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BMC Evol Biol [journal]
- Improvement of. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 27; 14(1):186.
Background Drosophila Dscam1 is a cell-surface protein that plays important roles in neural development and axon tiling of neurons. It is known that thousands of isoforms bind themselves through specific homophilic interactions, a process which provides the basis for cellular self-recognition. Detailed biochemical studies of specific isoforms strongly suggest that homophilic binding, i.e. the formation of homodimers by identical Dscam1 isomers, is of great importance for the self-avoidance of neurons. Due to experimental limitations, it is currently impossible to measure the homophilic binding affinities for all 19,000 potential isoforms.ResultsHere we reconstructed the DNA sequences of an ancestral Dscam form (which likely existed approximately 40¿~¿50 million years ago) using a comparative genomic approach. On the basis of this sequence, we established a working model to predict the self-binding affinities of all isoforms in both the current and the ancestral genome, using machine-learning methods. Detailed computational analysis was performed to compare the self-binding affinities of all isoforms present in these two genomes. Our results revealed that 1) isoforms containing newly derived variable domains exhibit higher self-binding affinities than those with conserved domains, and 2) current isoforms display higher self-binding affinities than their counterparts in the ancient genome. As thousands of Dscam isoforms are needed for the self-avoidance of the neuron, we propose that an increase in self-binding affinity provides the basis for the successful evolution of the arthropod brain.ConclusionsOur data presented here provide an excellent model for future experimental studies of the binding behavior of Dscam isoforms. The results of our analysis indicate that evolution favored the rise of novel variable domains thanks to their higher self-binding affinities, rather than selection merely on the basis of simple expansion of isoform diversity, as that this particular selection process would have established the powerful mechanisms required for neuronal self-avoidance. Thus, we reveal here a new molecular mechanism for the successful evolution of arthropod brains.
- The first flea with fully distended abdomen from the Early Cretaceous of China. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 27; 14(1):168.
BackgroundFleas, the most notorious insect ectoparasites of human, dogs, cats, birds, etc., have recently been traced to its basal and primitive ancestors during the Middle Jurassic. Compared with extant fleas, these large basal fleas have many different features. Although several fossil species with transitional morphologies filled the evolutionary blank, the early evolution of these ectoparasites is still poorly known.ResultsHere we report a new flea with transitional characters, Pseudopulex tanlan sp. nov., assigned to Pseudopulicidae, from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, China. Different from the previously described pseudopulicids, P. tanlan has relatively smaller body size but lacking any ctenidia on the tibiae or body, while the male with comparatively smaller and shorter genitalia. On the other hand, P. tanlan has some characters similar to the transitional fleas of saurophthirids, such as, a small head, short compacted antennae, small pygidium and many stiff setae covering the body.ConclusionsEven though other possibilities can not be ruled out, the female specimen with extremely distended abdomen suggests that it might have consumed its last meal before its demise. Compared with other reported female flea fossils, we calculate and estimate that P. tanlan sp. nov. might have consumed 0.02 milliliter (ml) of blood, which is about 15 times of the intake volume by extant fleas. These new findings further support that fleas had evolved a broad diversity by the Early Cretaceous.
- Phylogenomic analysis of glycogen branching and debranching enzymatic duo. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 23; 14(1):183.
