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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Structural Patching Fosters Divergence of Mitochondrial Ribosomes

Tue, 04 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Mitochondrial ribosomes (mitoribosomes) are essential components of all mitochondria that synthesize proteins encoded by the mitochondrial genome. Unlike other ribosomes, mitoribosomes are highly variable across species. The basis for this diversity is not known. Here, we examine the composition and evolutionary history of mitoribosomes across the phylogenetic tree by combining three-dimensional structural information with a comparative analysis of the secondary structures of mitochondrial rRNAs (mt-rRNAs) and available proteomic data. We generate a map of the acquisition of structural variation and reconstruct the fundamental stages that shaped the evolution of the mitoribosomal large subunit and led to this diversity. Our analysis suggests a critical role for ablation and expansion of rapidly evolving mt-rRNA. These changes cause structural instabilities that are “patched” by the acquisition of pre-existing compensatory elements, thus providing opportunities for rapid evolution. This mechanism underlies the incorporation of mt-tRNA into the central protuberance of the mammalian mitoribosome, and the altered path of the polypeptide exit tunnel of the yeast mitoribosome. We propose that since the toolkits of elements utilized for structural patching differ between mitochondria of different species, it fosters the growing divergence of mitoribosomes.

Irreversible Activation of Rho-activated Kinases Resulted from Evolution of Proteolytic Sites within Disordered Regions in Coiled-coil Domain

Tue, 04 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Activation of Rho-associated protein kinase 1 (ROCK1) and myotonic dystrophy kinase-related CDC42-binding kinase alpha (MRCKα) by caspases during apoptosis in vertebrates represents a prototypical example of co-option of kinases by proteases. How caspases acquired the ability to control these proteins during evolution of vertebrates is still unknown. Here, we report a phylogenetic and molecular study on the acquisition of caspase-cleavage sites in the family of Rho-activated kinases (RaKs). We demonstrate that the acquisition of such sites has more frequently occurred in identifiable intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) within or flanking the coiled-coil domain. Thanks to computational identification of IDRs in protein sequences of different organisms, we predicted and validated the independent evolution of two caspase-cleavage sites in ROCK of arthropods and the loss of one of the MRCKα caspase-cleavage sites in ray-finned fishes. In conclusion, we shed light on the propensity of RaKs to evolve novel proteolytic sites, causing kinase activation and uniform subcellular distribution.

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Convolutional Neural Networks in Population Genetic Inference

Tue, 04 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Population-scale genomic data sets have given researchers incredible amounts of information from which to infer evolutionary histories. Concomitant with this flood of data, theoretical and methodological advances have sought to extract information from genomic sequences to infer demographic events such as population size changes and gene flow among closely related populations/species, construct recombination maps, and uncover loci underlying recent adaptation. To date, most methods make use of only one or a few summaries of the input sequences and therefore ignore potentially useful information encoded in the data. The most sophisticated of these approaches involve likelihood calculations, which require theoretical advances for each new problem, and often focus on a single aspect of the data (e.g., only allele frequency information) in the interest of mathematical and computational tractability. Directly interrogating the entirety of the input sequence data in a likelihood-free manner would thus offer a fruitful alternative. Here, we accomplish this by representing DNA sequence alignments as images and using a class of deep learning methods called convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to make population genetic inferences from these images. We apply CNNs to a number of evolutionary questions and find that they frequently match or exceed the accuracy of current methods. Importantly, we show that CNNs perform accurate evolutionary model selection and parameter estimation, even on problems that have not received detailed theoretical treatments. Thus, when applied to population genetic alignments, CNNs are capable of outperforming expert-derived statistical methods and offer a new path forward in cases where no likelihood approach exists.

