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1.  The tammar wallaby major histocompatibility complex shows evidence of past genomic instability 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:421.
Background
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a group of genes with a variety of roles in the innate and adaptive immune responses. MHC genes form a genetically linked cluster in eutherian mammals, an organization that is thought to confer functional and evolutionary advantages to the immune system. The tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), an Australian marsupial, provides a unique model for understanding MHC gene evolution, as many of its antigen presenting genes are not linked to the MHC, but are scattered around the genome.
Results
Here we describe the 'core' tammar wallaby MHC region on chromosome 2q by ordering and sequencing 33 BAC clones, covering over 4.5 MB and containing 129 genes. When compared to the MHC region of the South American opossum, eutherian mammals and non-mammals, the wallaby MHC has a novel gene organization. The wallaby has undergone an expansion of MHC class II genes, which are separated into two clusters by the class III genes. The antigen processing genes have undergone duplication, resulting in two copies of TAP1 and three copies of TAP2. Notably, Kangaroo Endogenous Retroviral Elements are present within the region and may have contributed to the genomic instability.
Conclusions
The wallaby MHC has been extensively remodeled since the American and Australian marsupials last shared a common ancestor. The instability is characterized by the movement of antigen presenting genes away from the core MHC, most likely via the presence and activity of retroviral elements. We propose that the movement of class II genes away from the ancestral class II region has allowed this gene family to expand and diversify in the wallaby. The duplication of TAP genes in the wallaby MHC makes this species a unique model organism for studying the relationship between MHC gene organization and function.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-421
PMCID: PMC3179965  PMID: 21854592
2.  Evolution and comparative analysis of the MHC Class III inflammatory region 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:281.
Background
The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is essential for immune function. Historically, it has been subdivided into three regions (Class I, II, and III), but a cluster of functionally related genes within the Class III region has also been referred to as the Class IV region or "inflammatory region". This group of genes is involved in the inflammatory response, and includes members of the tumour necrosis family. Here we report the sequencing, annotation and comparative analysis of a tammar wallaby BAC containing the inflammatory region. We also discuss the extent of sequence conservation across the entire region and identify elements conserved in evolution.
Results
Fourteen Class III genes from the tammar wallaby inflammatory region were characterised and compared to their orthologues in other vertebrates. The organisation and sequence of genes in the inflammatory region of both the wallaby and South American opossum are highly conserved compared to known genes from eutherian ("placental") mammals. Some minor differences separate the two marsupial species. Eight genes within the inflammatory region have remained tightly clustered for at least 360 million years, predating the divergence of the amphibian lineage. Analysis of sequence conservation identified 354 elements that are conserved. These range in size from 7 to 431 bases and cover 15.6% of the inflammatory region, representing approximately a 4-fold increase compared to the average for vertebrate genomes. About 5.5% of this conserved sequence is marsupial-specific, including three cases of marsupial-specific repeats. Highly Conserved Elements were also characterised.
Conclusion
Using comparative analysis, we show that a cluster of MHC genes involved in inflammation, including TNF, LTA (or its putative teleost homolog TNF-N), APOM, and BAT3 have remained together for over 450 million years, predating the divergence of mammals from fish. The observed enrichment in conserved sequences within the inflammatory region suggests conservation at the transcriptional regulatory level, in addition to the functional level.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-281
PMCID: PMC1654159  PMID: 17081307
3.  Retrotransposon Silencing by DNA Methylation Can Drive Mammalian Genomic Imprinting 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(4):e55.
Among mammals, only eutherians and marsupials are viviparous and have genomic imprinting that leads to parent-of-origin-specific differential gene expression. We used comparative analysis to investigate the origin of genomic imprinting in mammals. PEG10 (paternally expressed 10) is a retrotransposon-derived imprinted gene that has an essential role for the formation of the placenta of the mouse. Here, we show that an orthologue of PEG10 exists in another therian mammal, the marsupial tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), but not in a prototherian mammal, the egg-laying platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), suggesting its close relationship to the origin of placentation in therian mammals. We have discovered a hitherto missing link of the imprinting mechanism between eutherians and marsupials because tammar PEG10 is the first example of a differentially methylated region (DMR) associated with genomic imprinting in marsupials. Surprisingly, the marsupial DMR was strictly limited to the 5′ region of PEG10, unlike the eutherian DMR, which covers the promoter regions of both PEG10 and the adjacent imprinted gene SGCE. These results not only demonstrate a common origin of the DMR-associated imprinting mechanism in therian mammals but provide the first demonstration that DMR-associated genomic imprinting in eutherians can originate from the repression of exogenous DNA sequences and/or retrotransposons by DNA methylation.
Author Summary
Genomic imprinting is a gene regulatory mechanism controlling parent-of-origin-dependent expression of genes. In eutherians, imprinting is essential for fetal and placental development and defects in this mechanism are the cause of several genetic disorders. In eutherian mammals, genomic imprinting is controlled by differential methylation of the DNA. However, no such methylation-dependent mechanism had been previously identified in association with marsupial imprinting. By comparing the genome of all three extant classes of mammals (eutherians, marsupials, and monotremes), we have investigated the evolution of PEG10 (paternally expressed 10), a retrotransposon-derived imprinted gene that is essential for the formation of the placenta in the mouse. PEG10 was present in a marsupial species, the tammar wallaby, but absent from an egg-laying monotreme species, the platypus. Therefore, PEG10 was inserted into the genome at the time when the placenta and viviparity were evolving in therian mammals. This study has shown that PEG10 is not only imprinted in a marsupial, but that its imprint is regulated by differential methylation, suggesting a common origin for methylation in the therian ancestor. These results provide direct evidence that retrotransposon insertion can drive the evolution of genomic imprinting in mammals.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030055
PMCID: PMC1851980  PMID: 17432937
4.  Antigen processing and presentation: Evolution from a bird's eye view☆ 
Molecular Immunology  2013;55(2):159-161.
Highlights
► Single MHC molecules in chicken versus multiple MHC molecules in mammals. ► Single MHC molecules in chicken strongly determine immune response. ► Single chicken class I due to co-evolution with polymorphic antigen processing genes. ► Co-evolution in chicken MHC due to different genomic organisation. ► Chicken MHC like ancestral MHC, with inversion in lineage to mammals.