BackgroundBranched polymers of glucose are universally used for energy storage in cells, taking the form of glycogen in animals, fungi, Bacteria, and Archaea, and of amylopectin in plants. Some enzymes involved in glycogen and amylopectin metabolism are similarly conserved in all forms of life, but some, interestingly, are not. In this paper we focus on the phylogeny of glycogen branching and debranching enzymes, respectively involved in introducing and removing of the ¿(1¿6) bonds in glucose polymers, bonds that provide the unique branching structure to glucose polymers.ResultsWe performed a large-scale phylogenomic analysis of branching and debranching enzymes in over 400 completely sequenced genomes, including more than 200 from eukaryotes. We show that branching and debranching enzymes can be found in all kingdoms of life, including all major groups of eukaryotes, and thus were likely to have been present in the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) but have been lost in seemingly random fashion in numerous single-celled eukaryotes. We also show how animal branching and debranching enzymes evolved from their LUCA ancestors by acquiring additional domains. Furthermore, we show that enzymes commonly perceived as orthologous, such as human branching enzyme GBE1 and E. coli branching enzyme GlgB, are in fact related by a gene duplication and consequently paralogous.ConclusionsDespite being usually associated with animal liver glycogen and plant starch, energy storage in the form of branched glucose polymers is clearly an ancient process and has probably been present in the last universal common ancestor of all present life. The evolution of the enzymes enabling this form of energy storage is more complex than previously thought and illustrates the need for explicit phylogenomic analysis in the study of even seemingly ¿simple¿ metabolic enzymes. Patterns of conservation in the evolution of the glycogen/starch branching and debranching enzymes hint at some as yet unknown mechanisms, as mutations disrupting these patterns lead to a variety of genetic diseases in humans and other mammals.
- An evolutionary preserved intergenic spacer in gadiform mitogenomes generates a long noncoding RNA. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 22; 14(1):182.
BackgroundVertebrate mitogenomes are economically organized and usually lack intergenic sequences other than the control region. Intergenic spacers located between the tRNAThr and tRNAPro genes (¿T-P spacers¿) have been observed in several taxa, including gadiform species, but information about their biological roles and putative functions is still lacking.ResultsSequence characterization of the complete European hake Merluccius merluccius mitogenome identified a complex T-P spacer ranging in size from 223¿532 bp. Further analyses of 32 gadiform species, representing 8 families and 28 genera, revealed the evolutionary preserved presence of T-P spacers across all taxa. Molecular complexity of the T-P spacers was found to be coherent with the phylogenetic relationships, supporting a common ancestral origin and gain of function during codfish evolution. Intraspecific variation of T-P spacer sequences was assessed in 225 Atlantic cod specimens and revealed 26 haplotypes. Pyrosequencing data representing the mito-transcriptome poly (A) fraction in Atlantic cod identified an abundant H-strand specific long noncoding RNA of about 375 nt. The T-P spacer corresponded to the 5¿ part of this transcript, which terminated within the control region in a tail-to-tail configuration with the L-strand specific transcript (the 7S RNA).ConclusionsThe T-P spacer is inferred to be evolutionary preserved in gadiform mitogenomes due to gain of function through a long noncoding RNA. We suggest that the T-P spacer adds stability to the H-strand specific long noncoding RNA by forming stable hairpin structures and additional protein binding sites.
- Demographic history and gene flow during silkworm domestication. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 14; 14(1):185.
BackgroundGene flow plays an important role in domestication history of domesticated species. However, little is known about the demographic history of domesticated silkworm involving gene flow with its wild relative.ResultsIn this study, four model-based evolutionary scenarios to describe the demographic history of B. mori were hypothesized. Using Approximate Bayesian Computation method and DNA sequence data from 29 nuclear loci, we found that the gene flow at bottleneck model is the most likely scenario for silkworm domestication. The starting time of silkworm domestication was estimated to be approximate 7,500 years ago; the time of domestication termination was 3,984 years ago. Using coalescent simulation analysis, we also found that bi-directional gene flow occurred during silkworm domestication.ConclusionsEstimates of silkworm domestication time are nearly consistent with the archeological evidence and our previous results. Importantly, we found that the bi-directional gene flow might occur during silkworm domestication. Our findings add a dimension to highlight the important role of gene flow in domestication of crops and animals.
- Intracolonial genetic variation affects reproductive skew and colony productivity during colony foundation in a parthenogenetic termite. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 14; 14(1):177.
