SMBE Conference guidelines

Download a PDF of the Conference Guidelines here.
Additions to Conference Guidelines, Appendix 2, may be downloaded here.

Statement of diversity

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

Professional Conference Organizer (PCO)

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

Local Organizing Committee (LOC)

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

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

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

Financing

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

Size of conference

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

Approximate timelines

When

What

Notes

Last day of the conference of the preceding year.

Initial website goes live

 

Includes:

●       venue

●       opportunities for sponsorship

●       composition of the organizing committee

●       contact information for the conference organizer.

10 months before the date of the conference.

Call for symposia opens

See ‘Call for symposia’ below.

9 months before the date of the conference

Call for symposia closes

 

8.5 months before the conference

Notification of successful Symposia

 

8 months before the conference

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

 

8 months before the conference

Early bird registration opens

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

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

7 months before the conference

Abstract submission and award applications open


6 months before the conference

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

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

2-3 weeks prior to council decision of travel awards

Deadline for symposium organizers’ talk selection

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

2 weeks before early bird registration closes

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

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

4 months before the conference

Early bird registration closes, full price registration opens

 

2 months before the conference

Full programme available online


Until the conference begins

Full cost registration

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

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

Post-meeting survey

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


Structure of the conference

Duration

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

Council meeting

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

Scientific content

Limit oral presentations per person

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

Presenter information

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

Plenary lectures

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

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

Special symposia

Fitch Symposium

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

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

Open Symposium

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

Faculty awards symposium

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

Parallel symposia

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

Number of symposia

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

Call for symposia

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

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

Selection of the symposia

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

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

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

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

The LOC selects the talks for the Open Symposium.

Timeslots

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

Selecting speakers

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

Poster sessions

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

Social events

Please provide vegetarian/vegan options with all catering.

Breaks and catering

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

Welcome reception

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

Gala Dinner  (banquet)

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

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

Awards Ceremony

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

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

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

Post-conference survey

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

Certificates of attendance

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

Post meeting reporting

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

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

Awards (see http://www.smbe.org/smbe/AWARDS.aspx)

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

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

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

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

1.     Faculty awards

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

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

2.     Fitch awards

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

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

3.     Undergraduate mentoring and diversity travel awards

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

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

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

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

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

4.     Graduate and postdoc travel awards

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

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

5.     Poster awards

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

6.     Best GBE and MBE papers awards

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

7.     Registration awards

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

8.     Carer travel awards

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

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


Registration

Payment for registration

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

Registration fees

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

Registration data

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

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

Registration should include declarations of:

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

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

Registration giveaways at the meeting

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

Badges

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

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

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

Conference website, programme, and app

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

Website

Must include:

promotion of travel and child care awards

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

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

Programme

The timetable should ideally be available in three formats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional requirements for the online programme

A participant list should be provided in the web programme.

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

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

Essential conference app features

●       Available in both iPhone and Android formats

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

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

●       Updateable and updated daily

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

●       Allow announcements

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

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

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

Venue

Rooms

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

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

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

Free, secure wifi should be available throughout the venue.

Onsite child care

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

Speaker set-up

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

Insurance

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

Appendix 1: SMBE policies

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

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

Appendix 2: Call for proposals for conference

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

●       North America

●       Europe

●       Rest of the World

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


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Wed, 31 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Inferring past population dynamics over time from heterochronous molecular sequence data is often achieved using the Bayesian Skygrid model, a nonparametric coalescent model that estimates the effective population size over time. Available in BEAST, a cross-platform program for Bayesian analysis of molecular sequences using Markov chain Monte Carlo, this coalescent model is often estimated in conjunction with a molecular clock model to produce time-stamped phylogenetic trees. We here provide a practical guide to using BEAST and its accompanying applications for the purpose of drawing inference under these models. We focus on best practices, potential pitfalls, and recommendations that can be generalized to other software packages for Bayesian inference. This protocol shows how to use TempEst, BEAUti, and BEAST 1.10 (http://beast.community/; last accessed July 29, 2019), LogCombiner as well as Tracer in a complete workflow.

