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.


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

Size of conference

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

Approximate timelines




Last day of the conference of the preceding year.

Initial website goes live



●       venue

●       opportunities for sponsorship

●       composition of the organizing committee

●       contact information for the conference organizer.

10 months before the date of the conference.

Call for symposia opens

See ‘Call for symposia’ below.

9 months before the date of the conference

Call for symposia closes


8.5 months before the conference

Notification of successful Symposia


8 months before the conference

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


8 months before the conference

Early bird registration opens

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

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

7 months before the conference

Abstract submission and award applications open

6 months before the conference

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

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

2-3 weeks prior to council decision of travel awards

Deadline for symposium organizers’ talk selection

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

2 weeks before early bird registration closes

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

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

4 months before the conference

Early bird registration closes, full price registration opens


2 months before the conference

Full programme available online

Until the conference begins

Full cost registration

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

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

Post-meeting survey

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

Structure of the conference


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

Council meeting

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

Scientific content

Limit oral presentations per person

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

Presenter information

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

Plenary lectures

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

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

Special symposia

Fitch Symposium

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

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

Open Symposium

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

Faculty awards symposium

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

Parallel symposia

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

Number of symposia

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

Call for symposia

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

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

Selection of the symposia

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

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

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

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

The LOC selects the talks for the Open Symposium.


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

Selecting speakers

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

Poster sessions

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

Social events

Please provide vegetarian/vegan options with all catering.

Breaks and catering

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

Welcome reception

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

Gala Dinner  (banquet)

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

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

Awards Ceremony

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

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

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

Post-conference survey

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

Certificates of attendance

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

Post meeting reporting

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

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

Awards (see

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

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

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

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

1.     Faculty awards

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

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

2.     Fitch awards

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

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

3.     Undergraduate mentoring and diversity travel awards

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

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

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

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

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

4.     Graduate and postdoc travel awards

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

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

5.     Poster awards

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

6.     Best GBE and MBE papers awards

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

7.     Registration awards

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

8.     Carer travel awards

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

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


Payment for registration

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

Registration fees

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

Registration data

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

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

Registration should include declarations of:

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

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

Registration giveaways at the meeting

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


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

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

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

Conference website, programme, and app

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


Must include:

promotion of travel and child care awards

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

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


The timetable should ideally be available in three formats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional requirements for the online programme

A participant list should be provided in the web programme.

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

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

Essential conference app features

●       Available in both iPhone and Android formats

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

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

●       Updateable and updated daily

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

●       Allow announcements

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

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

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



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

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

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

Free, secure wifi should be available throughout the venue.

Onsite child care

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

Speaker set-up

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


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

Appendix 1: SMBE policies

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

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

Appendix 2: Call for proposals for conference

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

●       North America

●       Europe

●       Rest of the World

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

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Butterfly Mimicry Polymorphisms Highlight Phylogenetic Limits of Gene Reuse in the Evolution of Diverse Adaptations

Wed, 28 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Some genes have repeatedly been found to control diverse adaptations in a wide variety of organisms. Such gene reuse reveals not only the diversity of phenotypes these unique genes control but also the composition of developmental gene networks and the genetic routes available to and taken by organisms during adaptation. However, the causes of gene reuse remain unclear. A small number of large-effect Mendelian loci control a huge diversity of mimetic butterfly wing color patterns, but reasons for their reuse are difficult to identify because the genetic basis of mimicry has primarily been studied in two systems with correlated factors: female-limited Batesian mimicry in Papilio swallowtails (Papilionidae) and non-sex-limited Müllerian mimicry in Heliconius longwings (Nymphalidae). Here, we break the correlation between phylogenetic relationship and sex-limited mimicry by identifying loci controlling female-limited mimicry polymorphism Hypolimnas misippus (Nymphalidae) and non-sex-limited mimicry polymorphism in Papilio clytia (Papilionidae). The Papilio clytia polymorphism is controlled by the genome region containing the gene cortex, the classic P supergene in Heliconius numata, and loci controlling color pattern variation across Lepidoptera. In contrast, female-limited mimicry polymorphism in Hypolimnas misippus is associated with a locus not previously implicated in color patterning. Thus, although many species repeatedly converged on cortex and its neighboring genes over 120 My of evolution of diverse color patterns, female-limited mimicry polymorphisms each evolved using a different gene. Our results support conclusions that gene reuse occurs mainly within ∼10 My and highlight the puzzling diversity of genes controlling seemingly complex female-limited mimicry polymorphisms.

Opposing Pressures of Speed and Efficiency Guide the Evolution of Molecular Machines

Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Many biomolecular machines need to be both fast and efficient. How has evolution optimized these machines along the tradeoff between speed and efficiency? We explore this question using optimizable dynamical models along coordinates that are plausible evolutionary degrees of freedom. Data on 11 motors and ion pumps are consistent with the hypothesis that evolution seeks an optimal balance of speed and efficiency, where any further small increase in one of these quantities would come at great expense to the other. For FoF1-ATPases in different species, we also find apparent optimization of the number of subunits in the c-ring, which determines the number of protons pumped per ATP synthesized. Interestingly, these ATPases appear to more optimized for efficiency than for speed, which can be rationalized through their key role as energy transducers in biology. The present modeling shows how the dynamical performance properties of biomolecular motors and pumps may have evolved to suit their corresponding biological actions.

