozygote advantage at genes of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA), resulting in improved HIV-1 control. However, the actual mechanism of the observed heterozygote advantage is still elusive. HLA heterozygotes may present a broader array of antigenic viral peptides to immune cells, possibly resulting in a more efficient cytotoxic T-cell response. Alternatively, heterozygosity may simply increase the chance to carry the most protective HLA alleles, as individual HLA alleles are known to differ substantially in their association with HIV-1 control. Here, we used data from 6,311 HIV-1-infected individuals to explore the relative contribution of quantitative and qualitative aspects of peptide presentation in HLA heterozygote advantage against HIV. Screening the entire HIV-1 proteome, we observed that heterozygous individuals exhibited a broader array of HIV-1 peptides presented by their HLA class I alleles. In addition, viral load was negatively correlated with the breadth of the HIV-1 peptide repertoire bound by an individual’s HLA variants, particularly at HLA-B. This suggests that heterozygote advantage at HLA-B is at least in part mediated by quantitative peptide presentation. We also observed higher HIV-1 sequence diversity among HLA-B heterozygous individuals, suggesting stronger evolutionary pressure from HLA heterozygosity. However, HLA heterozygotes were also more likely to carry certain HLA alleles, including the highly protective HLA-B*57:01 variant, indicating that HLA heterozygote advantage ultimately results from a combination of quantitative and qualitative effects in antigen presentation.

GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

Complete Genome Sequencing of Four Arcobacter Species Reveals a Diverse Suite of Mobile Elements

Mon, 03 Feb 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Arcobacter species are recovered from a wide variety of sources, including animals, food, and both fresh and marine waters. Several Arcobacter species have also been recovered from human clinical samples and are thus associated tentatively with food- and water-borne human illnesses. Genome sequencing of the poultry isolate Arcobacter cibarius H743 and the Arcobacter acticola, Arcobacter pacificus, and Arcobacter porcinus type strains identified a large number and variety of insertion sequences. This study presents an analysis of these A. acticola, A. cibarius, A. pacificus, and A. porcinus IS elements. The four genomes sequenced here contain 276 complete and degenerate IS elements, representing 13 of the current 29 prokaryotic IS element families. Expansion of the analysis to include 15 other previously sequenced Arcobacter spp. added 73 complete and degenerate IS elements. Several of these IS elements were identified in two or more Arcobacter species, suggesting movement by horizontal gene transfer between the arcobacters. These IS elements are putatively associated with intragenomic deletions and inversions, and tentative movement of antimicrobial resistance genes. The A. cibarius strain H743 megaplasmid contains multiple IS elements common to the chromosome and, unusually, a complete ribosomal RNA locus, indicating that larger scale genomic rearrangements, potentially resulting from IS element-mediated megaplasmid cointegration and resolution may be occurring within A. cibarius and possibly other arcobacters. The presence of such a large and varied suite of mobile elements could have profound effects on Arcobacter biology and evolution.

Can Green Algal Plastid Genome Size Be Explained by DNA Repair Mechanisms?

Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

A major finding in organelle biology over the past decade is that land plant mitochondrial genomes, which are the largest among eukaryotes, can have a “Jekyll and Hyde” mutational pattern: low for synonymous sites, high for intergenic ones. This has led to the theory that double-strand breaks (DSBs) in the intergenic DNA of plant mitogenomes are repaired by inaccurate mechanisms, such as break-induced replication, which can result in large insertions and, thus, could explain why these genomes are so prone to expansion. But how universal is this theory? Can it apply to other giant organelle DNAs, such as the massive plastid DNAs (ptDNAs) of chlamydomonadalean green algae? Indeed, it can. Analysis of the expanded plastomes from two distinct isolates of the unicellular chlamydomonadalean Chlorosarcinopsis eremi uncovered exceptionally low rates of synonymous substitution in the coding regions but high substitution rates, including frequent indels, in the noncoding ptDNA, mirroring the trend from land plant mitogenomes. Remarkably, nearly all of the substitutions and indels identified in the noncoding ptDNA of C. eremi occur adjacent to or within short inverted palindromic repeats, suggesting that these elements are mutational hotspots. Building upon earlier studies, I propose that these palindromic repeats are predisposed to DSBs and that error-prone repair of these breaks is contributing to genomic expansion. Short palindromic repeats are a common theme among bloated plastomes, including the largest one on record, meaning that these data could have wide-reaching implications for our understanding of ptDNA expansion.