Multiple Plasticity Regulators Reveal Targets Specifying an Induced Predatory Form in Nematodes

Wed, 31 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
The ability to translate a single genome into multiple phenotypes, or developmental plasticity, defines how phenotype derives from more than just genes. However, to study the evolutionary targets of plasticity and their evolutionary fates, we need to understand how genetic regulators of plasticity control downstream gene expression. Here, we have identified a transcriptional response specific to polyphenism (i.e., discrete plasticity) in the nematode Pristionchus pacificus. This species produces alternative resource-use morphs—microbivorous and predatory forms, differing in the form of their teeth, a morphological novelty—as influenced by resource availability. Transcriptional profiles common to multiple polyphenism-controlling genes in P. pacificus reveal a suite of environmentally sensitive loci, or ultimate target genes, that make up an induced developmental response. Additionally, in vitro assays show that one polyphenism regulator, the nuclear receptor NHR-40, physically binds to promoters with putative HNF4α (the nuclear receptor class including NHR-40) binding sites, suggesting this receptor may directly regulate genes that describe alternative morphs. Among differentially expressed genes were morph-limited genes, highlighting factors with putative “on–off” function in plasticity regulation. Further, predatory morph-biased genes included candidates—namely, all four P. pacificus homologs of Hsp70, which have HNF4α motifs—whose natural variation in expression matches phenotypic differences among P. pacificus wild isolates. In summary, our study links polyphenism regulatory loci to the transcription producing alternative forms of a morphological novelty. Consequently, our findings establish a platform for determining how specific regulators of morph-biased genes may influence selection on plastic phenotypes.

Transcriptional Enhancers in the FOXP2 Locus Underwent Accelerated Evolution in the Human Lineage

Mon, 29 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Unique human features, such as complex language, are the result of molecular evolutionary changes that modified developmental programs of our brain. The human-specific evolution of the forkhead box P2 (FOXP2) gene-coding region has been linked to the emergence of speech and language in the human kind. However, little is known about how the expression of FOXP2 is regulated and whether its regulatory machinery evolved in a lineage-specific manner in humans. In order to identify FOXP2 regulatory regions containing human-specific changes, we used databases of human-accelerated noncoding sequences or HARs. We found that the topologically associating domain determined using developing human cerebral cortex containing the FOXP2 locus includes two clusters of 12 HARs, placing the locus occupied by FOXP2 among the top regions showing fast acceleration rates in noncoding regions in the human genome. Using in vivo enhancer assays in zebrafish, we found that at least five FOXP2-HARs behave as transcriptional enhancers throughout different developmental stages. In addition, we found that at least two FOXP2-HARs direct the expression of the reporter gene EGFP to foxP2-expressing regions and cells. Moreover, we uncovered two FOXP2-HARs showing reporter expression gain of function in the nervous system when compared with the chimpanzee ortholog sequences. Our results indicate that regulatory sequences in the FOXP2 locus underwent a human-specific evolutionary process suggesting that the transcriptional machinery controlling this gene could have also evolved differentially in the human lineage.

“Ghost Introgression” As a Cause of Deep Mitochondrial Divergence in a Bird Species Complex

Sat, 27 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
In the absence of nuclear-genomic differentiation between two populations, deep mitochondrial divergence (DMD) is a form of mito-nuclear discordance. Such instances of DMD are rare and might variably be explained by unusual cases of female-linked selection, by male-biased dispersal, by “speciation reversal” or by mitochondrial capture through genetic introgression. Here, we analyze DMD in an Asian Phylloscopus leaf warbler (Aves: Phylloscopidae) complex. Bioacoustic, morphological, and genomic data demonstrate close similarity between the taxa affinis and occisinensis, even though DMD previously led to their classification as two distinct species. Using population genomic and comparative genomic methods on 45 whole genomes, including historical reconstructions of effective population size, genomic peaks of differentiation and genomic linkage, we infer that the form affinis is likely the product of a westward expansion in which it replaced a now-extinct congener that was the donor of its mtDNA and small portions of its nuclear genome. This study provides strong evidence of “ghost introgression” as the cause of DMD, and we suggest that “ghost introgression” may be a widely overlooked phenomenon in nature.

Population Gene Introgression and High Genome Plasticity for the Zoonotic Pathogen Streptococcus agalactiae

Thu, 25 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
The influence that bacterial adaptation (or niche partitioning) within species has on gene spillover and transmission among bacterial populations occupying different niches is not well understood. Streptococcus agalactiae is an important bacterial pathogen that has a taxonomically diverse host range making it an excellent model system to study these processes. Here, we analyze a global set of 901 genome sequences from nine diverse host species to advance our understanding of these processes. Bayesian clustering analysis delineated 12 major populations that closely aligned with niches. Comparative genomics revealed extensive gene gain/loss among populations and a large pan genome of 9,527 genes, which remained open and was strongly partitioned among niches. As a result, the biochemical characteristics of 11 populations were highly distinctive (significantly enriched). Positive selection was detected and biochemical characteristics of the dispensable genes under selection were enriched in ten populations. Despite the strong gene partitioning, phylogenomics detected gene spillover. In particular, tetracycline resistance (which likely evolved in the human-associated population) from humans to bovine, canines, seals, and fish, demonstrating how a gene selected in one host can ultimately be transmitted into another, and biased transmission from humans to bovines was confirmed with a Bayesian migration analysis. Our findings show high bacterial genome plasticity acting in balance with selection pressure from distinct functional requirements of niches that is associated with an extensive and highly partitioned dispensable genome, likely facilitating continued and expansive adaptation.