Horizontal Transfer of Promiscuous Activity from Nonphotosynthetic Bacteria Contributed to Evolution of Chlorophyll Degradation Pathway

Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The relationship between enzymes and substrates does not perfectly match the “lock and key” model, because enzymes act on molecules other than their true substrate in different catalytic reactions. Such biologically nonfunctional reactions are called “promiscuous activities.” Promiscuous activities are apparently useless, but they can be an important starting point for enzyme evolution. It has been hypothesized that enzymes with low promiscuous activity will show enhanced promiscuous activity under selection pressure and become new specialists through gene duplication. Although this is the prevailing scenario, there are two major problems: 1) it would not apply to prokaryotes because horizontal gene transfer is more significant than gene duplication and 2) there is no direct evidence that promiscuous activity is low without selection pressure. We propose a new scenario including various levels of promiscuous activity throughout a clade and horizontal gene transfer. STAY-GREEN (SGR), a chlorophyll a—Mg dechelating enzyme, has homologous genes in bacteria lacking chlorophyll. We found that some bacterial SGR homologs have much higher Mg-dechelating activities than those of green plant SGRs, while others have no activity, indicating that the level of promiscuous activity varies. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that a bacterial SGR homolog with high dechelating activity was horizontally transferred to a photosynthetic eukaryote. Some SGR homologs acted on various chlorophyll molecules that are not used as substrates by green plant SGRs, indicating that SGR acquired substrate specificity after transfer to eukaryotes. We propose that horizontal transfer of high promiscuous activity is one process of new enzyme acquisition.

Unusual Patterns of Mitochondrial Inheritance in the Brown Alga Ectocarpus

Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Most eukaryotes inherit their mitochondria from only one of their parents. When there are different sexes, it is almost always the maternal mitochondria that are transmitted. Indeed, maternal uniparental inheritance has been reported for the brown alga Ectocarpus but we show in this study that different strains of Ectocarpus can exhibit different patterns of inheritance: Ectocarpus siliculosus strains showed maternal uniparental inheritance, as expected, but crosses using different Ectocarpus species 7 strains exhibited either paternal uniparental inheritance or an unusual pattern of transmission where progeny inherited either maternal or paternal mitochondria, but not both. A possible correlation between the pattern of mitochondrial inheritance and male gamete parthenogenesis was investigated. Moreover, in contrast to observations in the green lineage, we did not detect any change in the pattern of mitochondrial inheritance in mutant strains affected in life cycle progression. Finally, an analysis of field-isolated strains provided evidence of mitochondrial genome recombination in both Ectocarpus species.

Comparative Genomic Characterization of the Multimammate Mouse Mastomys coucha

Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Mastomys are the most widespread African rodent and carriers of various diseases such as the plague or Lassa virus. In addition, mastomys have rapidly gained a large number of mammary glands. Here, we generated a genome, variome, and transcriptomes for Mastomys coucha. As mastomys diverged at similar times from mouse and rat, we demonstrate their utility as a comparative genomic tool for these commonly used animal models. Furthermore, we identified over 500 mastomys accelerated regions, often residing near important mammary developmental genes or within their exons leading to protein sequence changes. Functional characterization of a noncoding mastomys accelerated region, located in the HoxD locus, showed enhancer activity in mouse developing mammary glands. Combined, our results provide genomic resources for mastomys and highlight their potential both as a comparative genomic tool and for the identification of mammary gland number determining factors.

NUQA: Estimating Cancer Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity and Evolution through Alignment-Free Methods

Mon, 19 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Longitudinal next-generation sequencing of cancer patient samples has enhanced our understanding of the evolution and progression of various cancers. As a result, and due to our increasing knowledge of heterogeneity, such sampling is becoming increasingly common in research and clinical trial sample collections. Traditionally, the evolutionary analysis of these cohorts involves the use of an aligner followed by subsequent stringent downstream analyses. However, this can lead to large levels of information loss due to the vast mutational landscape that characterizes tumor samples.Here, we propose an alignment-free approach for sequence comparison—a well-established approach in a range of biological applications including typical phylogenetic classification. Such methods could be used to compare information collated in raw sequence files to allow an unsupervised assessment of the evolutionary trajectory of patient genomic profiles.In order to highlight this utility in cancer research we have applied our alignment-free approach using a previously established metric, Jensen–Shannon divergence, and a metric novel to this area, Hellinger distance, to two longitudinal cancer patient cohorts in glioma and clear cell renal cell carcinoma using our software, NUQA.We hypothesize that this approach has the potential to reveal novel information about the heterogeneity and evolutionary trajectory of spatiotemporal tumor samples, potentially revealing early events in tumorigenesis and the origins of metastases and recurrences.Key words: alignment-free, Hellinger distance, exome-seq, evolution, phylogenetics, longitudinal.

Contemporary Demographic Reconstruction Methods Are Robust to Genome Assembly Quality: A Case Study in Tasmanian Devils

Mon, 19 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Reconstructing species’ demographic histories is a central focus of molecular ecology and evolution. Recently, an expanding suite of methods leveraging either the sequentially Markovian coalescent (SMC) or the site-frequency spectrum has been developed to reconstruct population size histories from genomic sequence data. However, few studies have investigated the robustness of these methods to genome assemblies of varying quality. In this study, we first present an improved genome assembly for the Tasmanian devil using the Chicago library method. Compared with the original reference genome, our new assembly reduces the number of scaffolds (from 35,975 to 10,010) and increases the scaffold N90 (from 0.101 to 2.164 Mb). Second, we assess the performance of four contemporary genomic methods for inferring population size history (PSMC, MSMC, SMC++, Stairway Plot), using the two devil genome assemblies as well as simulated, artificially fragmented genomes that approximate the hypothesized demographic history of Tasmanian devils. We demonstrate that each method is robust to assembly quality, producing similar estimates of Ne when simulated genomes were fragmented into up to 5,000 scaffolds. Overall, methods reliant on the SMC are most reliable between ∼300 generations before present (gbp) and 100 kgbp, whereas methods exclusively reliant on the site-frequency spectrum are most reliable between the present and 30 gbp. Our results suggest that when used in concert, genomic methods for reconstructing species’ effective population size histories 1) can be applied to nonmodel organisms without highly contiguous reference genomes, and 2) are capable of detecting independently documented effects of historical geological events.