Differential Evolution of the Epidermal Keratin Cytoskeleton in Terrestrial and Aquatic Mammals

Tue, 04 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Keratins are the main intermediate filament proteins of epithelial cells. In keratinocytes of the mammalian epidermis they form a cytoskeleton that resists mechanical stress and thereby are essential for the function of the skin as a barrier against the environment. Here, we performed a comparative genomics study of epidermal keratin genes in terrestrial and fully aquatic mammals to determine adaptations of the epidermal keratin cytoskeleton to different environments. We show that keratins K5 and K14 of the innermost (basal), proliferation-competent layer of the epidermis are conserved in all mammals investigated. In contrast, K1 and K10, which form the main part of the cytoskeleton in the outer (suprabasal) layers of the epidermis of terrestrial mammals, have been lost in whales and dolphins (cetaceans) and in the manatee. Whereas in terrestrial mammalian epidermis K6 and K17 are expressed only upon stress-induced epidermal thickening, high levels of K6 and K17 are consistently present in dolphin skin, indicating constitutive expression and substitution of K1 and K10. K2 and K9, which are expressed in a body site-restricted manner in human and mouse suprabasal epidermis, have been lost not only in cetaceans and manatee but also in some terrestrial mammals. The evolution of alternative splicing of K10 and differentiation-dependent upregulation of K23 have increased the complexity of keratin expression in the epidermis of terrestrial mammals. Taken together, these results reveal evolutionary diversification of the epidermal cytoskeleton in mammals and suggest a complete replacement of the quantitatively predominant epidermal proteins of terrestrial mammals by originally stress-inducible keratins in cetaceans.

Repeated Evolution of Asexuality Involves Convergent Gene Expression Changes

Fri, 16 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Asexual reproduction has evolved repeatedly from sexual ancestors across a wide range of taxa. Whereas the costs and benefits associated with asexuality have received considerable attention, the molecular changes underpinning the evolution of asexual reproduction remain relatively unexplored. In particular, it is completely unknown whether the repeated evolution of asexual phenotypes involves similar molecular changes, as previous studies have focused on changes occurring in single lineages. Here, we investigate the extent of convergent gene expression changes across five independent transitions to asexuality in stick insects. We compared gene expression of asexual females to females of close sexual relatives in whole-bodies, reproductive tracts, and legs. We identified a striking amount of convergent gene expression change (up to 8% of genes), greatly exceeding that expected by chance. Convergent changes were also tissue-specific, and most likely driven by selection for functional changes. Genes showing convergent changes in the reproductive tract were associated with meiotic spindle formation and centrosome organization. These genes are particularly interesting as they can influence the production of unreduced eggs, a key barrier to asexual reproduction. Changes in legs and whole-bodies were likely involved in female sexual trait decay, with enrichment in terms such as sperm-storage and pigmentation. By identifying changes occurring across multiple independent transitions to asexuality, our results provide a rare insight into the molecular basis of asexual phenotypes and suggest that the evolutionary path to asexuality is highly constrained, requiring repeated changes to the same key genes.

Cytonuclear Coevolution following Homoploid Hybrid Speciation in Aegilops tauschii

Fri, 16 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The diploid D-genome lineage of the Triticum/Aegilops complex has an evolutionary history involving genomic contributions from ancient A- and B/S-genome species. We explored here the possible cytonuclear evolutionary responses to this history of hybridization. Phylogenetic analysis of chloroplast DNAs indicates that the D-genome lineage has a maternal origin of the A-genome or some other closely allied lineage. Analyses of the nuclear genome in the D-genome species Aegilops tauschii indicate that accompanying and/or following this ancient hybridization, there has been biased maintenance of maternal A-genome ancestry in nuclear genes encoding cytonuclear enzyme complexes (CECs). Our study provides insights into mechanisms of cytonuclear coevolution accompanying the evolution and eventual stabilization of homoploid hybrid species. We suggest that this coevolutionary process includes likely rapid fixation of A-genome CEC orthologs as well as biased retention of A-genome nucleotides in CEC homologs following population level recombination during the initial generations.

The Genome Landscape of Tibetan Sheep Reveals Adaptive Introgression from Argali and the History of Early Human Settlements on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau

Fri, 16 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Tibetan sheep are the most common and widespread domesticated animals on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau (QTP) and have played an essential role in the permanent human occupation of this high-altitude region. However, the precise timing, route, and process of sheep pastoralism in the QTP region remain poorly established, and little is known about the underlying genomic changes that occurred during the process. Here, we investigate the genomic variation in Tibetan sheep using whole-genome sequences, single nucleotide polymorphism arrays, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosomal variants in 986 samples throughout their distribution range. We detect strong signatures of selection in genes involved in the hypoxia and ultraviolet signaling pathways (e.g., HIF-1 pathway and HBB and MITF genes) and in genes associated with morphological traits such as horn size and shape (e.g., RXFP2). We identify clear signals of argali (Ovis ammon) introgression into sympatric Tibetan sheep, covering 5.23–5.79% of their genomes. The introgressed genomic regions are enriched in genes related to oxygen transportation system, sensory perception, and morphological phenotypes, in particular the genes HBB and RXFP2 with strong signs of adaptive introgression. The spatial distribution of genomic diversity and demographic reconstruction of the history of Tibetan sheep show a stepwise pattern of colonization with their initial spread onto the QTP from its northeastern part ∼3,100 years ago, followed by further southwest expansion to the central QTP ∼1,300 years ago. Together with archeological evidence, the date and route reveal the history of human expansions on the QTP by the Tang–Bo Ancient Road during the late Holocene. Our findings contribute to a depth understanding of early pastoralism and the local adaptation of Tibetan sheep as well as the late-Holocene human occupation of the QTP.

Evolution of the Mutational Process under Relaxed Selection in Caenorhabditis elegans

Thu, 15 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The mutational process varies at many levels, from within genomes to among taxa. Many mechanisms have been linked to variation in mutation, but understanding of the evolution of the mutational process is rudimentary. Physiological condition is often implicated as a source of variation in microbial mutation rate and may contribute to mutation rate variation in multicellular organisms.Deleterious mutations are an ubiquitous source of variation in condition. We test the hypothesis that the mutational process depends on the underlying mutation load in two groups of Caenorhabditis elegans mutation accumulation (MA) lines that differ in their starting mutation loads. “First-order MA” (O1MA) lines maintained under minimal selection for ∼250 generations were divided into high-fitness and low-fitness groups and sets of “second-order MA” (O2MA) lines derived from each O1MA line were maintained for ∼150 additional generations. Genomes of 48 O2MA lines and their progenitors were sequenced. There is significant variation among O2MA lines in base-substitution rate (µbs), but no effect of initial fitness; the indel rate is greater in high-fitness O2MA lines. Overall, µbs is positively correlated with recombination and proximity to short tandem repeats and negatively correlated with 10 bp and 1 kb GC content. However, probability of mutation is sufficiently predicted by the three-nucleotide motif alone. Approximately 90% of the variance in standing nucleotide variation is explained by mutability. Total mutation rate increased in the O2MA lines, as predicted by the “drift barrier” model of mutation rate evolution. These data, combined with experimental estimates of fitness, suggest that epistasis is synergistic.

Methods for Estimating Demography and Detecting Between-Locus Differences in the Effective Population Size and Mutation Rate

Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

It is known that the effective population size (Ne) and the mutation rate (u) vary across the genome. Here, we show that ignoring this heterogeneity may lead to biased estimates of past demography. To solve the problem, we develop new methods for jointly inferring past changes in population size and detecting variation in Ne and u between loci. These methods rely on either polymorphism data alone or both polymorphism and divergence data. In addition to inferring demography, we can use the methods to study a variety of questions: 1) comparing sex chromosomes with autosomes (for finding evidence for male-driven evolution, an unequal sex ratio, or sex-biased demographic changes) and 2) analyzing multilocus data from within autosomes or sex chromosomes (for studying determinants of variability in Ne and u). Simulations suggest that the methods can provide accurate parameter estimates and have substantial statistical power for detecting difference in Ne and u. As an example, we use the methods to analyze a polymorphism data set from Drosophila simulans. We find clear evidence for rapid population expansion. The results also indicate that the autosomes have a higher mutation rate than the X chromosome and that the sex ratio is probably female-biased. The new methods have been implemented in a user-friendly package.