Admixture between Ancient Lineages, Selection, and the Formation of Sympatric Stickleback Species-Pairs

Tue, 16 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Ecological speciation has become a popular model for the development and maintenance of reproductive isolation in closely related sympatric pairs of species or ecotypes. An implicit assumption has been that such pairs originate (possibly with gene flow) from a recent, genetically homogeneous ancestor. However, recent genomic data have revealed that currently sympatric taxa are often a result of secondary contact between ancestrally allopatric lineages. This has sparked an interest in the importance of initial hybridization upon secondary contact, with genomic reanalysis of classic examples of ecological speciation often implicating admixture in speciation. We describe a novel occurrence of unusually well-developed reproductive isolation in a model system for ecological speciation: the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), breeding sympatrically in multiple lagoons on the Scottish island of North Uist. Using morphological data, targeted genotyping, and genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism data, we show that lagoon resident and anadromous ecotypes are strongly reproductively isolated with an estimated hybridization rate of only ∼1%. We use palaeoecological and genetic data to test three hypotheses to explain the existence of these species-pairs. Our results suggest that recent, purely ecological speciation from a genetically homogeneous ancestor is probably not solely responsible for the evolution of species-pairs. Instead, we reveal a complex colonization history with multiple ancestral lineages contributing to the genetic composition of species-pairs, alongside strong disruptive selection. Our results imply a role for admixture upon secondary contact and are consistent with the recent suggestion that the genomic underpinning of ecological speciation often has an older, allopatric origin.

De Novo Mutation Rate Estimation in Wolves of Known Pedigree

Fri, 12 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Knowledge of mutation rates is crucial for calibrating population genetics models of demographic history in units of years. However, mutation rates remain challenging to estimate because of the need to identify extremely rare events. We estimated the nuclear mutation rate in wolves by identifying de novo mutations in a pedigree of seven wolves. Putative de novo mutations were discovered by whole-genome sequencing and were verified by Sanger sequencing of parents and offspring. Using stringent filters and an estimate of the false negative rate in the remaining observable genome, we obtain an estimate of ∼4.5 × 10−9 per base pair per generation and provide conservative bounds between 2.6 × 10−9 and 7.1 × 10−9. Although our estimate is consistent with recent mutation rate estimates from ancient DNA (4.0 × 10−9 and 3.0–4.5 × 10−9), it suggests a wider possible range. We also examined the consequences of our rate and the accompanying interval for dating several critical events in canid demographic history. For example, applying our full range of rates to coalescent models of dog and wolf demographic history implies a wide set of possible divergence times between the ancestral populations of dogs and extant Eurasian wolves (16,000–64,000 years ago) although our point estimate indicates a date between 25,000 and 33,000 years ago. Aside from one study in mice, ours provides the only direct mammalian mutation rate outside of primates and is likely to be vital to future investigations of mutation rate evolution.

EPAS1 Gain-of-Function Mutation Contributes to High-Altitude Adaptation in Tibetan Horses

Thu, 04 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
High altitude represents some of the most extreme environments worldwide. The genetic changes underlying adaptation to such environments have been recently identified in multiple animals but remain unknown in horses. Here, we sequence the complete genome of 138 domestic horses encompassing a whole altitudinal range across China to uncover the genetic basis for adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia. Our genome data set includes 65 lowland animals across ten Chinese native breeds, 61 horses living at least 3,300 m above sea level across seven locations along Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, as well as 7 Thoroughbred and 5 Przewalski’s horses added for comparison. We find that Tibetan horses do not descend from Przewalski’s horses but were most likely introduced from a distinct horse lineage, following the emergence of pastoral nomadism in Northwestern China ∼3,700 years ago. We identify that the endothelial PAS domain protein 1 gene (EPAS1, also HIF2A) shows the strongest signature for positive selection in the Tibetan horse genome. Two missense mutations at this locus appear strongly associated with blood physiological parameters facilitating blood circulation as well as oxygen transportation and consumption in hypoxic conditions. Functional validation through protein mutagenesis shows that these mutations increase EPAS1 stability and its hetero dimerization affinity to ARNT (HIF1B). Our study demonstrates that missense mutations in the EPAS1 gene provided key evolutionary molecular adaptation to Tibetan horses living in high-altitude hypoxic environments. It reveals possible targets for genomic selection programs aimed at increasing hypoxia tolerance in livestock and provides a textbook example of evolutionary convergence across independent mammal lineages.