Most detailed knowledge of the MHC outside of mammals has come from studies of chickens, originally due to the economic importance of the poultry industry. We have used our discoveries about the chicken MHC to develop a framework for understanding the evolution of the MHC, based on the importance of genomic organisation for gene co-evolution. In humans, MHC class I molecules are polymorphic and determine the specificity of peptide presentation, while the molecules involved in antigen processing are functionally monomorphic. The genes for tapasin, transporters associated with antigen presentation (TAPs) and inducible proteasome components (LMPs) are located in and beyond the class II region, far away from the class I genes in the class I region. In contrast, chickens express only one class I locus at high levels, which can result in strong MHC associations with resistance to particular infectious pathogens. The chicken TAP and tapasin genes are located very close to the class I genes, and have high levels of allelic polymorphism and moderate sequence diversity, co-evolving their specificities to work optimally with the dominantly expressed class I molecule. The salient features of the chicken MHC are found in many if not most non-mammalian species examined, and are likely to represent the ancestral organisation of the MHC. Comparison with the MHC organisation of humans and typical mammals suggests that a large inversion brought the class III region into the middle of the MHC, separating the antigen processing genes from the class I gene, breaking the co-evolutionary relationships and allowing a multigene family of well-expressed class I genes. Such co-evolution in the primordial MHC was likely responsible for the appearance of the antigen presentation pathways and receptor–ligand interactions at the birth of the adaptive immune system. Of course, much further work is required to understand this evolutionary framework in more detail.
doi:10.1016/j.molimm.2012.10.030
PMCID: PMC3878743  PMID: 23182425
Antigen processing; Antigen presentation; Major histocompatibility complex; MHC; Class I; Transporters associated with antigen presentation; TAP; Tapasin; Bird; Chicken; Non-mammalian; Vertebrate; Evolution, Adaptive immunity
5.  Reconstructing an Ancestral Mammalian Immune Supercomplex from a Marsupial Major Histocompatibility Complex 
PLoS Biology  2006;4(3):e46.
The first sequenced marsupial genome promises to reveal unparalleled insights into mammalian evolution. We have used theMonodelphis domestica (gray short-tailed opossum) sequence to construct the first map of a marsupial major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The MHC is the most gene-dense region of the mammalian genome and is critical to immunity and reproductive success. The marsupial MHC bridges the phylogenetic gap between the complex MHC of eutherian mammals and the minimal essential MHC of birds. Here we show that the opossum MHC is gene dense and complex, as in humans, but shares more organizational features with non-mammals. The Class I genes have amplified within the Class II region, resulting in a unique Class I/II region. We present a model of the organization of the MHC in ancestral mammals and its elaboration during mammalian evolution. The opossum genome, together with other extant genomes, reveals the existence of an ancestral “immune supercomplex” that contained genes of both types of natural killer receptors together with antigen processing genes and MHC genes.
Opossum genomic sequence data permit researchers to fill gaps in our knowledge of how the Major Histocompatibility Complex evolved within the mammalian lineage.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040046
PMCID: PMC1351924  PMID: 16435885
6.  Isolation, X location and activity of the marsupial homologue of SLC16A2, an XIST-flanking gene in eutherian mammals 
X chromosome inactivation (XCI) achieves dosage compensation between males and females for most X-linked genes in eutherian mammals. It is a whole-chromosome effect under the control of the XIST locus, although some genes escape inactivation. Marsupial XCI differs from the eutherian process, implying fundamental changes in the XCI mechanism during the evolution of the two lineages. There is no direct evidence for the existence of a marsupial XIST homologue. XCI has been studied for only a handful of genes in any marsupial, and none in the model kangaroo Macropus eugenii (the tammar wallaby). We have therefore studied the sequence, location and activity of a gene SLC16A2 (solute carrier, family 16, class A, member 2) that flanks XIST on the human and mouse X chromosomes. A BAC clone containing the marsupial SLC16A2 was mapped to the end of the long arm of the tammar X chromosome and used in RNA FISH experiments to determine whether one or both loci are transcribed in female cells. In male and female cells, only a single signal was found, indicating that the marsupial SLC16A2 gene is silenced on the inactivated X.
doi:10.1007/s10577-005-1006-5
PMCID: PMC2819140  PMID: 16235118
marsupial; SLC16A2 gene; X chromosome evolution; X chromosome inactivation
7.  Giant Panda Genomic Data Provide Insight into the Birth-and-Death Process of Mammalian Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II Genes 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(1):e4147.
To gain an understanding of the genomic structure and evolutionary history of the giant panda major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, we determined a 636,503-bp nucleotide sequence spanning the MHC class II region. Analysis revealed that the MHC class II region from this rare species contained 26 loci (17 predicted to be expressed), of which 10 are classical class II genes (1 DRA, 2 DRB, 2 DQA, 3 DQB, 1 DYB, 1 DPA, and 2 DPB) and 4 are non-classical class II genes (1 DOA, 1 DOB, 1 DMA, and 1 DMB). The presence of DYB, a gene specific to ruminants, prompted a comparison of the giant panda class II sequence with those of humans, cats, dogs, cattle, pigs, and mice. The results indicated that birth and death events within the DQ and DRB-DY regions led to major lineage differences, with absence of these regions in the cat and in humans and mice respectively. The phylogenetic trees constructed using all expressed alpha and beta genes from marsupials and placental mammals showed that: (1) because marsupials carry loci corresponding to DR, DP, DO and DM genes, those subregions most likely developed before the divergence of marsupials and placental mammals, approximately 150 million years ago (MYA); (2) conversely, the DQ and DY regions must have evolved later, but before the radiation of placental mammals (100 MYA). As a result, the typical genomic structure of MHC class II genes for the giant panda is similar to that of the other placental mammals and corresponds to BTNL2∼DR1∼DQ∼DR2∼DY∼DO_box∼DP∼COL11A2. Over the past 100 million years, there has been birth and death of mammalian DR, DQ, DY, and DP genes, an evolutionary process that has brought about the current species-specific genomic structure of the MHC class II region. Furthermore, facing certain similar pathogens, mammals have adopted intra-subregion (DR and DQ) and inter-subregion (between DQ and DP) convergent evolutionary strategies for their alpha and beta genes, respectively.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004147
PMCID: PMC2613555  PMID: 19127303
8.  The Evolution of the DLK1-DIO3 Imprinted Domain in Mammals 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(6):e135.
A comprehensive, domain-wide comparative analysis of genomic imprinting between mammals that imprint and those that do not can provide valuable information about how and why imprinting evolved. The imprinting status, DNA methylation, and genomic landscape of the Dlk1-Dio3 cluster were determined in eutherian, metatherian, and prototherian mammals including tammar wallaby and platypus. Imprinting across the whole domain evolved after the divergence of eutherian from marsupial mammals and in eutherians is under strong purifying selection. The marsupial locus at 1.6 megabases, is double that of eutherians due to the accumulation of LINE repeats. Comparative sequence analysis of the domain in seven vertebrates determined evolutionary conserved regions common to particular sub-groups and to all vertebrates. The emergence of Dlk1-Dio3 imprinting in eutherians has occurred on the maternally inherited chromosome and is associated with region-specific resistance to expansion by repetitive elements and the local introduction of noncoding transcripts including microRNAs and C/D small nucleolar RNAs. A recent mammal-specific retrotransposition event led to the formation of a completely new gene only in the eutherian domain, which may have driven imprinting at the cluster.