The Many Nuanced Evolutionary Consequences of Duplicated Genes

Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Gene duplication is seen as a major source of structural and functional divergence in genome evolution. Under the conventional models of sub or neofunctionalization, functional changes arise in one of the duplicates after duplication. However, we suggest here that the presence of a duplicated gene can result in functional changes to its interacting partners. We explore this hypothesis by in silico evolution of a heterodimer when one member of the interacting pair is duplicated. We examine how a range of selection pressures and protein structures leads to differential patterns of evolutionary divergence. We find that a surprising number of distinct evolutionary trajectories can be observed even in a simple three member system. Further, we observe that selection to correct dosage imbalance can affect the evolution of the initial function in several unexpected ways. For example, if a duplicate is under selective pressure to avoid binding its original binding partner, this can lead to changes in the binding interface of a nonduplicated interacting partner to exclude the duplicate. Hence, independent of the fate of the duplicate, its presence can impact how the original function operates. Additionally, we introduce a conceptual framework to describe how interacting partners cope with dosage imbalance after duplication. Contextualizing our results within this framework reveals that the evolutionary path taken by a duplicate’s interacting partners is highly stochastic in nature. Consequently, the fate of duplicate genes may not only be controlled by their own ability to accumulate mutations but also by how interacting partners cope with them.

Genomic Evidence of Local Adaptation to Climate and Diet in Indigenous Siberians

Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The indigenous inhabitants of Siberia live in some of the harshest environments on earth, experiencing extended periods of severe cold temperatures, dramatic variation in photoperiod, and limited and highly variable food resources. While the successful long-term settlement of this area by humans required multiple behavioral and cultural innovations, the nature of the underlying genetic changes has generally remained elusive. In this study, we used a three-part approach to identify putative targets of positive natural selection in Siberians. We first performed selection scans on whole exome and genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism array data from multiple Siberian populations. We then annotated candidates in the tails of the empirical distributions, focusing on candidates with evidence linking them to biological processes and phenotypes previously identified as relevant to adaptation in circumpolar groups. The top candidates were then genotyped in additional populations to determine their spatial allele frequency distributions and associations with climate variables. Our analysis reveals missense mutations in three genes involved in lipid metabolism (PLA2G2A, PLIN1, and ANGPTL8) that exhibit genomic and spatial patterns consistent with selection for cold climate and/or diet. These variants are unified by their connection to brown adipose tissue and may help to explain previously observed physiological differences in Siberians such as low serum lipid levels and increased basal metabolic rate. These results support the hypothesis that indigenous Siberians have genetically adapted to their local environment by selection on multiple genes.

Localizing and Classifying Adaptive Targets with Trend Filtered Regression

Tue, 06 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Identifying genomic locations of natural selection from sequence data is an ongoing challenge in population genetics. Current methods utilizing information combined from several summary statistics typically assume no correlation of summary statistics regardless of the genomic location from which they are calculated. However, due to linkage disequilibrium, summary statistics calculated at nearby genomic positions are highly correlated. We introduce an approach termed Trendsetter that accounts for the similarity of statistics calculated from adjacent genomic regions through trend filtering, while reducing the effects of multicollinearity through regularization. Our penalized regression framework has high power to detect sweeps, is capable of classifying sweep regions as either hard or soft, and can be applied to other selection scenarios as well. We find that Trendsetter is robust to both extensive missing data and strong background selection, and has comparable power to similar current approaches. Moreover, the model learned by Trendsetter can be viewed as a set of curves modeling the spatial distribution of summary statistics in the genome. Application to human genomic data revealed positively selected regions previously discovered such as LCT in Europeans and EDAR in East Asians. We also identified a number of novel candidates and show that populations with greater relatedness share more sweep signals.

Tipping the Scales: The Migration–Selection Balance Leans toward Selection in Snake Venoms

Sat, 03 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

The migration–selection interaction is the strongest determinant of whether a beneficial allele increases in frequency within a population. Results of empirical studies examining the role of gene flow in an adaptive context, however, have largely been equivocal, with examples of opposing outcomes being repeatedly documented (e.g., local adaptation with high levels of gene flow vs. gene swamping). We compared neutral genomic and venom expression divergence for three sympatric pit vipers with differing ecologies to determine if and how migration–selection disequilibria result in local adaptation. We specifically tested whether neutral differentiation predicted phenotypic differentiation within an isolation-by-distance framework. The decoupling of neutral and phenotypic differentiation would indicate selection led to adaptive divergence irrespective of migration, whereas a significant relationship between neutral and venom expression differentiation would provide evidence in favor of the constraining force of gene flow. Neutral differentiation and geographic distance predicted phenotypic differentiation only in the generalist species, indicating that selection was the predominant mechanism in the migration–selection balance underlying adaptive venom evolution in both specialists. Dispersal is thought to be a stronger influence on genetic differentiation than specialization, but our results suggest the opposite. Greater specialization may lead to greater diversification rates, and extreme spatial and temporal variation in selective pressures can favor generalist phenotypes evolving under strong stabilizing selection. Our results are consistent with these expectations, suggesting that the equivocal findings of studies examining the role of gene flow in an adaptive context may be explained by ecological specialization theory.

GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

An Annotated Genome for Haliotis rufescens (Red Abalone) and Resequenced Green, Pink, Pinto, Black, and White Abalone Species

Thu, 17 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Abalone are one of the few marine taxa where aquaculture production dominates the global market as a result of increasing demand and declining natural stocks from overexploitation and disease. To better understand abalone biology, aid in conservation efforts for endangered abalone species, and gain insight into sustainable aquaculture, we created a draft genome of the red abalone (Haliotis rufescens). The approach to this genome draft included initial assembly using raw Illumina and PacBio sequencing data with MaSuRCA, before scaffolding using sequencing data generated from Chicago library preparations with HiRise2. This assembly approach resulted in 8,371 scaffolds and total length of 1.498 Gb; the N50 was 1.895 Mb, and the longest scaffold was 13.2 Mb. Gene models were predicted, using MAKER2, from RNA-Seq data and all related expressed sequence tags and proteins from NCBI; this resulted in 57,785 genes with an average length of 8,255 bp. In addition, single nucleotide polymorphisms were called on Illumina short-sequencing reads from five other eastern Pacific abalone species: the green (H. fulgens), pink (H. corrugata), pinto (H. kamtschatkana), black (H. cracherodii), and white (H. sorenseni) abalone. Phylogenetic relationships largely follow patterns detected by previous studies based on 1,784,991 high-quality single nucleotide polymorphisms. Among the six abalone species examined, the endangered white abalone appears to harbor the lowest levels of heterozygosity. This draft genome assembly and the sequencing data provide a foundation for genome-enabled aquaculture improvement for red abalone, and for genome-guided conservation efforts for the other five species and, in particular, for the endangered white and black abalone.

Evolution of Young Sex Chromosomes in Two Dioecious Sister Plant Species with Distinct Sex Determination Systems

Mon, 14 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT

In the last decade, progress has been made in methods to identify the sex determination system in plants. This gives the opportunity to study sex chromosomes that arose independently at different phylogenetic scales, and thus allows the discovery and the understanding of early stages of sex chromosome evolution. In the genus Silene, sex chromosomes have evolved independently in at least two clades from a nondioecious ancestor, the Melandrium and Otites sections. In the latter, sex chromosomes could be younger than in the section Melandrium, based on phylogenetic studies and as no heteromorphic sex chromosomes have been detected. This section might also exhibit lability in sex determination, because male heterogamy and female heterogamy have been suggested to occur.In this study, we investigated the sex determination system of two dioecious species in the section Otites (Silene otites and its close relative Silene pseudotites). Applying the new probabilistic method SEX-DETector on RNA-seq data from cross-controlled progenies, we inferred their most likely sex determination system and a list of putative autosomal and sex-linked contigs. We showed that the two phylogenetically close species differed in their sex determination system (XY versus ZW) with sex chromosomes that derived from two different pairs of autosomes. We built a genetic map of the sex chromosomes and showed that both pairs exhibited a large region with lack of recombination. However, the sex-limited chromosomes exhibited no strong degeneration. Finally, using the “ancestral” autosomal expression of sex-linked orthologs of nondioecious S. nutans, we found a slight signature of dosage compensation in the heterogametic females of S. otites.

The Chemosensory Receptor Repertoire of a True Shark Is Dominated by a Single Olfactory Receptor Family