Diversification of Retinoblastoma Protein Function Associated with Cis and Trans Adaptations

Mon, 19 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Retinoblastoma proteins are eukaryotic transcriptional corepressors that play central roles in cell cycle control, among other functions. Although most metazoan genomes encode a single retinoblastoma protein, gene duplications have occurred at least twice: in the vertebrate lineage, leading to Rb, p107, and p130, and in Drosophila, an ancestral Rbf1 gene and a derived Rbf2 gene. Structurally, Rbf1 resembles p107 and p130, and mutation of the gene is lethal. Rbf2 is more divergent and mutation does not lead to lethality. However, the retention of Rbf2 >60 My in Drosophila points to essential functions, which prior cell-based assays have been unable to elucidate. Here, using genomic approaches, we provide new insights on the function of Rbf2. Strikingly, we show that Rbf2 regulates a set of cell growth-related genes and can antagonize Rbf1 on specific genes. These unique properties have important implications for the fly; Rbf2 mutants show reduced egg laying, and lifespan is reduced in females and males. Structural alterations in conserved regions of Rbf2 gene suggest that it was sub- or neofunctionalized to develop specific regulatory specificity and activity. We define cis-regulatory features of Rbf2 target genes that allow preferential repression by this protein, indicating that it is not a weaker version of Rbf1 as previously thought. The specialization of retinoblastoma function in Drosophila may reflect a parallel evolution found in vertebrates, and raises the possibility that cell growth control is equally important to cell cycle function for this conserved family of transcriptional corepressors.

Sequenceserver: A Modern Graphical User Interface for Custom BLAST Databases

Wed, 14 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Comparing newly obtained and previously known nucleotide and amino-acid sequences underpins modern biological research. BLAST is a well-established tool for such comparisons but is challenging to use on new data sets. We combined a user-centric design philosophy with sustainable software development approaches to create Sequenceserver, a tool for running BLAST and visually inspecting BLAST results for biological interpretation. Sequenceserver uses simple algorithms to prevent potential analysis errors and provides flexible text-based and visual outputs to support researcher productivity. Our software can be rapidly installed for use by individuals or on shared servers.

Direct Evidence of an Increasing Mutational Load in Humans

Tue, 13 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The extent to which selection has shaped present-day human populations has attracted intense scrutiny, and examples of local adaptations abound. However, the evolutionary trajectory of alleles that, today, are deleterious has received much less attention. To address this question, the genomes of 2,062 individuals, including 1,179 ancient humans, were reanalyzed to assess how frequencies of risk alleles and their homozygosity changed through space and time in Europe over the past 45,000 years. Although the overall deleterious homozygosity has consistently decreased, risk alleles have steadily increased in frequency over that period of time. Those that increased most are associated with diseases such as asthma, Crohn disease, diabetes, and obesity, which are highly prevalent in present-day populations. These findings may not run against the existence of local adaptations but highlight the limitations imposed by drift and population dynamics on the strength of selection in purging deleterious mutations from human populations.

Optimizing the Power to Identify the Genetic Basis of Complex Traits with Evolve and Resequence Studies

Sat, 10 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Evolve and resequence (E&R) studies are frequently used to dissect the genetic basis of quantitative traits. By subjecting a population to truncating selection for several generations and estimating the allele frequency differences between selected and nonselected populations using next-generation sequencing (NGS), the loci contributing to the selected trait may be identified. The role of different parameters, such as, the population size or the number of replicate populations has been examined in previous works. However, the influence of the selection regime, that is the strength of truncating selection during the experiment, remains little explored. Using whole genome, individual based forward simulations of E&R studies, we found that the power to identify the causative alleles may be maximized by gradually increasing the strength of truncating selection during the experiment. Notably, such an optimal selection regime comes at no or little additional cost in terms of sequencing effort and experimental time. Interestingly, we also found that a selection regime which optimizes the power to identify the causative loci is not necessarily identical to a regime that maximizes the phenotypic response. Finally, our simulations suggest that an E&R study with an optimized selection regime may have a higher power to identify the genetic basis of quantitative traits than a genome-wide association study, highlighting that E&R is a powerful approach for finding the loci underlying complex traits.

Impact of In Vivo Protein Folding Probability on Local Fitness Landscapes

Sat, 10 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

It is incompletely understood how biophysical properties like protein stability impact molecular evolution and epistasis. Epistasis is defined as specific when a mutation exclusively influences the phenotypic effect of another mutation, often at physically interacting residues. In contrast, nonspecific epistasis results when a mutation is influenced by a large number of nonlocal mutations. As most mutations are pleiotropic, the in vivo folding probability—governed by basal protein stability—is thought to determine activity-enhancing mutational tolerance, implying that nonspecific epistasis is dominant. However, evidence exists for both specific and nonspecific epistasis as the prevalent factor, with limited comprehensive data sets to support either claim. Here, we use deep mutational scanning to probe how in vivo enzyme folding probability impacts local fitness landscapes. We computationally designed two different variants of the amidase AmiE with statistically indistinguishable catalytic efficiencies but lower probabilities of folding in vivo compared with wild-type. Local fitness landscapes show slight alterations among variants, with essentially the same global distribution of fitness effects. However, specific epistasis was predominant for the subset of mutations exhibiting positive sign epistasis. These mutations mapped to spatially distinct locations on AmiE near the initial mutation or proximal to the active site. Intriguingly, the majority of specific epistatic mutations were codon dependent, with different synonymous codons resulting in fitness sign reversals. Together, these results offer a nuanced view of how protein folding probability impacts local fitness landscapes and suggest that transcriptional–translational effects are as important as stability in determining evolutionary outcomes.