Parallel Evolution of HIV-1 in a Long-Term Experiment

Thu, 04 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
One of the most intriguing puzzles in biology is the degree to which evolution is repeatable. The repeatability of evolution, or parallel evolution, has been studied in a variety of model systems, but has rarely been investigated with clinically relevant viruses. To investigate parallel evolution of HIV-1, we passaged two replicate HIV-1 populations for almost 1 year in each of two human T-cell lines. For each of the four evolution lines, we determined the genetic composition of the viral population at nine time points by deep sequencing the entire genome. Mutations that were carried by the majority of the viral population accumulated continuously over 1 year in each evolution line. Many majority mutations appeared in more than one evolution line, that is, our experiments showed an extreme degree of parallel evolution. In one of the evolution lines, 62% of the majority mutations also occur in another line. The parallelism impairs our ability to reconstruct the evolutionary history by phylogenetic methods. We show that one can infer the correct phylogenetic topology by including minority mutations in our analysis. We also find that mutation diversity at the beginning of the experiment is predictive of the frequency of majority mutations at the end of the experiment.

Coevolution of Sites under Immune Selection Shapes Epstein–Barr Virus Population Structure

Tue, 02 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is one of the most common viral infections in humans and persists within its host for life. EBV therefore represents an extremely successful virus that has evolved complex strategies to evade the host’s innate and adaptive immune response during both initial and persistent stages of infection. Here, we conducted a comparative genomics analysis on 223 whole genome sequences of worldwide EBV strains. We recover extensive genome-wide linkage disequilibrium (LD) despite pervasive genetic recombination. This pattern is explained by the global EBV population being subdivided into three main subpopulations, one primarily found in East Asia, one in Southeast Asia and Oceania, and the third including most of the other globally distributed genomes we analyzed. Additionally, sites in LD were overrepresented in immunogenic genes. Taken together, our results suggest that host immune selection and local adaptation to different human host populations has shaped the genome-wide patterns of genetic diversity in EBV.

High Satellite Repeat Turnover in Great Apes Studied with Short- and Long-Read Technologies

Tue, 02 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Satellite repeats are a structural component of centromeres and telomeres, and in some instances, their divergence is known to drive speciation. Due to their highly repetitive nature, satellite sequences have been understudied and underrepresented in genome assemblies. To investigate their turnover in great apes, we studied satellite repeats of unit sizes up to 50 bp in human, chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, using unassembled short and long sequencing reads. The density of satellite repeats, as identified from accurate short reads (Illumina), varied greatly among great ape genomes. These were dominated by a handful of abundant repeated motifs, frequently shared among species, which formed two groups: 1) the (AATGG)n repeat (critical for heat shock response) and its derivatives; and 2) subtelomeric 32-mers involved in telomeric metabolism. Using the densities of abundant repeats, individuals could be classified into species. However, clustering did not reproduce the accepted species phylogeny, suggesting rapid repeat evolution. Several abundant repeats were enriched in males versus females; using Y chromosome assemblies or Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization, we validated their location on the Y. Finally, applying a novel computational tool, we identified many satellite repeats completely embedded within long Oxford Nanopore and Pacific Biosciences reads. Such repeats were up to 59 kb in length and consisted of perfect repeats interspersed with other similar sequences. Our results based on sequencing reads generated with three different technologies provide the first detailed characterization of great ape satellite repeats, and open new avenues for exploring their functions.

Meta-Omics Reveals Genetic Flexibility of Diatom Nitrogen Transporters in Response to Environmental Changes

Mon, 01 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Diatoms (Bacillariophyta), one of the most abundant and diverse groups of marine phytoplankton, respond rapidly to the supply of new nutrients, often out-competing other phytoplankton. Herein, we integrated analyses of the evolution, distribution, and expression modulation of two gene families involved in diatom nitrogen uptake (DiAMT1 and DiNRT2), in order to infer the main drivers of divergence in a key functional trait of phytoplankton. Our results suggest that major steps in the evolution of the two gene families reflected key events triggering diatom radiation and diversification. Their expression is modulated in the contemporary ocean by seawater temperature, nitrate, and iron concentrations. Moreover, the differences in diversity and expression of these gene families throughout the water column hint at a possible link with bacterial activity. This study represents a proof-of-concept of how a holistic approach may shed light on the functional biology of organisms in their natural environment.