Sat, 12 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Throughout the animal kingdom chemical senses are one of the primary means by which organisms make sense of their environment. To achieve perception of complex chemosensory stimuli large repertoires of olfactory and gustatory receptors are employed in bony vertebrates, which are characterized by high evolutionary dynamics in receptor repertoire size and composition. However, little is known about their evolution in earlier diverging vertebrates such as cartilaginous fish, which include sharks, skates, rays, and chimeras. Recently, the olfactory repertoire of a chimera, elephant shark, was found to be curiously reduced in odorant receptor number. Elephant sharks rely heavily on electroreception to localize prey; thus, it is unclear how representative their chemosensory receptor repertoire sizes would be for cartilaginous fishes in general. Here, we have mined the genome of a true shark, Scyliorhinus canicula (catshark) for olfactory and gustatory receptors, and have performed a thorough phylogenetic study to shed light on the evolution of chemosensory receptors in cartilaginous fish. We report the presence of several gustatory receptors of the TAS1R family in catshark and elephant shark, whereas TAS2R receptors are absent. The catshark olfactory repertoire is dominated by V2R receptors, with 5–8 receptors in the other three families (OR, ORA, TAAR). Species-specific expansions are mostly limited to the V2R family. Overall, the catshark chemosensory receptor repertoires are generally similar in size to those of elephant shark, if somewhat larger, showing similar evolutionary tendencies across over 400 Myr of separate evolution between catshark and elephant shark.

Plastid Genomes and Proteins Illuminate the Evolution of Eustigmatophyte Algae and Their Bacterial Endosymbionts

Thu, 10 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Eustigmatophytes, a class of stramenopile algae (ochrophytes), include not only the extensively studied biotechnologically important genus Nannochloropsis but also a rapidly expanding diversity of lineages with much less well characterized biology. Recent discoveries have led to exciting additions to our knowledge about eustigmatophytes. Some proved to harbor bacterial endosymbionts representing a novel genus, Candidatus Phycorickettsia, and an operon of unclear function (ebo) obtained by horizontal gene transfer from the endosymbiont lineage was found in the plastid genomes of still other eustigmatophytes. To shed more light on the latter event, as well as to generally improve our understanding of the eustigmatophyte evolutionary history, we sequenced plastid genomes of seven phylogenetically diverse representatives (including new isolates representing undescribed taxa). A phylogenomic analysis of plastid genome-encoded proteins resolved the phylogenetic relationships among the main eustigmatophyte lineages and provided a framework for the interpretation of plastid gene gains and losses in the group. The ebo operon gain was inferred to have probably occurred within the order Eustigmatales, after the divergence of the two basalmost lineages (a newly discovered hitherto undescribed strain and the Pseudellipsoidion group). When looking for nuclear genes potentially compensating for plastid gene losses, we noticed a gene for a plastid-targeted acyl carrier protein that was apparently acquired by horizontal gene transfer from Phycorickettsia. The presence of this gene in all eustigmatophytes studied, including representatives of both principal clades (Eustigmatales and Goniochloridales), is a genetic footprint indicating that the eustigmatophyte–Phycorickettsia partnership started no later than in the last eustigmatophyte common ancestor.

Genome Sequence of Jaltomata Addresses Rapid Reproductive Trait Evolution and Enhances Comparative Genomics in the Hyper-Diverse Solanaceae

Fri, 04 Jan 2019 00:00:00 GMT

Within the economically important plant family Solanaceae, Jaltomata is a rapidly evolving genus that has extensive diversity in flower size and shape, as well as fruit and nectar color, among its ∼80 species. Here, we report the whole-genome sequencing, assembly, and annotation, of one representative species (Jaltomata sinuosa) from this genus. Combining PacBio long reads (25×) and Illumina short reads (148×) achieved an assembly of ∼1.45 Gb, spanning ∼96% of the estimated genome. Ninety-six percent of curated single-copy orthologs in plants were detected in the assembly, supporting a high level of completeness of the genome. Similar to other Solanaceous species, repetitive elements made up a large fraction (∼80%) of the genome, with the most recently active element, Gypsy, expanding across the genome in the last 1–2 Myr. Computational gene prediction, in conjunction with a merged transcriptome data set from 11 tissues, identified 34,725 protein-coding genes. Comparative phylogenetic analyses with six other sequenced Solanaceae species determined that Jaltomata is most likely sister to Solanum, although a large fraction of gene trees supported a conflicting bipartition consistent with substantial introgression between Jaltomata and Capsicum after these species split. We also identified gene family dynamics specific to Jaltomata, including expansion of gene families potentially involved in novel reproductive trait development, and loss of gene families that accompanied the loss of self-incompatibility. This high-quality genome will facilitate studies of phenotypic diversification in this rapidly radiating group and provide a new point of comparison for broader analyses of genomic evolution across the Solanaceae.

