Ascidians, primitive chordates that have retained features of the likely progenitors to all vertebrates, are a useful model to study the evolutionary relationship of chordates to other animals. We have selected the well characterized ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes to investigate this relationship, and we describe here the cloning and characterization of an entire ribosomal DNA (rDNA) tandem repeat unit from a lower chordate, the ascidian Herdmania momus. rDNA copy number and considerable sequence differences were observed between two H. momus populations. Comparison of rDNA primary sequence and rRNA secondary structures from H. momus with those from other well characterized organisms, demonstrated that the ascidians are more closely related to other chordates than invertebrates. The rDNA tandem repeat makes up a larger percentage (7%) of the genome of this animal than in other higher eukaryotes. The total length of the spacer and transcribed region in H. momus rDNA is small compared to most higher eukaryotes, being less than 8 kb, and the intergenic spacer region consists of smaller internal repeats. Comparative analysis of rDNA sequences has allowed the construction of secondary structures for the 18S, 5.8S and 26S rRNAs.
Within Chordata, the subphyla Vertebrata and Cephalochordata (lancelets) are characterized by a remarkable stability of the mitochondrial (mt) genome, with constancy of gene content and almost invariant gene order, whereas the limited mitochondrial data on the subphylum Tunicata suggest frequent and extensive gene rearrangements, observed also within ascidians of the same genus.
To confirm this evolutionary trend and to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of the mitochondrial genome in Tunicata Ascidiacea, we have sequenced and characterized the complete mt genome of two congeneric ascidian species, Phallusia mammillata and Phallusia fumigata (Phlebobranchiata, Ascidiidae). The two mtDNAs are surprisingly rearranged, both with respect to one another and relative to those of other tunicates and chordates, with gene rearrangements affecting both protein-coding and tRNA genes. The new data highlight the extraordinary variability of ascidian mt genome in base composition, tRNA secondary structure, tRNA gene content, and non-coding regions (number, size, sequence and location). Indeed, both Phallusia genomes lack the trnD gene, show loss/acquisition of DHU-arm in two tRNAs, and have a G+C content two-fold higher than other ascidians. Moreover, the mt genome of P. fumigata presents two identical copies of trnI, an extra tRNA gene with uncertain amino acid specificity, and four almost identical sequence regions. In addition, a truncated cytochrome b, lacking a C-terminal tail that commonly protrudes into the mt matrix, has been identified as a new mt feature probably shared by all tunicates.
The frequent occurrence of major gene order rearrangements in ascidians both at high taxonomic level and within the same genus makes this taxon an excellent model to study the mechanisms of gene rearrangement, and renders the mt genome an invaluable phylogenetic marker to investigate molecular biodiversity and speciation events in this largely unexplored group of basal chordates.
Deuterostomes are a monophyletic group of animals that include the vertebrates, invertebrate chordates, ambulacrarians and xenoturbellids. Fossil representatives from most major deuterostome groups, including some phylum-level crown groups, are found in the Lower Cambrian, suggesting that evolutionary divergence occurred in the Late Precambrian, in agreement with some molecular clock estimates. Molecular phylogenies, larval morphology and the adult heart/kidney complex all support echinoderms and hemichordates as a sister grouping (Ambulacraria). Xenoturbellids are a relatively newly discovered phylum of worm-like deuterostomes that lacks a fossil record, but molecular evidence suggests that these animals are a sister group to the Ambulacraria. Within the chordates, cephalochordates share large stretches of chromosomal synteny with the vertebrates, have a complete Hox complex and are sister group to the vertebrates based on ribosomal and mitochondrial gene evidence. In contrast, tunicates have a highly derived adult body plan and are sister group to the vertebrates based on the analyses of concatenated genomic sequences. Cephalochordates and hemichordates share gill slits and an acellular cartilage, suggesting that the ancestral deuterostome also shared these features. Gene network data suggest that the deuterostome ancestor had an anterior–posterior body axis specified by Hox and Wnt genes, a dorsoventral axis specified by a BMP/chordin gradient, and was bilaterally symmetrical with left–right asymmetry determined by expression of nodal.
deuterostomes; chordate evolution; Ambulacraria
Little is known about the ancient chordates that gave rise to the first vertebrates, but the descendants of other invertebrate chordates extant at the time still flourish in the ocean. These invertebrates include the cephalochordates and tunicates, whose larvae share with vertebrate embryos a common body plan with a central notochord and a dorsal nerve cord. Tunicates are now thought to be the sister group of vertebrates. However, research based on several species of ascidians, a diverse and wide-spread class of tunicates, revealed that the molecular strategies underlying their development appear to diverge greatly from those found in vertebrates. Furthermore, the adult body plan of most tunicates, which arises following an extensive post-larval metamorphosis, shows little resemblance to the body plan of any other chordate. In this review, we compare the developmental strategies of ascidians and vertebrates and argue that the very divergence of these strategies reveals the surprising level of plasticity of the chordate developmental program and is a rich resource to identify core regulatory mechanisms that are evolutionarily conserved in chordates. Further, we propose that the comparative analysis of the architecture of ascidian and vertebrate gene regulatory networks may provide critical insight into the origin of the chordate body plan.