Symbiosis, Selection, and Novelty: Freshwater Adaptation in the Unique Sponges of Lake Baikal

Thu, 27 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Freshwater sponges (Spongillida) are a unique lineage of demosponges that secondarily colonized lakes and rivers and are now found ubiquitously in these ecosystems. They developed specific adaptations to freshwater systems, including the ability to survive extreme thermal ranges, long-lasting dessication, anoxia, and resistance to a variety of pollutants. Although spongillids have colonized all freshwater systems, the family Lubomirskiidae is endemic to Lake Baikal and plays a range of key roles in this ecosystem. Our work compares the genomic content and microbiome of individuals of three species of the Lubomirskiidae, providing hypotheses for how molecular evolution has allowed them to adapt to their unique environments. We have sequenced deep (>92% of the metazoan “Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs” [BUSCO] set) transcriptomes from three species of Lubomirskiidae and a draft genome resource for Lubomirskia baikalensis. We note Baikal sponges contain unicellular algal and bacterial symbionts, as well as the dinoflagellate Gyrodinium. We investigated molecular evolution, gene duplication, and novelty in freshwater sponges compared with marine lineages. Sixty one orthogroups have consilient evidence of positive selection. Transporters (e.g., zinc transporter-2), transcription factors (aristaless-related homeobox), and structural proteins (e.g. actin-3), alongside other genes, are under strong evolutionary pressure in freshwater, with duplication driving novelty across the Spongillida, but especially in the Lubomirskiidae. This addition to knowledge of freshwater sponge genetics provides a range of tools for understanding the molecular biology and, in the future, the ecology (e.g., colonization and migration patterns) of these key species.

Genomic Patterns of Local Adaptation under Gene Flow in Arabidopsis lyrata

Tue, 25 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Short-scale local adaptation is a complex process involving selection, migration, and drift. The expected effects on the genome are well grounded in theory but examining these on an empirical level has proven difficult, as it requires information about local selection, demographic history, and recombination rate variation. Here, we use locally adapted and phenotypically differentiated Arabidopsis lyrata populations from two altitudinal gradients in Norway to test these expectations at the whole-genome level. Demography modeling indicates that populations within the gradients diverged <2 kya and that the sites are connected by gene flow. The gene flow estimates are, however, highly asymmetric with migration from high to low altitudes being several times more frequent than vice versa. To detect signatures of selection for local adaptation, we estimate patterns of lineage-specific differentiation among these populations. Theory predicts that gene flow leads to concentration of adaptive loci in areas of low recombination; a pattern we observe in both lowland-alpine comparisons. Although most selected loci display patterns of conditional neutrality, we found indications of genetic trade-offs, with one locus particularly showing high differentiation and signs of selection in both populations. Our results further suggest that resistance to solar radiation is an important adaptation to alpine environments, while vegetative growth and bacterial defense are indicated as selected traits in the lowland habitats. These results provide insights into genetic architectures and evolutionary processes driving local adaptation under gene flow. We also contribute to understanding of traits and biological processes underlying alpine adaptation in northern latitudes.

Phylogenomics Reveals an Ancient Hybrid Origin of the Persian Walnut

Tue, 04 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Persian walnut (Juglans regia) is cultivated worldwide for its high-quality wood and nuts, but its origin has remained mysterious because in phylogenies it occupies an unresolved position between American black walnuts and Asian butternuts. Equally unclear is the origin of the only American butternut, J. cinerea. We resequenced the whole genome of 80 individuals from 19 of the 22 species of Juglans and assembled the genome of its relatives Pterocarya stenoptera and Platycarya strobilacea. Using phylogenetic-network analysis of single-copy nuclear genes, genome-wide site pattern probabilities, and Approximate Bayesian Computation, we discovered that J. regia (and its landrace J. sigillata) arose as a hybrid between the American and the Asian lineages and that J. cinerea resulted from massive introgression from an immigrating Asian butternut into the genome of an American black walnut. Approximate Bayesian Computation modeling placed the hybrid origin in the late Pliocene, ∼3.45 My, with both parental lineages since having gone extinct in Europe.

GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

Highlight: New Solutions and Open Questions in Computational Evolutionary Biology

Thu, 07 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The dawn of the computer and information age in the last century left virtually no field untouched. In biology, computational advances enabled scientists to generate, store, and analyze large-scale data sets that could scarcely have been imagined decades earlier. These advances ultimately led to the publication of the first bacterial genome sequence in 1995 (Fleischmann et al. 1995), and with it, the birth of the genomics era. The advent of high-throughput sequencing further accelerated the pace of data generation to an unprecedented rate. Now, less than a quarter of a century later, genomic data for almost 220,000 individual organisms and another 25,000 metagenomes are currently available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website, and Genome Biology and Evolution has played a role in publishing numerous articles in the field of computational evolutionary biology.