Accurate Tracking of the Mutational Landscape of Diploid Hybrid Genomes

Fri, 09 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Mutations, recombinations, and genome duplications may promote genetic diversity and trigger evolutionary processes. However, quantifying these events in diploid hybrid genomes is challenging. Here, we present an integrated experimental and computational workflow to accurately track the mutational landscape of yeast diploid hybrids (MuLoYDH) in terms of single-nucleotide variants, small insertions/deletions, copy-number variants, aneuploidies, and loss-of-heterozygosity. Pairs of haploid Saccharomyces parents were combined to generate ancestor hybrids with phased genomes and varying levels of heterozygosity. These diploids were evolved under different laboratory protocols, in particular mutation accumulation experiments. Variant simulations enabled the efficient integration of competitive and standard mapping of short reads, depending on local levels of heterozygosity. Experimental validations proved the high accuracy and resolution of our computational approach. Finally, applying MuLoYDH to four different diploids revealed striking genetic background effects. Homozygous Saccharomyces cerevisiae showed a ∼4-fold higher mutation rate compared with its closely related species S. paradoxus. Intraspecies hybrids unveiled that a substantial fraction of the genome (∼250 bp per generation) was shaped by loss-of-heterozygosity, a process strongly inhibited in interspecies hybrids by high levels of sequence divergence between homologous chromosomes. In contrast, interspecies hybrids exhibited higher single-nucleotide mutation rates compared with intraspecies hybrids. MuLoYDH provided an unprecedented quantitative insight into the evolutionary processes that mold diploid yeast genomes and can be generalized to other genetic systems.

Parallel Evolution of Complex Centipede Venoms Revealed by Comparative Proteotranscriptomic Analyses

Thu, 08 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Centipedes are among the most ancient groups of venomous predatory arthropods. Extant species belong to five orders, but our understanding of the composition and evolution of centipede venoms is based almost exclusively on one order, Scolopendromorpha. To gain a broader and less biased understanding we performed a comparative proteotranscriptomic analysis of centipede venoms from all five orders, including the first venom profiles for the orders Lithobiomorpha, Craterostigmomorpha, and Geophilomorpha. Our results reveal an astonishing structural diversity of venom components, with 93 phylogenetically distinct protein and peptide families. Proteomically-annotated gene trees of these putative toxin families show that centipede venom composition is highly dynamic across macroevolutionary timescales, with numerous gene duplications as well as functional recruitments and losses of toxin gene families. Strikingly, not a single family is found in the venoms of representatives of all five orders, with 67 families being unique for single orders. Ancestral state reconstructions reveal that centipede venom originated as a simple cocktail comprising just four toxin families, with very little compositional evolution happening during the approximately 50 My before the living orders had diverged. Venom complexity then increased in parallel within the orders, with scolopendromorphs evolving particularly complex venoms. Our results show that even venoms composed of toxins evolving under the strong constraint of negative selection can have striking evolutionary plasticity on the compositional level. We show that the functional recruitments and losses of toxin families that shape centipede venom arsenals are not concentrated early in their evolutionary history, but happen frequently throughout.

A Three-Sample Test for Introgression

Fri, 02 Aug 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Many methods exist for detecting introgression between nonsister species, but the most commonly used require either a single sequence from four or more taxa or multiple sequences from each of three taxa. Here, we present a test for introgression that uses only a single sequence from three taxa. This test, denoted D3, uses similar logic as the standard D-test for introgression, but by using pairwise distances instead of site patterns it is able to detect the same signal of introgression with fewer species. We use simulations to show that D3 has statistical power almost equal to D, demonstrating its use on a data set of wild bananas (Musa). The new test is easy to apply and easy to interpret, and should find wide use among currently available data sets.

From Root to Tips: Sporulation Evolution and Specialization in Bacillus subtilis and the Intestinal Pathogen Clostridioides difficile

Mon, 29 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Bacteria of the Firmicutes phylum are able to enter a developmental pathway that culminates with the formation of highly resistant, dormant endospores. Endospores allow environmental persistence, dissemination and for pathogens, are also infection vehicles. In both the model Bacillus subtilis, an aerobic organism, and in the intestinal pathogen Clostridioides difficile, an obligate anaerobe, sporulation mobilizes hundreds of genes. Their expression is coordinated between the forespore and the mother cell, the two cells that participate in the process, and is kept in close register with the course of morphogenesis. The evolutionary mechanisms by which sporulation emerged and evolved in these two species, and more broadly across Firmicutes, remain largely unknown. Here, we trace the origin and evolution of sporulation using the genes known to be involved in the process in B. subtilis and C. difficile, and estimating their gain-loss dynamics in a comprehensive bacterial macroevolutionary framework. We show that sporulation evolution was driven by two major gene gain events, the first at the base of the Firmicutes and the second at the base of the B. subtilis group and within the Peptostreptococcaceae family, which includes C. difficile. We also show that early and late sporulation regulons have been coevolving and that sporulation genes entail greater innovation in B. subtilis with many Bacilli lineage-restricted genes. In contrast, C. difficile more often recruits new sporulation genes by horizontal gene transfer, which reflects both its highly mobile genome, the complexity of the gut microbiota, and an adjustment of sporulation to the gut ecosystem.

The Current Genomic Landscape of Western South America: Andes, Amazonia, and Pacific Coast

Sat, 27 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Studies of Native South American genetic diversity have helped to shed light on the peopling and differentiation of the continent, but available data are sparse for the major ecogeographic domains. These include the Pacific Coast, a potential early migration route; the Andes, home to the most expansive complex societies and to one of the most widely spoken indigenous language families of the continent (Quechua); and Amazonia, with its understudied population structure and rich cultural diversity. Here, we explore the genetic structure of 176 individuals from these three domains, genotyped with the Affymetrix Human Origins array. We infer multiple sources of ancestry within the Native American ancestry component; one with clear predominance on the Coast and in the Andes, and at least two distinct substrates in neighboring Amazonia, including a previously undetected ancestry characteristic of northern Ecuador and Colombia. Amazonian populations are also involved in recent gene-flow with each other and across ecogeographic domains, which does not accord with the traditional view of small, isolated groups. Long-distance genetic connections between speakers of the same language family suggest that indigenous languages here were spread not by cultural contact alone. Finally, Native American populations admixed with post-Columbian European and African sources at different times, with few cases of prolonged isolation. With our results we emphasize the importance of including understudied regions of the continent in high-resolution genetic studies, and we illustrate the potential of SNP chip arrays for informative regional-scale analysis.