Author Summary
Mammals have two copies of each gene in their somatic cells, and most of these gene pairs are regulated and expressed simultaneously. A fraction of mammalian genes, however, is subject to imprinting—a chemical modification that marks a gene according to its parental origin, so that one parent's copy is expressed while the other parent's copy is silenced. How and why this process evolved is the subject of much speculation. Here we have shown that all the genes in one genomic region, Dlk1-Dio3, which are imprinted in placental mammals such as mouse and human, are not imprinted in marsupial (wallaby) or monotreme (platypus) mammals. This is in contrast to a small number of other imprinted genes that are imprinted in marsupials and other therian mammals and indicates that imprinting arose at each genomic domain at different stages of mammalian evolution. We have compared the sequence of the Dlk1-Dio3 region between seven vertebrate species and identified sequences that are differentially represented in mammals that imprint compared to those that do not. Our data indicate that once imprinted gene regulation is acquired in a domain, it becomes evolutionarily constrained to remain unchanged.
A comparative analysis of genomic imprinting between mammals that imprint and those that don't has provided insights into how and why imprinting evolved.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060135
PMCID: PMC2408620  PMID: 18532878
9.  Unique small RNA signatures uncovered in the tammar wallaby genome 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:559.
Background
Small RNAs have proven to be essential regulatory molecules encoded within eukaryotic genomes. These short RNAs participate in a diverse array of cellular processes including gene regulation, chromatin dynamics and genome defense. The tammar wallaby, a marsupial mammal, is a powerful comparative model for studying the evolution of regulatory networks. As part of the genome sequencing initiative for the tammar, we have explored the evolution of each of the major classes of mammalian small RNAs in an Australian marsupial for the first time, including the first genome-scale analysis of the newest class of small RNAs, centromere repeat associated short interacting RNAs (crasiRNAs).
Results
Using next generation sequencing, we have characterized the major classes of small RNAs, micro (mi) RNAs, piwi interacting (pi) RNAs, and the centromere repeat associated short interacting (crasi) RNAs in the tammar. We examined each of these small RNA classes with respect to the newly assembled tammar wallaby genome for gene and repeat features, salient features that define their canonical sequences, and the constitution of both highly conserved and species-specific members. Using a combination of miRNA hairpin predictions and co-mapping with miRBase entries, we identified a highly conserved cluster of miRNA genes on the X chromosome in the tammar and a total of 94 other predicted miRNA producing genes. Mapping all miRNAs to the tammar genome and comparing target genes among tammar, mouse and human, we identified 163 conserved target genes. An additional nine genes were identified in tammar that do not have an orthologous miRNA target in human and likely represent novel miRNA-regulated genes in the tammar. A survey of the tammar gonadal piRNAs shows that these small RNAs are enriched in retroelements and carry members from both marsupial and tammar-specific repeat classes. Lastly, this study includes the first in-depth analyses of the newly discovered crasiRNAs. These small RNAs are derived largely from centromere-enriched retroelements, including a novel SINE.
Conclusions
This study encompasses the first analyses of the major classes of small RNAs for the newly completed tammar genome, validates preliminary annotations using deep sequencing and computational approaches, and provides a foundation for future work on tammar-specific as well as conserved, but previously unknown small RNA progenitors and targets identified herein. The characterization of new miRNA target genes and a unique profile for crasiRNAs has allowed for insight into multiple RNA mediated processes in the tammar, including gene regulation, species incompatibilities, centromere and chromosome function.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-559
PMCID: PMC3576234  PMID: 23075437
10.  Reconstruction of the ancestral marsupial karyotype from comparative gene maps 
Background
The increasing number of assembled mammalian genomes makes it possible to compare genome organisation across mammalian lineages and reconstruct chromosomes of the ancestral marsupial and therian (marsupial and eutherian) mammals. However, the reconstruction of ancestral genomes requires genome assemblies to be anchored to chromosomes. The recently sequenced tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) genome was assembled into over 300,000 contigs. We previously devised an efficient strategy for mapping large evolutionarily conserved blocks in non-model mammals, and applied this to determine the arrangement of conserved blocks on all wallaby chromosomes, thereby permitting comparative maps to be constructed and resolve the long debated issue between a 2n = 14 and 2n = 22 ancestral marsupial karyotype.
Results
We identified large blocks of genes conserved between human and opossum, and mapped genes corresponding to the ends of these blocks by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). A total of 242 genes was assigned to wallaby chromosomes in the present study, bringing the total number of genes mapped to 554 and making it the most densely cytogenetically mapped marsupial genome. We used these gene assignments to construct comparative maps between wallaby and opossum, which uncovered many intrachromosomal rearrangements, particularly for genes found on wallaby chromosomes X and 3. Expanding comparisons to include chicken and human permitted the putative ancestral marsupial (2n = 14) and therian mammal (2n = 19) karyotypes to be reconstructed.
Conclusions
Our physical mapping data for the tammar wallaby has uncovered the events shaping marsupial genomes and enabled us to predict the ancestral marsupial karyotype, supporting a 2n = 14 ancestor. Futhermore, our predicted therian ancestral karyotype has helped to understand the evolution of the ancestral eutherian genome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-258
PMCID: PMC4222502  PMID: 24261750
Comparative genomics; Comparative mapping; Physical map; Marsupial; Ancestral karyotype
11.  Natural Polymorphisms in Tap2 Influence Negative Selection and CD4∶CD8 Lineage Commitment in the Rat 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1004151.
Genetic variation in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) affects CD4∶CD8 lineage commitment and MHC expression. However, the contribution of specific genes in this gene-dense region has not yet been resolved. Nor has it been established whether the same genes regulate MHC expression and T cell selection. Here, we assessed the impact of natural genetic variation on MHC expression and CD4∶CD8 lineage commitment using two genetic models in the rat. First, we mapped Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) associated with variation in MHC class I and II protein expression and the CD4∶CD8 T cell ratio in outbred Heterogeneous Stock rats. We identified 10 QTLs across the genome and found that QTLs for the individual traits colocalized within a region spanning the MHC. To identify the genes underlying these overlapping QTLs, we generated a large panel of MHC-recombinant congenic strains, and refined the QTLs to two adjacent intervals of ∼0.25 Mb in the MHC-I and II regions, respectively. An interaction between these intervals affected MHC class I expression as well as negative selection and lineage commitment of CD8 single-positive (SP) thymocytes. We mapped this effect to the transporter associated with antigen processing 2 (Tap2) in the MHC-II region and the classical MHC class I gene(s) (RT1-A) in the MHC-I region. This interaction was revealed by a recombination between RT1-A and Tap2, which occurred in 0.2% of the rats. Variants of Tap2 have previously been shown to influence the antigenicity of MHC class I molecules by altering the MHC class I ligandome. Our results show that a restricted peptide repertoire on MHC class I molecules leads to reduced negative selection of CD8SP cells. To our knowledge, this is the first study showing how a recombination between natural alleles of genes in the MHC influences lineage commitment of T cells.