Corrigendum to: “An Upper Limit on the Functional Fraction of the Human Genome”

Wed, 06 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Genome Biol. Evol. 9(7):1880–1885; doi:10.1093/gbe/evx121

Draft Genome of the Rice CoralMontipora capitata Obtained from Linked-Read Sequencing

Mon, 04 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Genome Biol. Evol. 11(7):2045–2054; doi:10.1093/gbe/evz135

Genomic Basis of Convergent Island Phenotypes in Boa Constrictors

Wed, 23 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Convergent evolution is often documented in organisms inhabiting isolated environments with distinct ecological conditions and similar selective regimes. Several Central America islands harbor dwarf Boa populations that are characterized by distinct differences in growth, mass, and craniofacial morphology, which are linked to the shared arboreal and feast-famine ecology of these island populations. Using high-density RADseq data, we inferred three dwarf island populations with independent origins and demonstrate that selection, along with genetic drift, has produced both divergent and convergent molecular evolution across island populations. Leveraging whole-genome resequencing data for 20 individuals and a newly annotated Boa genome, we identify four genes with evidence of phenotypically relevant protein-coding variation that differentiate island and mainland populations. The known roles of these genes involved in body growth (PTPRS, DMGDH, and ARSB), circulating fat and cholesterol levels (MYLIP), and craniofacial development (DMGDH and ARSB) in mammals link patterns of molecular evolution with the unique phenotypes of these island forms. Our results provide an important genome-wide example for quantifying expectations of selection and convergence in closely related populations. We also find evidence at several genomic loci that selection may be a prominent force of evolutionary change—even for small island populations for which drift is predicted to dominate. Overall, while phenotypically convergent island populations show relatively few loci under strong selection, infrequent patterns of molecular convergence are still apparent and implicate genes with strong connections to convergent phenotypes.

A Nearly Complete Genome of Ciona intestinalis Type A (C. robusta) Reveals the Contribution of Inversion to Chromosomal Evolution in the Genus Ciona

Tue, 22 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Since its initial publication in 2002, the genome of Ciona intestinalis type A (Ciona robusta), the first genome sequence of an invertebrate chordate, has provided a valuable resource for a wide range of biological studies, including developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience. The genome assembly was updated in 2008, and it included 68% of the sequence information in 14 pairs of chromosomes. However, a more contiguous genome is required for analyses of higher order genomic structure and of chromosomal evolution. Here, we provide a new genome assembly for an inbred line of this animal, constructed with short and long sequencing reads and Hi-C data. In this latest assembly, over 95% of the 123 Mb of sequence data was included in the chromosomes. Short sequencing reads predicted a genome size of 114–120 Mb; therefore, it is likely that the current assembly contains almost the entire genome, although this estimate of genome size was smaller than previous estimates. Remapping of the Hi-C data onto the new assembly revealed a large inversion in the genome of the inbred line. Moreover, a comparison of this genome assembly with that of Ciona savignyi, a different species in the same genus, revealed many chromosomal inversions between these two Ciona species, suggesting that such inversions have occurred frequently and have contributed to chromosomal evolution of Ciona species. Thus, the present assembly greatly improves an essential resource for genome-wide studies of ascidians.

GingerRoot: A Novel DNA Transposon Encoding Integrase-Related Transposase in Plants and Animals

Mon, 21 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Transposable elements represent the largest components of many eukaryotic genomes and different genomes harbor different combinations of elements. Here, we discovered a novel DNA transposon in the genome of the clubmoss Selaginella lepidophylla. Further searching for related sequences to the conserved DDE region uncovered the presence of this superfamily of elements in fish, coral, sea anemone, and other animal species. However, this element appears restricted to Bryophytes and Lycophytes in plants. This transposon, named GingerRoot, is associated with a 6 bp (base pair) target site duplication, and 100–150 bp terminal inverted repeats. Analysis of transposase sequences identified the DDE motif, a catalytic domain, which shows similarity to the integrase of Gypsy-like long terminal repeat retrotransposons, the most abundant component in plant genomes. A total of 77 intact and several hundred truncated copies of GingerRoot elements were identified in S. lepidophylla. Like Gypsy retrotransposons, GingerRoots show a lack of insertion preference near genes, which contrasts to the compact genome size of about 100 Mb. Nevertheless, a considerable portion of GingerRoot elements was found to carry gene fragments, suggesting the capacity of duplicating gene sequences is unlikely attributed to the proximity to genes. Elements carrying gene fragments appear to be less methylated, more diverged, and more distal to genes than those without gene fragments, indicating they are preferentially retained in gene-poor regions. This study has identified a broadly dispersed, novel DNA transposon, and the first plant DNA transposon with an integrase-related transposase, suggesting the possibility of de novo formation of Gypsy-like elements in plants.