Speciation in Howea Palms Occurred in Sympatry, Was Preceded by Ancestral Admixture, and Was Associated with Edaphic and Phenological Adaptation

Thu, 18 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Howea palms are viewed as one of the most clear-cut cases of speciation in sympatry. The sister species Howea belmoreana and H. forsteriana are endemic to the oceanic Lord Howe Island, Australia, where they have overlapping distributions and are reproductively isolated mainly by flowering time differences. However, the potential role of introgression from Australian mainland relatives had not previously been investigated, a process that has recently put other examples of sympatric speciation into question. Furthermore, the drivers of flowering time-based reproductive isolation remain unclear. We sequenced an RNA-seq data set that comprehensively sampled Howea and their closest mainland relatives (Linospadix, Laccospadix), and collected detailed soil chemistry data on Lord Howe Island to evaluate whether secondary gene flow had taken place and to examine the role of soil preference in speciation. D-statistics analyses strongly support a scenario whereby ancestral Howea hybridized frequently with its mainland relatives, but this only occurred prior to speciation. Expression analysis, population genetic and phylogenetic tests of selection, identified several flowering time genes with evidence of adaptive divergence between the Howea species. We found expression plasticity in flowering time genes in response to soil chemistry as well as adaptive expression and sequence divergence in genes pleiotropically linked to soil adaptation and flowering time. Ancestral hybridization may have provided the genetic diversity that promoted their subsequent adaptive divergence and speciation, a process that may be common for rapid ecological speciation.

Sex-Ratio Meiotic Drive Shapes the Evolution of the Y Chromosome in Drosophila simulans

Wed, 10 Jul 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The recent emergence and spread of X-linked segregation distorters—called “Paris” system—in the worldwide species Drosophila simulans has elicited the selection of drive-resistant Y chromosomes. Here, we investigate the evolutionary history of 386 Y chromosomes originating from 29 population samples collected over a period of 20 years, showing a wide continuum of phenotypes when tested against the Paris distorters, from high sensitivity to complete resistance (males sire ∼95% to ∼40% female progeny). Analyzing around 13 kb of Y-linked gene sequences in a representative subset of nine Y chromosomes, we identified only three polymorphic sites resulting in three haplotypes. Remarkably, one of the haplotypes is associated with resistance. This haplotype is fixed in all samples from Sub-Saharan Africa, the region of origin of the drivers. Exceptionally, with the spread of the drivers in Egypt and Morocco, we were able to record the replacement of the sensitive lineage by the resistant haplotype in real time, within only a few years. In addition, we performed in situ hybridization, using satellite DNA probes, on a subset of 21 Y chromosomes from six locations. In contrast to the low molecular polymorphism, this revealed extensive structural variation suggestive of rapid evolution, either neutral or adaptive. Moreover, our results show that intragenomic conflicts can drive astonishingly rapid replacement of Y chromosomes and suggest that the emergence of Paris segregation distorters in East Africa occurred less than half a century ago.

Aquatic Adaptation and Depleted Diversity: A Deep Dive into the Genomes of the Sea Otter and Giant Otter

Tue, 18 Jun 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Despite its recent invasion into the marine realm, the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) has evolved a suite of adaptations for life in cold coastal waters, including limb modifications and dense insulating fur. This uniquely dense coat led to the near-extinction of sea otters during the 18th–20th century fur trade and an extreme population bottleneck. We used the de novo genome of the southern sea otter (E. l. nereis) to reconstruct its evolutionary history, identify genes influencing aquatic adaptation, and detect signals of population bottlenecks. We compared the genome of the southern sea otter with the tropical freshwater-living giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) to assess common and divergent genomic trends between otter species, and with the closely related northern sea otter (E. l. kenyoni) to uncover population-level trends. We found signals of positive selection in genes related to aquatic adaptations, particularly limb development and polygenic selection on genes related to hair follicle development. We found extensive pseudogenization of olfactory receptor genes in both the sea otter and giant otter lineages, consistent with patterns of sensory gene loss in other aquatic mammals. At the population level, the southern sea otter and the northern sea otter showed extremely low genomic diversity, signals of recent inbreeding, and demographic histories marked by population declines. These declines may predate the fur trade and appear to have resulted in an increase in putatively deleterious variants that could impact the future recovery of the sea otter.

GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

Differential Expression in Testis and Liver Transcriptomes from Four Species of Peromyscus (Rodentia: Cricetidae)

Tue, 07 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

The genus Peromyscus represents a rapidly diverged clade of Cricetid rodents that contains multiple cryptic species and has a propensity for morphologic conservation across its members. The unresolved relationships in previously proposed phylogenies reflect a suspected rapid adaptive radiation. To identify functional groups of genes that may be important in reproductive isolation in a reoccurring fashion across the Peromyscus phylogeny, liver and testis transcriptomes from four species (P. attwateri, P. boylii, P. leucopus, and P. maniculatus) were generated and differential expression (DE) tests were conducted. Taxa were selected to represent members diverged from a common ancestor: P. attwateri + P. boylii (clade A), and P. leucopus + P. maniculatus (clade B). Comparison of clades (A vs. B) suggested that 252 transcripts had significant DE in the liver data set, whereas significant DE was identified for 657 transcripts in the testis data set. Further, 45 genes had DE isoforms in the 657 testis transcripts and most of these functioned in major reproductive roles such as acrosome assembly, spermatogenesis, and cell cycle processes (meiosis). DE transcripts in the liver mapped to more broad gene ontology terms (metabolic processes, catabolic processes, response to chemical, and regulatory processes), and DE transcripts in the testis mapped to gene ontology terms associated with reproductive processes, such as meiosis, sperm motility, acrosome assembly, and sperm–egg fusion. These results suggest that a suite of genes that conduct similar functions in the testes may be responsible for the adaptive radiation events and potential reoccurring speciation of Peromyscus in terms of reproduction through varying expression levels.