Author Summary
Peptides from degraded cytoplasmic proteins are transported via TAP into the endoplasmic reticulum for loading onto MHC class I molecules. TAP is encoded by Tap1 and Tap2, which in rodents are located close to the MHC class I genes. In the rat, genetic variation in Tap2 gives rise to two different transporters: a promiscuous A variant (TAP-A) and a more restrictive B variant (TAP-B). It has been proposed that the class I molecule in the DA rat (RT1-Aa) has co-evolved with TAP-A and it has been shown that RT1-Aa antigenicity is changed when co-expressed with TAP-B. To study the contribution of different allelic combinations of RT1-A and Tap2 to the variation in MHC expression and T cell selection, we generated DA rats with either congenic or background alleles in the RT1-A and Tap2 loci. We found increased numbers of mature CD8SP cells in the thymus of rats which co-expressed RT1-Aa and TAP-B. This increase of CD8 cells could be explained by reduced negative selection, but did not correlate with RT1-Aa expression levels on thymic antigen presenting cells. Thus, our results identify a crucial role of the TAP and the quality of the MHC class I repertoire in regulating T cell selection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004151
PMCID: PMC3930506  PMID: 24586191
12.  Postnatal epigenetic reprogramming in the germline of a marsupial, the tammar wallaby 
Background
Epigenetic reprogramming is essential to restore totipotency and to reset genomic imprints during mammalian germ cell development and gamete formation. The dynamic DNA methylation change at DMRs (differentially methylated regions) within imprinted domains and of retrotransposons is characteristic of this process. Both marsupials and eutherian mammals have genomic imprinting but these two subgroups have been evolving separately for up to 160 million years. Marsupials have a unique reproductive strategy and deliver tiny, altricial young that complete their development within their mother's pouch. Germ cell proliferation in the genital ridge continues after birth in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), and it is only after 25 days postpartum that female germ cells begin to enter meiosis and male germ cells begin to enter mitotic arrest. At least two marsupial imprinted loci (PEG10 and H19) also have DMRs. To investigate the evolution of epigenetic reprogramming in the marsupial germline, here we collected germ cells from male pouch young of the tammar wallaby and analysed the methylation status of PEG10 and H19 DMR, an LTR (long terminal repeat) and a non-LTR retrotransposons.
Results
Demethylation of the H19 DMR was almost completed by 14 days postpartum and de-novo methylation started from 34 days postpartum. These stages correspond to 14 days after the completion of primordial germ cell migration into genital ridge (demethylation) and 9 days after the first detection of mitotic arrest (re-methylation) in the male germ cells. Interestingly, the PEG10 DMR was already unmethylated at 7 days postpartum, suggesting that the timing of epigenetic reprogramming is not the same at all genomic loci. Retrotransposon methylation was not completely removed after the demethylation event in the germ cells, similar to the situation in the mouse.
Conclusions
Thus, despite the postnatal occurrence of epigenetic reprogramming and the persistence of genome-wide undermethylation for 20 days in the postnatal tammar, the relative timing and mechanism of germ cell reprogramming are conserved between marsupials and eutherians. We suggest that the basic mechanism of epigenetic reprogramming had already been established before the marsupial-eutherian split and has been faithfully maintained for at least 160 million years and may reflect the timing of the onset of mitotic arrest in the male germline.
doi:10.1186/1756-8935-6-14
PMCID: PMC3687581  PMID: 23732002
Epigenetic reprogramming; Genomic imprinting; Marsupial germ cells; Germ cell methylation
13.  Molecular characterization of the evolution of phagosomes 
First large-scale comparative proteomics/phosphoproteomics study characterizing some of the key steps that contributed to the remodeling of phagosomes that occurred during evolution. Comparison of profiling analyses of isolated phagosomes from three distant organisms (Dictyostelium, Drosophila, and mouse) revealed a protein core that defines a potential ‘ancient' phagosome and a set of 50 proteins that emerged while adaptive immunity was already well established.Gene duplication events of mouse phagosome paralogs occurred mostly in Bilateria and Euteleostomi, coinciding with the emergence of innate and adaptive immunity, and thus, provided the functional innovations needed for the establishment of these two crucial evolutionary steps of the immune system.Phosphoproteomics of isolated phagosomes from the same three distant species indicate that the phagosome phosphoproteome has been extensively modified during evolution. Still, some phosphosites have been maintained for >1.2 billion years, and thus, highlight their particular significance in the regulation of key phagosomal functions.
Phagocytosis is the process by which multiple cell types internalize large particulate material from the external milieu. The functional properties of phagosomes are acquired through a complex maturation process, referred to as phagolysosome biogenesis. This pathway involves a series of rapid interactions with organelles of the endocytic apparatus, enabling the gradual transformation of newly formed phagosomes into phagolysosomes in which proteolytic degradation occurs. The degradative environment encountered in the phagosome lumen has enabled the use of phagocytosis as a predation mechanism for feeding (phagotrophy) in amoeba, whereas multicellular organisms utilize this process as a defense mechanism to kill microbes and, in jawed vertebrates (fish), initiate a sustained immune response.
High-throughput proteomics profiling of isolated phagosomes has been tremendously helpful for the molecular comprehension of this organelle. This approach is achieved by feeding low buoyancy latex beads to phagocytic cells, enabling the subsequent isolation of latex bead-containing phagosomes, away from all the other cell organelles, by a single-isopicnic centrifugation in sucrose gradient. In order to characterize some of the key steps that contributed to the remodeling of phagosomes during evolution, we isolated this organelle from three distant organisms: the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, and mouse (Mus musculus) that use phagocytosis for different purposes, and performed detailed proteomics and phosphoproteomics analyses with unparallel protein coverage for this organelle (two- to four-fold enhancements in identified proteins).
In order to establish the origin of the mouse phagosome proteome, we performed comparative analyses among 39 taxa including plants/algea, unicellular organisms, fungi, and more complex animal multicellular organisms. These genomic comparisons indicated that a large proportion of the mouse phagosome proteome is of ancient origin (73.1% of the proteome is conserved in eukaryotic organisms) (Figure 2A). This stresses the fact that phagocytosis is a very ancient process, as shown by its possible involvement in the emergence of eukaryotic cells (eukaryogenesis). Indeed, we identified close to 300 phagosome mouse proteins also present on Drosophila and Dictyostelium phagosomes, defining a potential ‘ancient' core of proteins from which the immune functions of phagosomes likely evolved. Around 16.7% of the mouse phagosome proteins appeared in organisms that use phagocytosis for innate immunity (Bilateria to Chordata), whereas 10.2% appeared in Euteleostomi or Tetrapoda where phagosomes have an important function in linking the killing of microorganisms with the development of a specific sustained immune response following antigen recognition. The phagosome is made of molecules taken from a variety of sources within the cell, including the cytoplasm, the cytoskeleton and membrane organelles. Despite the evolution and diversification of these various cellular systems, the mammalian phagosome proteome is made preferentially of ancient proteins (Figure 2B). Comparison of functional annotation during evolution highlighted the emergence of specific phagosomal functions at various steps during evolution (Figure 2C). Some of these proteins and their point of origin during evolution are highlighted in Figure 2D. Strikingly, we identified in Tetrapods a set of 50 proteins that arose while adaptive immunity was already well established in teleosts (fish), indicating that the phagocytic system is still evolving.