Complex Evolutionary Origins of Specialized Metabolite Gene Cluster Diversity among the Plant Pathogenic Fungi of the Fusarium graminearum Species Complex

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Fungal genomes encode highly organized gene clusters that underlie the production of specialized (or secondary) metabolites. Gene clusters encode key functions to exploit plant hosts or environmental niches. Promiscuous exchange among species and frequent reconfigurations make gene clusters some of the most dynamic elements of fungal genomes. Despite evidence for high diversity in gene cluster content among closely related strains, the microevolutionary processes driving gene cluster gain, loss, and neofunctionalization are largely unknown. We analyzed the Fusarium graminearum species complex (FGSC) composed of plant pathogens producing potent mycotoxins and causing Fusarium head blight on cereals. We de novo assembled genomes of previously uncharacterized FGSC members (two strains of F. austroamericanum, F. cortaderiae, and F. meridionale). Our analyses of 8 species of the FGSC in addition to 15 other Fusarium species identified a pangenome of 54 gene clusters within FGSC. We found that multiple independent losses were a key factor generating extant cluster diversity within the FGSC and the Fusarium genus. We identified a modular gene cluster conserved among distantly related fungi, which was likely reconfigured to encode different functions. We also found strong evidence that a rare cluster in FGSC was gained through an ancient horizontal transfer between bacteria and fungi. Chromosomal rearrangements underlying cluster loss were often complex and were likely facilitated by an enrichment in specific transposable elements. Our findings identify important transitory stages in the birth and death process of specialized metabolism gene clusters among very closely related species.

Deciphering Ancestral Sex Chromosome Turnovers Based on Analysis of Male Mutation Bias

Sat, 12 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
The age of sex chromosomes is commonly obtained by comparing the substitution rates of XY gametologs. Coupled with phylogenetic reconstructions, one can refine the origin of a sex chromosome system relative to specific speciation events. However, these approaches are insufficient to determine the presence and duration of ancestral sex chromosome systems that were lost in some species. In this study, we worked with genomic and transcriptomic data from mammals and squamates and analyzed the effect of male mutation bias on X-linked sequences in these groups. We searched for signatures indicating whether monotremes shared the same sex chromosomes with placental mammals or whether pleurodonts and acrodonts had a common ancestral sex chromosome system. Our analyses indicate that platypus did not share the XY chromosomes with placental mammals, in agreement with previous work. In contrast, analyses of agamids showed that this lineage maintained the pleurodont XY chromosomes for several million years. We performed multiple simulations using different strengths of male mutation bias to confirm the results. Overall, our work shows that variations in substitution rates due to male mutation bias could be applied to uncover signatures of ancestral sex chromosome systems.

Interspecific Gene Exchange Introduces High Genetic Variability in Crop Pathogen

Fri, 11 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Genome analyses have revealed a profound role of hybridization and introgression in the evolution of many eukaryote lineages, including fungi. The impact of recurrent introgression on fungal evolution however remains elusive. Here, we analyzed signatures of introgression along the genome of the fungal wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici. We applied a comparative population genomics approach, including genome data from five Zymoseptoria species, to characterize the distribution and composition of introgressed regions representing segments with an exceptional haplotype pattern. These regions are found throughout the genome, comprising 5% of the total genome and overlapping with > 1,000 predicted genes. We performed window-based phylogenetic analyses along the genome to distinguish regions which have a monophyletic or nonmonophyletic origin with Z. tritici sequences. A majority of nonmonophyletic windows overlap with the highly variable regions suggesting that these originate from introgression. We verified that incongruent gene genealogies do not result from incomplete lineage sorting by comparing the observed and expected length distribution of haplotype blocks resulting from incomplete lineage sorting. Although protein-coding genes are not enriched in these regions, we identify 18 that encode putative virulence determinants. Moreover, we find an enrichment of transposable elements in these regions implying that hybridization may contribute to the horizontal spread of transposable elements. We detected a similar pattern in the closely related species Zymoseptoria ardabiliae, suggesting that hybridization is widespread among these closely related grass pathogens. Overall, our results demonstrate a significant impact of recurrent hybridization on overall genome evolution of this important wheat pathogen.