Whole Genome Sequencing and Assembly of the Asian Honey Bee Apis dorsata

Fri, 20 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The Asian honey bee (Apis dorsata) is distinct from its more widely distributed cousin Apis mellifera by a few key characteristics. Most prominently, A. dorsata, nest in the open by forming a colony clustered around the honeycomb, whereas A. mellifera nest in concealed cavities. Additionally, the worker and reproductive castes are all of the same size in A. dorsata. In order to investigate these differences, we performed whole genome sequencing of A. dorsata using a hybrid Oxford Nanopore and Illumina approach. The 223 Mb genome has an N50 of 35 kb with the largest scaffold of 302 kb. We have found that there are many genes in the dorsata genome that are distinct from other hymenoptera and also large amounts of transposable elements, and we suggest some candidate genes for A. dorsata’s exceptional level of defensive aggression.

Comparative Plastome Analysis of Root- and Stem-Feeding Parasites of Santalales Untangle the Footprints of Feeding Mode and Lifestyle Transitions

Tue, 17 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

In plants, parasitism triggers the reductive evolution of plastid genomes (plastomes). To disentangle the molecular evolutionary associations between feeding on other plants below- or aboveground and general transitions from facultative to obligate parasitism, we analyzed 34 complete plastomes of autotrophic, root- and stem-feeding hemiparasitic, and holoparasitic Santalales. We observed inexplicable losses of housekeeping genes and tRNAs in hemiparasites and dramatic genomic reconfiguration in holoparasitic Balanophoraceae, whose plastomes have exceptionally low GC contents. Genomic changes are related primarily to the evolution of hemi- or holoparasitism, whereas the transition from a root- to a stem-feeding mode plays no major role. In contrast, the rate of molecular evolution accelerates in a stepwise manner from autotrophs to root- and then stem-feeding parasites. Already the ancestral transition to root-parasitism coincides with a relaxation of selection in plastomes. Another significant selectional shift in plastid genes occurs as stem-feeders evolve, suggesting that this derived form coincides with trophic specialization despite the retention of photosynthetic capacity. Parasitic Santalales fill a gap in our understanding of parasitism-associated plastome degeneration. We reveal that lifestyle-genome associations unfold interdependently over trophic specialization and feeding mode transitions, where holoparasitic Balanophoraceae provide a system for exploring the functional realms of plastomes.

Genome Sequences of 72 Bacterial Strains Isolated from Ectocarpus subulatus: A Resource for Algal Microbiology

Mon, 16 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Brown algae are important primary producers and ecosystem engineers in the ocean, and Ectocarpus has been established as a laboratory model for this lineage. Like most multicellular organisms, Ectocarpus is associated with a community of microorganisms, a partnership frequently referred to as holobiont due to the tight interconnections between the components. Although genomic resources for the algal host are well established, its associated microbiome is poorly characterized from a genomic point of view, limiting the possibilities of using these types of data to study host–microbe interactions. To address this gap in knowledge, we present the annotated draft genome sequences of seventy-two cultivable Ectocarpus-associated bacteria. A screening of gene clusters related to the production of secondary metabolites revealed terpene, bacteriocin, NRPS, PKS-t3, siderophore, PKS-t1, and homoserine lactone clusters to be abundant among the sequenced genomes. These compounds may be used by the bacteria to communicate with the host and other microbes. Moreover, detoxification and provision of vitamin B pathways have been observed in most sequenced genomes, highlighting potential contributions of the bacterial metabolism toward host fitness and survival. The genomes sequenced in this study form a valuable resource for comparative genomic analyses and evolutionary surveys of alga-associated bacteria. They help establish Ectocarpus as a model for brown algal holobionts and will enable the research community to produce testable hypotheses about the molecular interactions within this complex system.

An Annotated Draft Genome of the Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)

Fri, 13 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Hares (genus Lepus) provide clear examples of repeated and often massive introgressive hybridization and striking local adaptations. Genomic studies on this group have so far relied on comparisons to the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) reference genome. Here, we report the first de novo draft reference genome for a hare species, the mountain hare (Lepus timidus), and evaluate the efficacy of whole-genome re-sequencing analyses using the new reference versus using the rabbit reference genome. The genome was assembled using the ALLPATHS-LG protocol with a combination of overlapping pair and mate-pair Illumina sequencing (77x coverage). The assembly contained 32,294 scaffolds with a total length of 2.7 Gb and a scaffold N50 of 3.4 Mb. Re-scaffolding based on the rabbit reference reduced the total number of scaffolds to 4,205 with a scaffold N50 of 194 Mb. A correspondence was found between 22 of these hare scaffolds and the rabbit chromosomes, based on gene content and direct alignment. We annotated 24,578 protein coding genes by combining ab-initio predictions, homology search, and transcriptome data, of which 683 were solely derived from hare-specific transcriptome data. The hare reference genome is therefore a new resource to discover and investigate hare-specific variation. Similar estimates of heterozygosity and inferred demographic history profiles were obtained when mapping hare whole-genome re-sequencing data to the new hare draft genome or to alternative references based on the rabbit genome. Our results validate previous reference-based strategies and suggest that the chromosome-scale hare draft genome should enable chromosome-wide analyses and genome scans on hares.

Microsporidia with Vertical Transmission Were Likely Shaped by Nonadaptive Processes

Wed, 11 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Microsporidia have the leanest genomes among eukaryotes, and their physiological and genomic simplicity has been attributed to their intracellular, obligate parasitic life-style. However, not all microsporidia genomes are small or lean, with the largest dwarfing the smallest ones by at least an order of magnitude. To better understand the evolutionary mechanisms behind this genomic diversification, we explore here two clades of microsporidia with distinct life histories, Ordospora and Hamiltosporidium, parasitizing the same host species, Daphnia magna. Based on seven newly assembled genomes, we show that mixed-mode transmission (the combination of horizontal and vertical transmission), which occurs in Hamiltosporidium, is found to be associated with larger and AT-biased genomes, more genes, and longer intergenic regions, as compared with the exclusively horizontally transmitted Ordospora. Furthermore, the Hamiltosporidium genome assemblies contain a variety of repetitive elements and long segmental duplications. We show that there is an excess of nonsynonymous substitutions in the microsporidia with mixed-mode transmission, which cannot be solely attributed to the lack of recombination, suggesting that bursts of genome size in these microsporidia result primarily from genetic drift. Overall, these findings suggest that the switch from a horizontal-only to a mixed mode of transmission likely produces population bottlenecks in Hamiltosporidium species, therefore reducing the effectiveness of natural selection, and allowing their genomic features to be largely shaped by nonadaptive processes.