BackgroundIn insect societies, intracolonial genetic variation is predicted to affect both colony efficiency and reproductive skew. However, because the effects of genetic variation on these two colony characteristics have been tested independently, it remains unclear whether they are affected by genetic variation independently or in a related manner. Here we test the effect of genetic variation on colony efficiency and reproductive skew in a rhinotermitid termite, Reticulitermes speratus, a species in which female-female pairs can facultatively found colonies. We established colonies using two types of female-female pairs: colonies founded by sisters (i.e., sister-pair colonies) and those founded by females from different colonies (i.e., unrelated-pair colonies). Colony growth and reproductive skew were then compared between the two types of incipient colonies.ResultsAt 15 months after colony foundation, unrelated-pair colonies were larger than sister-pair colonies, although the caste ratio between workers and nymphs, which were alternatively differentiated from young larvae, did not differ significantly. Microsatellite DNA analyses of both founders and their parthenogenetically produced offspring indicated that, in both sister-pair and unrelated-pair colonies, there was no significant skew in the production of eggs, larvae, workers and soldiers. Nymph production, however, was significantly more skewed in the sister-pair colonies than in unrelated-pair colonies. Because nymphs can develop into winged adults (alates) or nymphoid reproductives, they have a higher chance of direct reproduction than workers in this species.ConclusionsOur results support the idea that higher genetic variation among colony members could provide an increase in colony productivity, as shown in hymenopteran social insects. Moreover, this study suggests that low genetic variation (high relatedness) between founding females increases reproductive skew via one female preferentially channeling her relatives along the reproductive track. This study thus demonstrated that, in social insects, intracolonial genetic variation can simultaneously affect both colony efficiency and reproductive skew.
- Avoiding perceived past resource use of potential competitors affects niche dynamics in a bird community. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 15; 14(1):175.
BackgroundSocial information use is usually considered to lead to ecological convergence among involved con- or heterospecific individuals. However, recent results demonstrate that observers can also actively avoid behaving as those individuals being observed, leading to ecological divergence. This phenomenon has been little explored so far, yet it can have significant impact on resource use, realized niches and species co-existence. In particular, the time-scale and the ecological context over which such shifts can occur are unknown. We examined with a long-term (four years) field experiment whether experimentally manipulated, species-specific, nest-site feature preferences (symbols on nest boxes) are transmitted across breeding seasons and affect future nest-site preferences in a guild of three cavity-nesting birds.ResultsOf the examined species, resident great tits (Parus major) preferred the symbol that had been associated with unoccupied nest boxes in the previous year, i.e., their preference shifted towards niche space previously unused by putative competitors and conspecifics.ConclusionsOur results show that animals can remember the earlier resource use of conspecifics and other guild members and adjust own decisions accordingly one year after. Our experiment cannot reveal the ultimate mechanism(s) behind the observed behaviour but avoiding costs of intra- or interspecific competition or ectoparasite load in old nests are plausible reasons. Our findings imply that interspecific social information use can affect resource sharing and realized niches in ecological time-scale through active avoidance of observed decisions and behavior of potentially competing species.
- Pigmentation in. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 13; 14(1):179.
BackgroundPigmentation has a long history of investigation in evolutionary biology. In Drosophila melanogaster, latitudinal and altitudinal clines have been found but their underlying causes remain unclear. Moreover, most studies were conducted on cosmopolitan populations which have a relatively low level of genetic structure and diversity compared to sub-Saharan African populations. We investigated: 1) the correlation between pigmentation traits within and between the thorax and the fourth abdominal segment, and 2) their associations with different geographical and ecological variables, using 710 lines belonging to 30 sub-Saharan and cosmopolitan populations.ResultsPigmentation clines substantially differed between sub-Saharan and cosmopolitan populations. While positive correlations with latitude have previously been described in Europe, India and Australia, in agreement with Bogert's rule or the thermal melanism hypothesis, we found a significant negative correlation in Africa. This correlation persisted even after correction for altitude, which in its turn showed a positive correlation with pigmentation independently from latitude. More importantly, we found that thoracic pigmentation reaches its maximal values in this species in high-altitude populations of Ethiopia (1,600-3,100 m). Ethiopian flies have a diffuse wide thoracic trident making the mesonotum and the head almost black, a phenotype that is absent from all other sub-Saharan or cosmopolitan populations including high-altitude flies from Peru (~3,400 m). Ecological analyses indicated that the variable most predictive of pigmentation in Africa, especially for the thorax, was ultra-violet (UV) intensity, consistent with the so-called Gloger's rule invoking a role of melanin in UV protection.ConclusionOur data suggest that different environmental factors may shape clinal variation in tropical and temperate regions, and may lead to the evolution of different degrees of melanism in different high altitude populations in the tropics.