Our study highlights the fact that the functional properties of phagosomes emerged by the remodeling of ancient molecules, the addition of novel components, and the duplication of existing proteins (paralogs) leading to the formation of molecular machines of mixed origin. Gene duplication is a process that contributed continuously to the complexification of the mouse proteome during evolution. In sharp contrast, paralog analysis indicated that the phagosome proteome was mainly reorganized through two periods of gene duplication, in Bilateria and Euteleostomi, coinciding with the emergence of adaptive immunity (in jawed fish), and innate immunity (at the split between Metazoa and Bilateria). These results strongly suggest that selective constraints may have favored the maintenance of phagosome paralogs to ensure the establishment of novel functions associated with this organelle at these two crucial evolutionary steps of the immune system.
The emergence of genes associated to the MHC locus in mammals that appeared originally in the genome of jawed fishes, contributed to the development of complex molecular mechanisms linking innate (our immune system that defends the host from infection in a non-specific manner) and adaptive immunity (the part of the immune system triggered specifically after antigen recognition). Several of the genes of this locus encode proteins known to have important functions in antigen presentation, such as subunits of the immunoproteasome (LMP2 and LMP7), MHC class I and class II molecules, as well as tapasin and the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP1 and TAP2), involved in the transport and loading of peptides on MHC class I molecules (Figure 6). In addition to their ability to present peptides on MHC class II molecules, phagosomes of vertebrates have been shown to be competent for the presentation of exogenous peptides on MHC class I molecules, a process referred to as cross-presentation. From a functional point of view, the involvement of phagosomes in antigen cross-presentation is the outcome of the successful integration of a wide range of multimolecular components that emerged throughout evolution (Figure 6). The trimming of exogenous proteins into small peptides that can be loaded on MHC class I molecules is inherited from the phagotrophic properties of unicellular organisms, where internalized bacteria are degraded into basic molecules and used as a source of nutrients. Ancient processes have therefore been co-opted (the use of an existing biological structure or feature for a new function) for new functionalities. A summarizing model of the various steps that enabled phagosome antigen presentation is presented in Figure 6. This model highlights the fact that although antigen presentation is unique to evolutionary recent phagosomes (starting in jawed fishes about 450 million years ago), it uses and integrates molecular machines composed of proteins that emerged throughout evolution.
In summary, we present here the first large-scale comparative proteomics/phosphoproteomics study characterizing some of the key evolutionary steps that contributed to the remodeling of phagosomes during evolution. Functional properties of this organelle emerged by the remodeling of ancient molecules, the addition of novel components, the extensive adaption of protein phosphorylation sites and the duplication of existing proteins leading to the formation of molecular machines of mixed origin.
Amoeba use phagocytosis to internalize bacteria as a source of nutrients, whereas multicellular organisms utilize this process as a defense mechanism to kill microbes and, in vertebrates, initiate a sustained immune response. By using a large-scale approach to identify and compare the proteome and phosphoproteome of phagosomes isolated from distant organisms, and by comparative analysis over 39 taxa, we identified an ‘ancient' core of phagosomal proteins around which the immune functions of this organelle have likely organized. Our data indicate that a larger proportion of the phagosome proteome, compared with the whole cell proteome, has been acquired through gene duplication at a period coinciding with the emergence of innate and adaptive immunity. Our study also characterizes in detail the acquisition of novel proteins and the significant remodeling of the phagosome phosphoproteome that contributed to modify the core constituents of this organelle in evolution. Our work thus provides the first thorough analysis of the changes that enabled the transformation of the phagosome from a phagotrophic compartment into an organelle fully competent for antigen presentation.
doi:10.1038/msb.2010.80
PMCID: PMC2990642  PMID: 20959821
evolution; immunity; phosphoproteomics; phylogeny; proteomics
14.  Differential roles of TGIF family genes in mammalian reproduction 
Background
TG-interacting factors (TGIFs) belong to a family of TALE-homeodomain proteins including TGIF1, TGIF2 and TGIFLX/Y in human. Both TGIF1 and TGIF2 act as transcription factors repressing TGF-β signalling. Human TGIFLX and its orthologue, Tex1 in the mouse, are X-linked genes that are only expressed in the adult testis. TGIF2 arose from TGIF1 by duplication, whereas TGIFLX arose by retrotransposition to the X-chromosome. These genes have not been characterised in any non-eutherian mammals. We therefore studied the TGIF family in the tammar wallaby (a marsupial mammal) to investigate their roles in reproduction and how and when these genes may have evolved their functions and chromosomal locations.
Results
Both TGIF1 and TGIF2 were present in the tammar genome on autosomes but TGIFLX was absent. Tammar TGIF1 shared a similar expression pattern during embryogenesis, sexual differentiation and in adult tissues to that of TGIF1 in eutherian mammals, suggesting it has been functionally conserved. Tammar TGIF2 was ubiquitously expressed throughout early development as in the human and mouse, but in the adult, it was expressed only in the gonads and spleen, more like the expression pattern of human TGIFLX and mouse Tex1. Tammar TGIF2 mRNA was specifically detected in round and elongated spermatids. There was no mRNA detected in mature spermatozoa. TGIF2 protein was specifically located in the cytoplasm of spermatids, and in the residual body and the mid-piece of the mature sperm tail. These data suggest that tammar TGIF2 may participate in spermiogenesis, like TGIFLX does in eutherians. TGIF2 was detected for the first time in the ovary with mRNA produced in the granulosa and theca cells, suggesting it may also play a role in folliculogenesis.
Conclusions
The restricted and very similar expression of tammar TGIF2 to X-linked paralogues in eutherians suggests that the evolution of TGIF1, TGIF2 and TGIFLX in eutherians was accompanied by a change from ubiquitous to tissue-specific expression. The distribution and localization of TGIF2 in tammar adult gonads suggest that there has been an ultra-conserved function for the TGIF family in fertility and that TGIF2 already functioned in spermatogenesis and potentially folliculogenesis long before its retrotransposition to the X-chromosome of eutherian mammals. These results also provide further evidence that the eutherian X-chromosome has actively recruited sex and reproductive-related genes during mammalian evolution.
doi:10.1186/1471-213X-11-58
PMCID: PMC3204290  PMID: 21958027
15.  A second-generation anchored genetic linkage map of the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) 
BMC Genetics  2011;12:72.
Background
The tammar wallaby, Macropus eugenii, a small kangaroo used for decades for studies of reproduction and metabolism, is the model Australian marsupial for genome sequencing and genetic investigations. The production of a more comprehensive cytogenetically-anchored genetic linkage map will significantly contribute to the deciphering of the tammar wallaby genome. It has great value as a resource to identify novel genes and for comparative studies, and is vital for the ongoing genome sequence assembly and gene ordering in this species.