The Genome of the Great Gerbil Reveals Species-Specific Duplication of an MHCII Gene

Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus) is a social rodent living in permanent, complex burrow systems distributed throughout Central Asia, where it serves as the main host of several important vector-borne infectious pathogens including the well-known plague bacterium (Yersinia pestis). Here, we present a continuous annotated genome assembly of the great gerbil, covering over 96% of the estimated 2.47-Gb genome. Taking advantage of the recent genome assemblies of the sand rat (Psammomys obesus) and the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus), comparative immunogenomic analyses reveal shared gene losses within TLR gene families (i.e., TLR8, TLR10, and the entire TLR11-subfamily) for Gerbillinae, accompanied with signs of diversifying selection of TLR7 and TLR9. Most notably, we find a great gerbil-specific duplication of the MHCII DRB locus. In silico analyses suggest that the duplicated gene provides high peptide binding affinity for Yersiniae epitopes as well as Leishmania and Leptospira epitopes, putatively leading to increased capability to withstand infections by these pathogens. Our study demonstrates the power of whole-genome sequencing combined with comparative genomic analyses to gain deeper insight into the immunogenomic landscape of the great gerbil and its close relatives.

Demography and Natural Selection Have Shaped Genetic Variation in the Widely Distributed Conifer Norway Spruce (Picea abies)

Mon, 20 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Under the neutral theory, species with larger effective population size are expected to harbor higher genetic diversity. However, across a wide variety of organisms, the range of genetic diversity is orders of magnitude more narrow than the range of effective population size. This observation has become known as Lewontin’s paradox and although aspects of this phenomenon have been extensively studied, the underlying causes for the paradox remain unclear. Norway spruce (Picea abies) is a widely distributed conifer species across the northern hemisphere, and it consequently plays a major role in European forestry. Here, we use whole-genome resequencing data from 35 individuals to perform population genomic analyses in P. abies in an effort to understand what drives genome-wide patterns of variation in this species. Despite having a very wide geographic distribution and an corresponding enormous current population size, our analyses find that genetic diversity of P. abies is low across a number of populations (π = 0.0049 in Central-Europe, π = 0.0063 in Sweden-Norway, π = 0.0063 in Finland). To assess the reasons for the low levels of genetic diversity, we infer the demographic history of the species and find that it is characterized by several reoccurring bottlenecks with concomitant decreases in effective population size can, at least partly, provide an explanation for low polymorphism we observe in P. abies. Further analyses suggest that recurrent natural selection, both purifying and positive selection, can also contribute to the loss of genetic diversity in Norway spruce by reducing genetic diversity at linked sites. Finally, the overall low mutation rates seen in conifers can also help explain the low genetic diversity maintained in Norway spruce.

Genomic Analysis of Wolbachia from Laodelphax striatellus (Delphacidae, Hemiptera) Reveals Insights into Its “Jekyll and Hyde” Mode of Infection Pattern

Mon, 20 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Wolbachia is a widely distributed intracellular bacterial endosymbiont among invertebrates. The wStriCN, the Wolbachia strain that naturally infects an agricultural pest Laodelphax striatellus, has a “Jekyll and Hyde” mode of infection pattern with positive and negative effects: It not only kills many offspring by inducing cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) but also significantly increases host fecundity. In this study, we assembled the draft genome of wStriCN and compared it with other Wolbachia genomes to look for clues to its Jekyll and Hyde characteristics. The assembled wStriCN draft genome is 1.79 Mb in size, which is the largest Wolbachia genome in supergroup B. Phylogenomic analysis showed that wStriCN is closest to Wolbachia from Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri. These strains formed a monophylogentic clade within supergroup B. Compared with other Wolbachia genomes, wStriCN contains the most diverse insertion sequence families, the largest amount of prophage sequences, and the most ankyrin domain protein coding genes. The wStriCN genome encodes components of multiple secretion systems, including Types I, II, IV, VI, Sec, and Tac. We detected three pairs of homologs for CI factors CifA and CifB. These proteins harbor the catalytic domains responsible for CI phenotypes but are phylogenetically and structurally distinct from all known Cif proteins. The genome retains pathways for synthesizing biotin and riboflavin, which may explain the beneficial roles of wStriCN in its host planthoppers, which feed on nutrient-poor plant sap. Altogether, the genomic sequencing of wStriCN provides insight into understanding the phylogeny and biology of Wolbachia.