A High-Quality Reference Genome Assembly of the Saltwater Crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, Reveals Patterns of Selection in Crocodylidae

Tue, 10 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Crocodilians are an economically, culturally, and biologically important group. To improve researchers’ ability to study genome structure, evolution, and gene regulation in the clade, we generated a high-quality de novo genome assembly of the saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, from Illumina short read data from genomic libraries and in vitro proximity-ligation libraries. The assembled genome is 2,123.5 Mb, with N50 scaffold size of 17.7 Mb and N90 scaffold size of 3.8 Mb. We then annotated this new assembly, increasing the number of annotated genes by 74%. In total, 96% of 23,242 annotated genes were associated with a functional protein domain. Furthermore, multiple noncoding functional regions and mappable genetic markers were identified. Upon analysis and overlapping the results of branch length estimation and site selection tests for detecting potential selection, we found 16 putative genes under positive selection in crocodilians, 10 in C. porosus and 6 in Alligator mississippiensis. The annotated C. porosus genome will serve as an important platform for osmoregulatory, physiological, and sex determination studies, as well as an important reference in investigating the phylogenetic relationships of crocodilians, birds, and other tetrapods.

Evolutionary History of the Toll-Like Receptor Gene Family across Vertebrates

Wed, 04 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Adaptation to a wide range of pathogenic environments is a major aspect of the ecological adaptations of vertebrates during evolution. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are ancient membrane-bound sensors in animals and are best known for their roles in detecting and defense against invading pathogenic microorganisms. To understand the evolutionary history of the vertebrate TLR gene family, we first traced the origin of single-cysteine cluster TLRs that share the same protein architecture with vertebrate TLRs in early-branching animals and then analyzed all members of the TLR family in over 200 species covering all major vertebrate clades. Our results indicate that although the emergence of single-cysteine cluster TLRs predates the separation of bilaterians and cnidarians, most vertebrate TLR members originated shortly after vertebrate emergence. Phylogenetic analyses divided 1,726 vertebrate TLRs into 8 subfamilies, and TLR3 may represent the most ancient subfamily that emerged before the branching of deuterostomes. Our analysis reveals that purifying selection predominated in the evolution of all vertebrate TLRs, with mean dN/dS (ω) values ranging from 0.082 for TLR21 in birds to 0.434 for TLR11 in mammals. However, we did observe patterns of positive selection acting on specific codons (527 of 60,294 codons across all vertebrate TLRs, 8.7‰), which are significantly concentrated in ligand-binding extracellular domains and suggest host–pathogen coevolutionary interactions. Additionally, we found stronger positive selection acting on nonviral compared with viral TLRs, indicating the more essential nonredundant function of viral TLRs in host immunity. Taken together, our findings provide comprehensive insight into the complex evolutionary processes of the vertebrate TLR gene family, involving gene duplication, pseudogenization, purification, and positive selection.

The Genome of the Blind Soil-Dwelling and Ancestrally Wingless Dipluran Campodea augens: A Key Reference Hexapod for Studying the Emergence of Insect Innovations

Tue, 03 Dec 2019 00:00:00 GMT

The dipluran two-pronged bristletail Campodea augens is a blind ancestrally wingless hexapod with the remarkable capacity to regenerate lost body appendages such as its long antennae. As sister group to Insecta (sensu stricto), Diplura are key to understanding the early evolution of hexapods and the origin and evolution of insects. Here we report the 1.2-Gb draft genome of C. augens and results from comparative genomic analyses with other arthropods. In C. augens, we uncovered the largest chemosensory gene repertoire of ionotropic receptors in the animal kingdom, a massive expansion that might compensate for the loss of vision. We found a paucity of photoreceptor genes mirroring at the genomic level the secondary loss of an ancestral external photoreceptor organ. Expansions of detoxification and carbohydrate metabolism gene families might reflect adaptations for foraging behavior, and duplicated apoptotic genes might underlie its high regenerative potential. The C. augens genome represents one of the key references for studying the emergence of genomic innovations in insects, the most diverse animal group, and opens up novel opportunities to study the under-explored biology of diplurans.

The Mitogenome of Norway Spruce and a Reappraisal of Mitochondrial Recombination in Plants

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Plant mitogenomes can be difficult to assemble because they are structurally dynamic and prone to intergenomic DNA transfers, leading to the unusual situation where an organelle genome is far outnumbered by its nuclear counterparts. As a result, comparative mitogenome studies are in their infancy and some key aspects of genome evolution are still known mainly from pregenomic, qualitative methods. To help address these limitations, we combined machine learning and in silico enrichment of mitochondrial-like long reads to assemble the bacterial-sized mitogenome of Norway spruce (Pinaceae: Picea abies). We conducted comparative analyses of repeat abundance, intergenomic transfers, substitution and rearrangement rates, and estimated repeat-by-repeat homologous recombination rates. Prompted by our discovery of highly recombinogenic small repeats in P. abies, we assessed the genomic support for the prevailing hypothesis that intramolecular recombination is predominantly driven by repeat length, with larger repeats facilitating DNA exchange more readily. Overall, we found mixed support for this view: Recombination dynamics were heterogeneous across vascular plants and highly active small repeats (ca. 200 bp) were present in about one-third of studied mitogenomes. As in previous studies, we did not observe any robust relationships among commonly studied genome attributes, but we identify variation in recombination rates as a underinvestigated source of plant mitogenome diversity.