Results
A second-generation anchored tammar wallaby genetic linkage map has been constructed based on a total of 148 loci. The linkage map contains the original 64 loci included in the first-generation map, plus an additional 84 microsatellite loci that were chosen specifically to increase coverage and assist with the anchoring and orientation of linkage groups to chromosomes. These additional loci were derived from (a) sequenced BAC clones that had been previously mapped to tammar wallaby chromosomes by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), (b) End sequence from BACs subsequently FISH-mapped to tammar wallaby chromosomes, and (c) tammar wallaby genes orthologous to opossum genes predicted to fill gaps in the tammar wallaby linkage map as well as three X-linked markers from a published study. Based on these 148 loci, eight linkage groups were formed. These linkage groups were assigned (via FISH-mapped markers) to all seven autosomes and the X chromosome. The sex-pooled map size is 1402.4 cM, which is estimated to provide 82.6% total coverage of the genome, with an average interval distance of 10.9 cM between adjacent markers. The overall ratio of female/male map length is 0.84, which is comparable to the ratio of 0.78 obtained for the first-generation map.
Conclusions
Construction of this second-generation genetic linkage map is a significant step towards complete coverage of the tammar wallaby genome and considerably extends that of the first-generation map. It will be a valuable resource for ongoing tammar wallaby genetic research and assembling the genome sequence. The sex-pooled map is available online at http://compldb.angis.org.au/.
doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-72
PMCID: PMC3176194  PMID: 21854616
16.  Diversity of Color Vision: Not All Australian Marsupials Are Trichromatic 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14231.
Color vision in marsupials has recently emerged as a particularly interesting case among mammals. It appears that there are both dichromats and trichromats among closely related species. In contrast to primates, marsupials seem to have evolved a different type of trichromacy that is not linked to the X-chromosome. Based on microspectrophotometry and retinal whole-mount immunohistochemistry, four trichromatic marsupial species have been described: quokka, quenda, honey possum, and fat-tailed dunnart. It has, however, been impossible to identify the photopigment of the third cone type, and genetically, all evidence so far suggests that all marsupials are dichromatic. The tammar wallaby is the only Australian marsupial to date for which there is no evidence of a third cone type. To clarify whether the wallaby is indeed a dichromat or trichromatic like other Australian marsupials, we analyzed the number of cone types in the “dichromatic” wallaby and the “trichromatic” dunnart. Employing identical immunohistochemical protocols, we confirmed that the wallaby has only two cone types, whereas 20–25% of cones remained unlabeled by S- and LM-opsin antibodies in the dunnart retina. In addition, we found no evidence to support the hypothesis that the rod photopigment (rod opsin) is expressed in cones which would have explained the absence of a third cone opsin gene. Our study is the first comprehensive and quantitative account of color vision in Australian marsupials where we now know that an unexpected diversity of different color vision systems appears to have evolved.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014231
PMCID: PMC2997786  PMID: 21151905
17.  Identification of a Novel PNMA-MS1 Gene in Marsupials Suggests the LTR Retrotransposon-Derived PNMA Genes Evolved Differently in Marsupials and Eutherians 
Two major gene families derived from Ty3/Gypsy long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons were recently identified in mammals. The sushi-ichi retrotransposon homologue (SIRH) family comprises 12 genes: 11 in eutherians including Peg10 and Peg11/Rtl1 that have essential roles in the eutherian placenta and 1 that is marsupial specific. Fifteen and 12 genes were reported in the second gene family, para-neoplastic antigen MA (PNMA), in humans and mice, respectively, although their biological functions and evolutionary history remain largely unknown. Here, we identified two novel candidate PNMA genes, PNMA-MS1 and -MS2 in marsupials. Like all eutherian-specific PNMA genes, they exhibit the highest homology to a Gypsy12_DR (DR, Danio rerio) Gag protein. PNMA-MS1 is conserved in both Australian and South American marsupial species, the tammar wallaby and grey short-tailed opossum. However, no PNMA-MS1 orthologue was found in eutherians, monotremes or non-mammalian vertebrates. PNMA-MS1 was expressed in the ovary, mammary gland and brain during development and growth in the tammar, suggesting that PNMA-MS1 may have acquired a marsupial-specific function. However, PNMA-MS2 seems to be a pseudogene. The absence of marsupial orthologues of eutherian PNMA genes suggests that the retrotransposition events of the Gypsy12_DR-related retrotransposons that gave rise to the PNMA family occurred after the divergence of marsupials and eutherians.
doi:10.1093/dnares/dst020
PMCID: PMC3789554  PMID: 23704700
LTR retrotransposons; PNMA family; marsupial-specific genes; mammalian evolution
18.  Genome sequence of an Australian kangaroo, Macropus eugenii, provides insight into the evolution of mammalian reproduction and development 
Renfree, Marilyn B | Papenfuss, Anthony T | Deakin, Janine E | Lindsay, James | Heider, Thomas | Belov, Katherine | Rens, Willem | Waters, Paul D | Pharo, Elizabeth A | Shaw, Geoff | Wong, Emily SW | Lefèvre, Christophe M | Nicholas, Kevin R | Kuroki, Yoko | Wakefield, Matthew J | Zenger, Kyall R | Wang, Chenwei | Ferguson-Smith, Malcolm | Nicholas, Frank W | Hickford, Danielle | Yu, Hongshi | Short, Kirsty R | Siddle, Hannah V | Frankenberg, Stephen R | Chew, Keng Yih | Menzies, Brandon R | Stringer, Jessica M | Suzuki, Shunsuke | Hore, Timothy A | Delbridge, Margaret L | Mohammadi, Amir | Schneider, Nanette Y | Hu, Yanqiu | O'Hara, William | Al Nadaf, Shafagh | Wu, Chen | Feng, Zhi-Ping | Cocks, Benjamin G | Wang, Jianghui | Flicek, Paul | Searle, Stephen MJ | Fairley, Susan | Beal, Kathryn | Herrero, Javier | Carone, Dawn M | Suzuki, Yutaka | Sugano, Sumio | Toyoda, Atsushi | Sakaki, Yoshiyuki | Kondo, Shinji | Nishida, Yuichiro | Tatsumoto, Shoji | Mandiou, Ion | Hsu, Arthur | McColl, Kaighin A | Lansdell, Benjamin | Weinstock, George | Kuczek, Elizabeth | McGrath, Annette | Wilson, Peter | Men, Artem | Hazar-Rethinam, Mehlika | Hall, Allison | Davis, John | Wood, David | Williams, Sarah | Sundaravadanam, Yogi | Muzny, Donna M | Jhangiani, Shalini N | Lewis, Lora R | Morgan, Margaret B | Okwuonu, Geoffrey O | Ruiz, San Juana | Santibanez, Jireh | Nazareth, Lynne | Cree, Andrew | Fowler, Gerald | Kovar, Christie L | Dinh, Huyen H | Joshi, Vandita | Jing, Chyn | Lara, Fremiet | Thornton, Rebecca | Chen, Lei | Deng, Jixin | Liu, Yue | Shen, Joshua Y | Song, Xing-Zhi | Edson, Janette | Troon, Carmen | Thomas, Daniel | Stephens, Amber | Yapa, Lankesha | Levchenko, Tanya | Gibbs, Richard A | Cooper, Desmond W | Speed, Terence P | Fujiyama, Asao | M Graves, Jennifer A | O'Neill, Rachel J | Pask, Andrew J | Forrest, Susan M | Worley, Kim C
Genome Biology  2011;12(8):R81.