- New subfamilies of major intrinsic proteins in fungi suggest novel transport properties in fungal channels: implications for the host-fungal interactions. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 12; 14(1):173.
BackgroundAquaporins (AQPs) and aquaglyceroporins (AQGPs) belong to the superfamily of Major Intrinsic Proteins (MIPs) and are involved in the transport of water and neutral solutes across the membranes. MIP channels play significant role in plant-fungi symbiotic relationship and are believed to be important in host-pathogen interactions in human fungal diseases. In plants, at least five major MIP subfamilies have been identified. Fungal MIP subfamilies include orthodox aquaporins and five subgroups within aquaglyceroporins. XIP subfamily is common to both plants and fungi. In this study, we have investigated the extent of diversity in fungal MIPs and explored further evolutionary relationships with the plant MIP counterparts.ResultsWe have extensively analyzed the available fungal genomes and examined nearly 400 fungal MIPs. Phylogenetic analysis and homology modeling exhibit the existence of a new MIP cluster distinct from any of the known fungal MIP subfamilies. All members of this cluster are found in microsporidia which are unicellular fungal parasites. Members of this family are small in size, charged and have hydrophobic residues in the aromatic/arginine selectivity filter and these features are shared by small and basic intrinsic proteins (SIPs), one of the plant MIP subfamilies. We have also found two new subfamilies (¿ and ¿2) within the AQGP group. Fungal AQGPs are the most diverse and possess the largest number of subgroups. We have also identified distinguishing features in loops E and D in the newly identified subfamilies indicating their possible role in channel transport and gating.ConclusionsFungal SIP-like MIP family is distinct from any of the known fungal MIP families including orthodox aquaporins and aquaglyceroporins. After XIPs, this is the second MIP subfamily from fungi that may have possible evolutionary link with a plant MIP subfamily. AQGPs in fungi are more diverse and possess the largest number of subgroups. The aromatic/arginine selectivity filter of SIP-like fungal MIPs and the ¿ AQGPs are unique, hydrophobic in nature and are likely to transport novel hydrophobic solutes. They can be attractive targets for developing anti-fungal drugs. The evolutionary pattern shared with their plant counterparts indicates possible involvement of new fungal MIPs in plant-fungi symbiosis and host-pathogen interactions.
- Phylogenetic informativeness reconciles ray-finned fish molecular divergence times. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- BMC Evol Biol 2014 Aug 8; 14(1):169.
BackgroundDiscordance among individual molecular age estimates, or between molecular age estimates and the fossil record, is observed in many clades across the Tree of Life. This discordance is attributed to a variety of variables including calibration age uncertainty, calibration placement, nucleotide substitution rate heterogeneity, or the specified molecular clock model. However, the impact of changes in phylogenetic informativeness of individual genes over time on phylogenetic inferences is rarely analyzed. Using nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data for ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) as an example, we extend the utility of phylogenetic informativeness profiles to predict the time intervals when nucleotide substitution saturation results in discordance among molecular ages estimated.ResultsWe demonstrate that even with identical calibration regimes and molecular clock methods, mitochondrial based molecular age estimates are systematically older than those estimated from nuclear sequences. This discordance is most severe for highly nested nodes corresponding to more recent (i.e., Jurassic-Recent) divergences. By removing data deemed saturated, we reconcile the competing age estimates and highlight that the older mtDNA based ages were driven by nucleotide saturation.ConclusionsHomoplasious site patterns in a DNA sequence alignment can systematically bias molecular divergence time estimates. Our study demonstrates that PI profiles can provide a non-arbitrary criterion for data exclusion to mitigate the influence of homoplasy on time calibrated branch length estimates. Analyses of actinopterygian molecular clocks demonstrate that scrutiny of the time scale on which sequence data is informative is a fundamental, but generally overlooked, step in molecular divergence time estimation.