The Reproducibility of an Inferred Tree and the Diploidization of Gene Segregation after Genome Duplication

Fri, 17 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

We previously introduced a numerical quantity called the stability (Ps) of an inferred tree and showed that for the tree to be reliable this stability as well as the reliability of the tree, which is usually computed as the bootstrap probability (Pb), must be high. However, if genome duplication occurs in a species, a gene family of the genome also duplicates, and for this reason alone some Ps values can be high in a tree of the duplicated gene families. In addition, the topology of the duplicated gene family can be similar to that of the original gene family if such gene families are identifiable. After genome duplication, however, the gene families are often partially deleted or partially duplicated, and the duplicated gene family may not show the same topology as that of the original family. It is therefore necessary to compute the similarity of the topologies of the duplicated and the original gene families. In this paper, we introduce another quantity called the reproducibility (Pr) for measuring the similarity of the two gene families. To show how to compute the Pr values, we first compute the Pb and Ps values for each of the MHC class II α and β chain gene families, which were apparently generated by genome duplication. We then compute the Pr values for the MHC class II α and β chain gene families. The Pr values for the α and β chain gene families are now low, and this suggests that the diploidization of gene segregation has occurred after the genome duplication. Currently higher animals, defined as animals with complex phenotypic characters, generally have a higher genome size, and this increase in genome size appears to have been caused by genome duplication and diploidization of gene segregation after genome duplication.

Near-Random Distribution of Chromosome-Derived Circular DNA in the Condensed Genome of Pigeons and the Larger, More Repeat-Rich Human Genome

Fri, 27 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) elements of chromosomal origin are known to be common in a number of eukaryotic species. However, it remains to be addressed whether genomic features such as genome size, the load of repetitive elements within a genome, and/or animal physiology affect the number of eccDNAs. Here, we investigate the distribution and numbers of eccDNAs in a condensed and less repeat-rich genome compared with the human genome, using Columba livia domestica (domestic rock pigeon) as a model organism. By sequencing eccDNA in blood and breast muscle from three pigeon breeds at various ages and with different flight behavior, we characterize 30,000 unique eccDNAs. We identify genomic regions that are likely hotspots for DNA circularization in breast muscle, including genes involved in muscle development. We find that although eccDNA counts do not correlate with the biological age in pigeons, the number of unique eccDNAs in a nonflying breed (king pigeons) is significantly higher (9-fold) than homing pigeons. Furthermore, a comparison between eccDNA from skeletal muscle in pigeons and humans reveals ∼9-10 times more unique eccDNAs per human nucleus. The fraction of eccDNA sequences, derived from repetitive elements, exist in proportions to genome content, that is, human 72.4% (expected 52.5%) and pigeon 8.7% (expected 5.5%).Overall, our results support that eccDNAs are common in pigeons, that the amount of unique eccDNA types per nucleus can differ between species as well as subspecies, and suggest that eccDNAs from repeats are found in proportions relative to the content of repetitive elements in a genome.

Functional Genomics of a Symbiotic Community: Shared Traits in the Olive Fruit Fly Gut Microbiota

Thu, 12 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The olive fruit fly Bactrocera oleae is a major pest of olives worldwide and houses a specialized gut microbiota dominated by the obligate symbiont “Candidatus Erwinia dacicola.” Candidatus Erwinia dacicola is thought to supplement dietary nitrogen to the host, with only indirect evidence for this hypothesis so far. Here, we sought to investigate the contribution of the symbiosis to insect fitness and explore the ecology of the insect gut. For this purpose, we examined the composition of bacterial communities associated with Cretan olive fruit fly populations, and inspected several genomes and one transcriptome assembly. We identified, and reconstructed the genome of, a novel component of the gut microbiota, Tatumella sp. TA1, which is stably associated with Mediterranean olive fruit fly populations. We also reconstructed a number of pathways related to nitrogen assimilation and interactions with the host. The results show that, despite variation in taxa composition of the gut microbial community, core functions related to the symbiosis are maintained. Functional redundancy between different microbial taxa was observed for genes involved in urea hydrolysis. The latter is encoded in the obligate symbiont genome by a conserved urease operon, likely acquired by horizontal gene transfer, based on phylogenetic evidence. A potential underlying mechanism is the action of mobile elements, especially abundant in the Ca. E. dacicola genome. This finding, along with the identification, in the studied genomes, of extracellular surface structure components that may mediate interactions within the gut community, suggest that ongoing and past genetic exchanges between microbes may have shaped the symbiosis.