Background
We present the genome sequence of the tammar wallaby, Macropus eugenii, which is a member of the kangaroo family and the first representative of the iconic hopping mammals that symbolize Australia to be sequenced. The tammar has many unusual biological characteristics, including the longest period of embryonic diapause of any mammal, extremely synchronized seasonal breeding and prolonged and sophisticated lactation within a well-defined pouch. Like other marsupials, it gives birth to highly altricial young, and has a small number of very large chromosomes, making it a valuable model for genomics, reproduction and development.
Results
The genome has been sequenced to 2 × coverage using Sanger sequencing, enhanced with additional next generation sequencing and the integration of extensive physical and linkage maps to build the genome assembly. We also sequenced the tammar transcriptome across many tissues and developmental time points. Our analyses of these data shed light on mammalian reproduction, development and genome evolution: there is innovation in reproductive and lactational genes, rapid evolution of germ cell genes, and incomplete, locus-specific X inactivation. We also observe novel retrotransposons and a highly rearranged major histocompatibility complex, with many class I genes located outside the complex. Novel microRNAs in the tammar HOX clusters uncover new potential mammalian HOX regulatory elements.
Conclusions
Analyses of these resources enhance our understanding of marsupial gene evolution, identify marsupial-specific conserved non-coding elements and critical genes across a range of biological systems, including reproduction, development and immunity, and provide new insight into marsupial and mammalian biology and genome evolution.
doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-8-r81
PMCID: PMC3277949  PMID: 21854559
19.  Identification of tammar wallaby SIRH12, derived from a marsupial-specific retrotransposition event 
In humans and mice, there are 11 genes derived from sushi-ichi related retrotransposons, some of which are known to play essential roles in placental development. Interestingly, this family of retrotransposons was thought to exist only in eutherian mammals, indicating their significant contributions to the eutherian evolution, but at least one, PEG10, is conserved between marsupials and eutherians. Here we report a novel sushi-ichi retrotransposon-derived gene, SIRH12, in the tammar wallaby, an Australian marsupial species of the kangaroo family. SIRH12 encodes a protein highly homologous to the sushi-ichi retrotransposon Gag protein in the tammar wallaby, while SIRH12 in the South American short-tailed grey opossum is a pseudogene degenerated by accumulation of multiple nonsense mutations. This suggests that SIRH12 retrotransposition occurred only in the marsupial lineage but acquired and retained some as yet unidentified novel function, at least in the lineage of the tammar wallaby.
doi:10.1093/dnares/dsr012
PMCID: PMC3158469  PMID: 21636603
retrotransposon; evolution of mammals; marsupials
20.  Immunome database for marsupials and monotremes 
BMC Immunology  2011;12:48.
Background
To understand the evolutionary origins of our own immune system, we need to characterise the immune system of our distant relatives, the marsupials and monotremes. The recent sequencing of the genomes of two marsupials (opossum and tammar wallaby) and a monotreme (platypus) provides an opportunity to characterise the immune gene repertoires of these model organisms. This was required as many genes involved in immunity evolve rapidly and fail to be detected by automated gene annotation pipelines.
Description
We have developed a database of immune genes from the tammar wallaby, red-necked wallaby, northern brown bandicoot, brush-tail possum, opossum, echidna and platypus. The resource contains 2,235 newly identified sequences and 3,197 sequences which had been described previously. This comprehensive dataset was built from a variety of sources, including EST projects and expert-curated gene predictions generated through a variety of methods including chained-BLAST and sensitive HMMER searches. To facilitate systems-based research we have grouped sequences based on broad Gene Ontology categories as well as by specific functional immune groups. Sequences can be extracted by keyword, gene name, protein domain and organism name. Users can also search the database using BLAST.
Conclusion
The Immunome Database for Marsupials and Monotremes (IDMM) is a comprehensive database of all known marsupial and monotreme immune genes. It provides a single point of reference for genomic and transcriptomic datasets. Data from other marsupial and monotreme species will be added to the database as it become available. This resource will be utilized by marsupial and monotreme immunologists as well as researchers interested in the evolution of mammalian immunity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2172-12-48
PMCID: PMC3173380  PMID: 21854560
21.  Characterisation of marsupial PHLDA2 reveals eutherian specific acquisition of imprinting 
Background
Genomic imprinting causes parent-of-origin specific gene expression by differential epigenetic modifications between two parental genomes. We previously reported that there is no evidence of genomic imprinting of CDKN1C in the KCNQ1 domain in the placenta of an Australian marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) whereas tammar IGF2 and H19, located adjacent to the KCNQ1 domain in eutherian mammals, are imprinted. We have now identified and characterised the marsupial orthologue of PHLDA2, another gene in the KCNQ1 domain (also known as IPL or TSSC3) that is imprinted in eutherians. In mice, Phlda2 is a dose-sensitive negative regulator of placental growth, as Cdkn1c is for embryonic growth.
Results
Tammar PHLDA2 is highly expressed in the yolk sac placenta compared to other fetal tissues, confirming a similar expression pattern to that of mouse Phlda2. However, tammar PHLDA2 is biallelically expressed in both the fetus and yolk sac placenta, so it is not imprinted. The lack of imprinting in tammar PHLDA2 suggests that the acquisition of genomic imprinting of the KCNQ1 domain in eutherian mammals, accompanied with gene dosage reduction, occurred after the split of the therian mammals into the marsupials and eutherians.
Conclusions
Our results confirm the idea that acquisition of genomic imprinting in the KCNQ1 domain occurred specifically in the eutherian lineage after the divergence of marsupials, even though imprinting of the adjacent IGF2-H19 domain arose before the marsupial-eutherian split. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that genomic imprinting of the KCNQ1 domain may have contributed to the evolution of more complex placentation in the eutherian lineage by reduction of the gene dosage of negative regulators for both embryonic and placental growth.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-244
PMCID: PMC3170258  PMID: 21854573
22.  Tracking Marsupial Evolution Using Archaic Genomic Retroposon Insertions 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(7):e1000436.
Genome-wide comparisons of shared retroposon insertion patterns resolve the phylogeny of marsupials, clearly distinguishing South American and Australian species and lending support to Didelphimorphia as the basal split.