Genome Assembly of the Dogface Butterfly Zerene cesonia

Fri, 22 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Comparisons of high-quality, reference butterfly, and moth genomes have been instrumental to advancing our understanding of how hybridization, and natural selection drive genomic change during the origin of new species and novel traits. Here, we present a genome assembly of the Southern Dogface butterfly, Zerene cesonia (Pieridae) whose brilliant wing colorations have been implicated in developmental plasticity, hybridization, sexual selection, and speciation. We assembled 266,407,278 bp of the Z. cesonia genome, which accounts for 98.3% of the estimated 271 Mb genome size. Using a hybrid approach involving Chicago libraries with Hi-Rise assembly and a diploid Meraculous assembly, the final haploid genome was assembled. In the final assembly, nearly all autosomes and the Z chromosome were assembled into single scaffolds. The largest 29 scaffolds accounted for 91.4% of the genome assembly, with the remaining ∼8% distributed among another 247 scaffolds and overall N50 of 9.2 Mb. Tissue-specific RNA-seq informed annotations identified 16,442 protein-coding genes, which included 93.2% of the arthropod Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs (BUSCO). The Z. cesonia genome assembly had ∼9% identified as repetitive elements, with a transposable element landscape rich in helitrons. Similar to other Lepidoptera genomes, Z. cesonia showed a high conservation of chromosomal synteny. The Z. cesonia assembly provides a high-quality reference for studies of chromosomal arrangements in the Pierid family, as well as for population, phylo, and functional genomic studies of adaptation and speciation.

Comparative Genomic Analysis of the Pheromone Receptor Class 1 Family (V1R) Reveals Extreme Complexity in Mouse Lemurs (Genus, Microcebus) and a Chromosomal Hotspot across Mammals

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Sensory gene families are of special interest for both what they can tell us about molecular evolution and what they imply as mediators of social communication. The vomeronasal type-1 receptors (V1Rs) have often been hypothesized as playing a fundamental role in driving or maintaining species boundaries given their likely function as mediators of intraspecific mate choice, particularly in nocturnal mammals. Here, we employ a comparative genomic approach for revealing patterns of V1R evolution within primates, with a special focus on the small-bodied nocturnal mouse and dwarf lemurs of Madagascar (genera Microcebus and Cheirogaleus, respectively). By doubling the existing genomic resources for strepsirrhine primates (i.e. the lemurs and lorises), we find that the highly speciose and morphologically cryptic mouse lemurs have experienced an elaborate proliferation of V1Rs that we argue is functionally related to their capacity for rapid lineage diversification. Contrary to a previous study that found equivalent degrees of V1R diversity in diurnal and nocturnal lemurs, our study finds a strong correlation between nocturnality and V1R elaboration, with nocturnal lemurs showing elaborate V1R repertoires and diurnal lemurs showing less diverse repertoires. Recognized subfamilies among V1Rs show unique signatures of diversifying positive selection, as might be expected if they have each evolved to respond to specific stimuli. Furthermore, a detailed syntenic comparison of mouse lemurs with mouse (genus Mus) and other mammalian outgroups shows that orthologous mammalian subfamilies, predicted to be of ancient origin, tend to cluster in a densely populated region across syntenic chromosomes that we refer to as a V1R “hotspot.”

The Mitochondrial Genome of Eleusine indica and Characterization of Gene Content within Poaceae

Wed, 23 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Plant mitochondrial (mt) genome assembly provides baseline data on size, structure, and gene content, but resolving the sequence of these large and complex organelle genomes remains challenging due to fragmentation, frequent recombination, and transfers of DNA from neighboring plastids. The mt genome for Eleusine indica (Poaceae: goosegrass) is comprehensibly analyzed here, providing key reference data for an economically significant invasive species that is also the maternal parent of the allotetraploid crop Finger millet (Eleusine coracana). The assembled E. indica genome contains 33 protein coding genes, 6 rRNA subunits, 24 tRNA, 8 large repetitive regions 15 kb of transposable elements across a total of 520,691 bp. Evidence of RNA editing and loss of rpl2, rpl5, rps14, rps11, sdh4, and sdh3 genes is evaluated in the context of an updated survey of mt genomic gene content across the grasses through an analysis of publicly available data. Hypothesized patterns of Poaceae mt gene loss are examined in a phylogenetic context to clarify timing, showing that rpl2 was transferred to the nucleus from the mitochondrion prior to the origin of the PACMAD clade.

Impact of Mutation Rate and Selection at Linked Sites on DNA Variation across the Genomes of Humans and Other Homininae

Wed, 09 Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT

DNA diversity varies across the genome of many species. Variation in diversity across a genome might arise from regional variation in the mutation rate, variation in the intensity and mode of natural selection, and regional variation in the recombination rate. We show that both noncoding and nonsynonymous diversity are positively correlated to a measure of the mutation rate and the recombination rate and negatively correlated to the density of conserved sequences in 50 kb windows across the genomes of humans and nonhuman homininae. Interestingly, we find that although noncoding diversity is equally affected by these three genomic variables, nonsynonymous diversity is mostly dominated by the density of conserved sequences. The positive correlation between diversity and our measure of the mutation rate seems to be largely a direct consequence of regions with higher mutation rates having more diversity. However, the positive correlation with recombination rate and the negative correlation with the density of conserved sequences suggest that selection at linked sites also affect levels of diversity. This is supported by the observation that the ratio of the number of nonsynonymous to noncoding polymorphisms is negatively correlated to a measure of the effective population size across the genome. We show these patterns persist even when we restrict our analysis to GC-conservative mutations, demonstrating that the patterns are not driven by GC biased gene conversion. In conclusion, our comparative analyses describe how recombination rate, gene density, and mutation rate interact to produce the patterns of DNA diversity that we observe along the hominine genomes.