Complete mitochondrial genome sequences have become important tools for the study of genome architecture, phylogeny, and molecular evolution. Despite the rapid increase in available mitogenomes, the taxonomic sampling often poorly reflects phylogenetic diversity and is often also biased to represent deeper (family-level) evolutionary relationships.
We present the first fully sequenced ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) mitochondrial genomes. We sampled four mitogenomes from three species of fire ants, genus Solenopsis, which represent various evolutionary depths. Overall, ant mitogenomes appear to be typical of hymenopteran mitogenomes, displaying a general A+T-bias. The Solenopsis mitogenomes are slightly more compact than other hymentoperan mitogenomes (~15.5 kb), retaining all protein coding genes, ribosomal, and transfer RNAs. We also present evidence of recombination between the mitogenomes of the two conspecific Solenopsis mitogenomes. Finally, we discuss potential ways to improve the estimation of phylogenies using complete mitochondrial genome sequences.
The ant mitogenome presents an important addition to the continued efforts in studying hymenopteran mitogenome architecture, evolution, and phylogenetics. We provide further evidence that the sampling across many taxonomic levels (including conspecifics and congeners) is useful and important to gain detailed insights into mitogenome evolution. We also discuss ways that may help improve the use of mitogenomes in phylogenetic analyses by accounting for non-stationary and non-homogeneous evolution among branches.
The notochord is a defining feature of the chordate clade, and invertebrate chordates, such as tunicates, are uniquely suited for studies of this structure. Here we used a well-characterized set of 50 notochord genes known to be targets of the notochord-specific Brachyury transcription factor in one tunicate, Ciona intestinalis (Class Ascidiacea), to begin determining whether the same genetic toolkit is employed to build the notochord in another tunicate, Oikopleura dioica (Class Larvacea). We identified Oikopleura orthologs of the Ciona notochord genes, as well as lineage-specific duplicates for which we determined the phylogenetic relationships with related genes from other chordates, and we analyzed their expression patterns in Oikopleura embryos.
Of the 50 Ciona notochord genes that were used as a reference, only 26 had clearly identifiable orthologs in Oikopleura. Two of these conserved genes appeared to have undergone Oikopleura- and/or tunicate-specific duplications, and one was present in three copies in Oikopleura, thus bringing the number of genes to test to 30. We were able to clone and test 28 of these genes. Thirteen of the 28 Oikopleura orthologs of Ciona notochord genes showed clear expression in all or in part of the Oikopleura notochord, seven were diffusely expressed throughout the tail, six were expressed in tissues other than the notochord, while two probes did not provide a detectable signal at any of the stages analyzed. One of the notochord genes identified, Oikopleura netrin, was found to be unevenly expressed in notochord cells, in a pattern reminiscent of that previously observed for one of the Oikopleura Hox genes.
A surprisingly high number of Ciona notochord genes do not have apparent counterparts in Oikopleura, and only a fraction of the evolutionarily conserved genes show clear notochord expression. This suggests that Ciona and Oikopleura, despite the morphological similarities of their notochords, have developed rather divergent sets of notochord genes after their split from a common tunicate ancestor. This study demonstrates that comparisons between divergent tunicates can lead to insights into the basic complement of genes sufficient for notochord development, and elucidate the constraints that control its composition.
In conventionally-expressed eukaryotic genes, transcription start sites (TSSs) can be identified by mapping the mature mRNA 5′-terminal sequence onto the genome. However, this approach is not applicable to genes that undergo pre-mRNA 5′-leader trans-splicing (SL trans-splicing) because the original 5′-segment of the primary transcript is replaced by the spliced leader sequence during the trans-splicing reaction and is discarded. Thus TSS mapping for trans-spliced genes requires different approaches. We describe two such approaches and show that they generate precisely agreeing results for an SL trans-spliced gene encoding the muscle protein troponin I in the ascidian tunicate chordate Ciona intestinalis. One method is based on experimental deletion of trans-splice acceptor sites and the other is based on high-throughput mRNA 5′-RACE sequence analysis of natural RNA populations in order to detect minor transcripts containing the pre-mRNA’s original 5′-end. Both methods identified a single major troponin I TSS located ∼460 nt upstream of the trans-splice acceptor site. Further experimental analysis identified a functionally important TATA element 31 nt upstream of the start site. The two methods employed have complementary strengths and are broadly applicable to mapping promoters/TSSs for trans-spliced genes in tunicates and in trans-splicing organisms from other phyla.