The Australasian and South American marsupial mammals, such as kangaroos and opossums, are the closest living relatives to placental mammals, having shared a common ancestor around 130 million years ago. The evolutionary relationships among the seven marsupial orders have, however, so far eluded resolution. In particular, the relationships between the four Australasian and three South American marsupial orders have been intensively debated since the South American order Microbiotheria was taxonomically moved into the group Australidelphia. Australidelphia is significantly supported by both molecular and morphological data and comprises the four Australasian marsupial orders and the South American order Microbiotheria, indicating a complex, ancient, biogeographic history of marsupials. However, the exact phylogenetic position of Microbiotheria within Australidelphia has yet to be resolved using either sequence or morphological data analysis. Here, we provide evidence from newly established and virtually homoplasy-free retroposon insertion markers for the basal relationships among marsupial orders. Fifty-three phylogenetically informative markers were retrieved after in silico and experimental screening of ∼217,000 retroposon-containing loci from opossum and kangaroo. The four Australasian orders share a single origin with Microbiotheria as their closest sister group, supporting a clear divergence between South American and Australasian marsupials. In addition, the new data place the South American opossums (Didelphimorphia) as the first branch of the marsupial tree. The exhaustive computational and experimental evidence provides important insight into the evolution of retroposable elements in the marsupial genome. Placing the retroposon insertion pattern in a paleobiogeographic context indicates a single marsupial migration from South America to Australia. The now firmly established phylogeny can be used to determine the direction of genomic changes and morphological transitions within marsupials.
Author Summary
Ever since the first Europeans reached the Australian shores and were fascinated by the curious marsupials they found, the evolutionary relationships between the living Australian and South American marsupial orders have been intensively investigated. However, neither the morphological nor the more recent molecular methods produced an evolutionary consensus. Most problematic of the seven marsupial groups is the South American species Dromiciops gliroides, the only survivor of the order Microbiotheria. Several studies suggest that Dromiciops, although living in South America, is more closely related to Australian than to South American marsupials. This relationship would have required a complex migration scenario whereby several groups of ancestral South American marsupials migrated across Antarctica to Australia. We screened the genomes of the South American opossum and the Australian tammar wallaby for retroposons, unambiguous phylogenetic markers that occupy more than half of the marsupial genome. From analyses of nearly 217,000 retroposon-containing loci, we identified 53 retroposons that resolve most branches of the marsupial evolutionary tree. Dromiciops is clearly only distantly related to Australian marsupials, supporting a single Gondwanan migration of marsupials from South America to Australia. The new phylogeny offers a novel perspective in understanding the morphological and molecular transitions between the South American and Australian marsupials.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000436
PMCID: PMC2910653  PMID: 20668664
23.  Origin and evolution of candidate mental retardation genes on the human X chromosome (MRX) 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:65.
Background
The human X chromosome has a biased gene content. One group of genes that is over-represented on the human X are those expressed in the brain, explaining the large number of sex-linked mental retardation (MRX) syndromes.
Results
To determine if MRX genes were recruited to the X, or whether their brain-specific functions were acquired after relocation to the mammalian X chromosome, we examined the location and expression of their orthologues in marsupials, which diverged from human approximately 180 million years ago. We isolated and mapped nine tammar wallaby MRX homologues, finding that six were located on the tammar wallaby X (which represents the ancient conserved mammal X) and three on chromosome 5, representing the recently added region of the human X chromosome. The location of MRX genes within the same synteny groups in human and wallaby does not support the hypothesis that genes with an important function in the brain were recruited in multiple independent events from autosomes to the mammalian X chromosome. Most of the tammar wallaby MRX homologues were more widely expressed in tammar wallaby than in human. Only one, the tammar wallaby ARX homologue (located on tammar chromosome 5p), has a restricted expression pattern comparable to its pattern in human. The retention of the brain-specific expression of ARX over 180 million years suggests that this gene plays a fundamental role in mammalian brain development and function.
Conclusion
Our results suggest all the genes in this study may have originally had more general functions that became more specialised and important in brain function during evolution of humans and other placental mammals.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-65
PMCID: PMC2276207  PMID: 18248684
24.  Transcriptomic analysis supports similar functional roles for the two thymuses of the tammar wallaby 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:420.
Background
The thymus plays a critical role in the development and maturation of T-cells. Humans have a single thoracic thymus and presence of a second thymus is considered an anomaly. However, many vertebrates have multiple thymuses. The tammar wallaby has two thymuses: a thoracic thymus (typically found in all mammals) and a dominant cervical thymus. Researchers have known about the presence of the two wallaby thymuses since the 1800s, but no genome-wide research has been carried out into possible functional differences between the two thymic tissues. Here, we used pyrosequencing to compare the transcriptomes of a cervical and thoracic thymus from a single 178 day old tammar wallaby.
Results
We show that both the tammar thoracic and the cervical thymuses displayed gene expression profiles consistent with roles in T-cell development. Both thymuses expressed genes that mediate distinct phases of T-cells differentiation, including the initial commitment of blood stem cells to the T-lineage, the generation of T-cell receptor diversity and development of thymic epithelial cells. Crucial immune genes, such as chemokines were also present. Comparable patterns of expression of non-coding RNAs were seen. 67 genes differentially expressed between the two thymuses were detected, and the possible significance of these results are discussed.
Conclusion
This is the first study comparing the transcriptomes of two thymuses from a single individual. Our finding supports that both thymuses are functionally equivalent and drive T-cell development. These results are an important first step in the understanding of the genetic processes that govern marsupial immunity, and also allow us to begin to trace the evolution of the mammalian immune system.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-420
PMCID: PMC3173455  PMID: 21854594
25.  Comparative Genome Analyses Reveal Distinct Structure in the Saltwater Crocodile MHC 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114631.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a dynamic genome region with an essential role in the adaptive immunity of vertebrates, especially antigen presentation. The MHC is generally divided into subregions (classes I, II and III) containing genes of similar function across species, but with different gene number and organisation. Crocodylia (crocodilians) are widely distributed and represent an evolutionary distinct group among higher vertebrates, but the genomic organisation of MHC within this lineage has been largely unexplored. Here, we studied the MHC region of the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and compared it with that of other taxa. We characterised genomic clusters encompassing MHC class I and class II genes in the saltwater crocodile based on sequencing of bacterial artificial chromosomes. Six gene clusters spanning ∼452 kb were identified to contain nine MHC class I genes, six MHC class II genes, three TAP genes, and a TRIM gene. These MHC class I and class II genes were in separate scaffold regions and were greater in length (2–6 times longer) than their counterparts in well-studied fowl B loci, suggesting that the compaction of avian MHC occurred after the crocodilian-avian split. Comparative analyses between the saltwater crocodile MHC and that from the alligator and gharial showed large syntenic areas (>80% identity) with similar gene order. Comparisons with other vertebrates showed that the saltwater crocodile had MHC class I genes located along with TAP, consistent with birds studied. Linkage between MHC class I and TRIM39 observed in the saltwater crocodile resembled MHC in eutherians compared, but absent in avian MHC, suggesting that the saltwater crocodile MHC appears to have gene organisation intermediate between these two lineages. These observations suggest that the structure of the saltwater crocodile MHC, and other crocodilians, can help determine the MHC that was present in the ancestors of archosaurs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114631
PMCID: PMC4263668  PMID: 25503521

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