Evolutionary Potential of Cis-Regulatory Mutations to Cause Rapid Changes in Transcription Factor Binding

Fri, 28 Dec 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Transcriptional regulation is crucial for all biological processes and well investigated at the molecular level for a wide range of organisms. However, it is quite unclear how innovations, such as the activity of a novel regulatory element, evolve. In the case of transcription factor (TF) binding, both a novel TF and a novel-binding site would need to evolve concertedly. Since promiscuous functions have recently been identified as important intermediate steps in creating novel specific functions in many areas such as enzyme evolution and protein–protein interactions, we ask here how promiscuous binding of TFs to TF-binding sites (TFBSs) affects the robustness and evolvability of this tightly regulated system. Specifically, we investigate the binding behavior of several hundred TFs from different species at unprecedented breadth. Our results illustrate multiple aspects of TF-binding interactions, ranging from correlations between the strength of the interaction bond and specificity, to preferences regarding TFBS nucleotide composition in relation to both domains and binding specificity. We identified a subset of high A/T binding motifs. Motifs in this subset had many functionally neutral one-error mutants, and were bound by multiple different binding domains. Our results indicate that, especially for some TF–TFBS associations, low binding specificity confers high degrees of evolvability, that is that few mutations facilitate rapid changes in transcriptional regulation, in particular for large and old TF families. In this study we identify binding motifs exhibiting behavior indicating high evolutionary potential for innovations in transcriptional regulation.

Duplicated Myosin V Genes in Teleosts Show Evolutionary Rate Variations among the Motor and Cargo-Binding Domains

Thu, 29 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

We analyzed evolutionary rates of conserved, duplicated myosin V (myo5) genes in nine teleost species to examine the outcomes of duplication events. Syntenic analysis and ancestral chromosome mapping suggest one tandem gene duplication event leading to the appearance of myo5a and myo5c, two rounds of whole genome duplication for vertebrates, and an additional round of whole genome duplication for teleosts account for the presence and location of the myo5 genes and their duplicates in teleosts and other vertebrates and the timing of the duplication events. Phylogenetic analyses reveal a previously unidentified myo5 clade that we refer to now as myo5bb. Analysis using dN/dS rate comparisons revealed large regions within duplicated myo5 genes that are highly conserved. Codons identified in other studies as encoding functionally important portions of the Myo5a and Myo5b proteins are shown to be highly conserved within the newly identified myo5bb clade and in other myo5 duplicates. As much as 30% of 319 codons encoding the cargo-binding domain in the myo5aa genes are conserved in all three codon positions in nine teleost species. For the myo5bb cargo-binding domain, 6.6% of 336 codons have zero substitutions in all nine teleost species. Using molecular evolution assays, we identify the myo5bb branch as being subject to evolutionary rate variation with the cargo-binding domain, having 20% of the sites under positive selection and the motor domain having 8% of its sites under positive selection. The high number of invariant codons coupled with relatively high dN/dS values in the region of the myo5 genes encoding the ATP-binding domain suggests the encoded proteins retain function and may have acquired novel functions associated with changes to the cargo-binding domain.

Insights into the Evolution of Shells and Love Darts of Land Snails Revealed from Their Matrix Proteins

Fri, 02 Nov 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Over the past decade, many skeletal matrix proteins that are possibly related to calcification have been reported in various calcifying animals. Molluscs are among the most diverse calcifying animals and some gastropods have adapted to terrestrial ecological niches. Although many shell matrix proteins (SMPs) have already been reported in molluscs, most reports have focused on marine molluscs, and the SMPs of terrestrial snails remain unclear. In addition, some terrestrial stylommatophoran snails have evolved an additional unique calcified character, called a “love dart,” used for mating behavior. We identified 54 SMPs in the terrestrial snail Euhadra quaesita, and found that they contain specific domains that are widely conserved in molluscan SMPs. However, our results also suggest that some of them possibly have evolved independently by domain shuffling, domain recruitment, or gene co-option. We then identified four dart matrix proteins, and found that two of them are the same proteins as those identified as SMPs. Our results suggest that some dart matrix proteins possibly have evolved by independent gene co-option from SMPs during dart evolution events. These results provide a new perspective on the evolution of SMPs and “love darts” in land snails.