Compound Dynamics and Combinatorial Patterns of Amino Acid Repeats Encode a System of Evolutionary and Developmental Markers

Mon, 07 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Homopolymeric amino acid repeats (AARs) like polyalanine (polyA) and polyglutamine (polyQ) in some developmental proteins (DPs) regulate certain aspects of organismal morphology and behavior, suggesting an evolutionary role for AARs as developmental “tuning knobs.” It is still unclear, however, whether these are occasional protein-specific phenomena or hints at the existence of a whole AAR-based regulatory system in DPs. Using novel approaches to trace their functional and evolutionary history, we find quantitative evidence supporting a generalized, combinatorial role of AARs in developmental processes with evolutionary implications. We observe nonrandom AAR distributions and combinations in HOX and other DPs, as well as in their interactomes, defining elements of a proteome-wide combinatorial functional code whereby different AARs and their combinations appear preferentially in proteins involved in the development of specific organs/systems. Such functional associations can be either static or display detectable evolutionary dynamics. These findings suggest that progressive changes in AAR occurrence/combination, by altering embryonic development, may have contributed to taxonomic divergence, leaving detectable traces in the evolutionary history of proteomes. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that the evolutionary trajectories of the 20 AARs in eukaryotic proteomes are highly interrelated and their individual or compound dynamics can sharply mark taxonomic boundaries, or display clock-like trends, carrying overall a strong phylogenetic signal. These findings provide quantitative evidence and an interpretive framework outlining a combinatorial system of AARs whose compound dynamics mark at the same time DP functions and evolutionary transitions.

New Non-Bilaterian Transcriptomes Provide Novel Insights into the Evolution of Coral Skeletomes

Fri, 13 Sep 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
A general trend observed in animal skeletomes—the proteins occluded in animal skeletons—is the copresence of taxonomically widespread and lineage-specific proteins that actively regulate the biomineralization process. Among cnidarians, the skeletomes of scleractinian corals have been shown to follow this trend. However, distributions and phylogenetic analyses of biomineralization-related genes are often based on only a few species, with other anthozoan calcifiers such as octocorals (soft corals), not being fully considered. We de novo assembled the transcriptomes of four soft-coral species characterized by different calcification strategies (aragonite skeleton vs. calcitic sclerites) and data-mined published nonbilaterian transcriptome resources to construct a taxonomically comprehensive sequence database to map the distribution of scleractinian and octocoral skeletome components. Cnidaria shared no skeletome proteins with Placozoa or Ctenophora, but did share some skeletome proteins with Porifera, such as galaxin-related proteins. Within Scleractinia and Octocorallia, we expanded the distribution for several taxonomically restricted genes such as secreted acidic proteins, scleritin, and carbonic anhydrases, and propose an early, single biomineralization-recruitment event for galaxin sensu stricto. Additionally, we show that the enrichment of acidic residues within skeletogenic proteins did not occur at the Corallimorpharia–Scleractinia transition, but appears to be associated with protein secretion into the organic matrix. Finally, the distribution of octocoral calcification-related proteins appears independent of skeleton mineralogy (i.e., aragonite/calcite) with no differences in the proportion of shared skeletogenic proteins between scleractinians and aragonitic or calcitic octocorals. This points to skeletome homogeneity within but not between groups of calcifying cnidarians, although some proteins such as galaxins and SCRiP-3a could represent instances of commonality.

Phylogenomic Analysis of a Putative Missing Link Sparks Reinterpretation of Leech Evolution

Wed, 19 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Leeches (Hirudinida) comprise a charismatic, yet often maligned group of worms. Despite their ecological, economic, and medical importance, a general consensus on the phylogenetic relationships of major hirudinidan lineages is lacking. This absence of a consistent, robust phylogeny of early-diverging lineages has hindered our understanding of the underlying processes that enabled evolutionary diversification of this clade. Here, we used an anchored hybrid enrichment-based phylogenomic approach, capturing hundreds of loci to investigate phylogenetic relationships among major hirudinidan lineages and their closest living relatives. We recovered Branchiobdellida as sister to a clade that includes all major lineages of hirudinidans and Acanthobdella, casting doubt on the utility of Acanthobdella as a “missing link” between hirudinidans and the clitellate group formerly known as Oligochaeta. Further, our results corroborate the reciprocal monophyly of jawed and proboscis-bearing leeches. Our phylogenomic resolution of early-diverging leeches provides a useful framework for illuminating the evolution of key adaptations and host–symbiont associations that have allowed leeches to colonize a wide diversity of habitats worldwide.