Ascidians are tunicates, the taxon recently proposed as sister group to the vertebrates. They possess a chordate-like swimming larva, which metamorphoses into a sessile adult. Several ascidian species form colonies of clonal individuals by asexual reproduction. During their life cycle, ascidians present three muscle types: striated in larval tail, striated in the heart, and unstriated in the adult body-wall.
In the colonial ascidian Botryllus schlosseri, we investigated organisation, differentiation and gene expression of muscle beginning from early buds to adults and during zooid regression. We characterised transcripts for troponin T (BsTnT-c), adult muscle-type (BsMA2) and cytoplasmic-type (BsCA1) actins, followed by in situ hybridisation (ISH) on sections to establish the spatio-temporal expression of BsTnT-c and BsMA2 during asexual reproduction and in the larva. Moreover, we characterised actin genomic sequences, which by comparison with other metazoans revealed conserved intron patterns.
Integration of data from ISH, phalloidin staining and TEM allowed us to follow the phases of differentiation of the three muscle kinds, which differ in expression pattern of the two transcripts. Moreover, phylogenetic analyses provided evidence for the close relationship between tunicate and vertebrate muscle genes. The characteristics and plasticity of muscles in tunicates are discussed.
To gain insight into the evolutionary features of the huntingtin (htt) gene in Chordata, we have sequenced and characterized the full-length htt mRNA in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis, a basal chordate emerging as new invertebrate model organism. Moreover, taking advantage of the availability of genomic and EST sequences, the htt gene structure of a number of chordate species, including the cogeneric ascidian Ciona savignyi, and the vertebrates Xenopus and Gallus was reconstructed.
The C. intestinalis htt transcript exhibits some peculiar features, such as spliced leader trans-splicing in the 98 nt-long 5' untranslated region (UTR), an alternative splicing in the coding region, eight alternative polyadenylation sites, and no similarities of both 5' and 3'UTRs compared to homologs of the cogeneric C. savignyi. The predicted protein is 2946 amino acids long, shorter than its vertebrate homologs, and lacks the polyQ and the polyP stretches found in the the N-terminal regions of mammalian homologs. The exon-intron organization of the htt gene is almost identical among vertebrates, and significantly conserved between Ciona and vertebrates, allowing us to hypothesize an ancestral chordate gene consisting of at least 40 coding exons.
During chordate diversification, events of gain/loss, sliding, phase changes, and expansion of introns occurred in both vertebrate and ascidian lineages predominantly in the 5'-half of the htt gene, where there is also evidence of lineage-specific evolutionary dynamics in vertebrates. On the contrary, the 3'-half of the gene is highly conserved in all chordates at the level of both gene structure and protein sequence. Between the two Ciona species, a fast evolutionary rate and/or an early divergence time is suggested by the absence of significant similarity between UTRs, protein divergence comparable to that observed between mammals and fishes, and different distribution of repetitive elements.
In spite of the recent accumulation of genomic data, the evolutionary pathway in the individual genes of present-day living taxa is still elusive for most genes. Among ion channels, inward K+ rectifier (IRK) channels are the fundamental and well-defined protein group. We analyzed the genomic structures of this group and compared them among a phylogenetically wide range with our sequenced Halocynthia roretzi, a tunicate, IRK genomic genes.
A total of 131 IRK genomic genes were analyzed. The phylogenic trees of amino acid sequences revealed a clear diversification of deuterostomic IRKs from protostomic IRKs and suggested that the tunicate IRKs are possibly representatives of the descendants of ancestor forms of three major groups of IRKs in the vertebrate. However, the exon-intron structures of the tunicate IRK genomes showed considerable similarities to those of Caenorhabditis. In the vertebrate clade, the members in each major group increased at least four times those in the tunicate by various types of global gene duplication. The generation of some major groups was inferred to be due to anti-tandem (palindromic) duplication in early history. The intron insertion points greatly decreased during the evolution of the vertebrates, remaining as a unique conservation of an intron insertion site in the portion of protein-protein interaction within the coding regions of all vertebrate G-protein-activated IRK genes.
From the genomic survey of a family of IRK genes, it was suggested that the ancient intron insertion sites and the unique palindromic genomic duplication evolutionally shaped this membrane protein family.
Tunicates have been recently revealed to be the closest living relatives of vertebrates. Yet, with more than 2500 described species, details of their evolutionary history are still obscure. From a molecular point of view, tunicate phylogenetic relationships have been mostly studied based on analyses of 18S rRNA sequences, which indicate several major clades at odds with the traditional class-level arrangements. Nonetheless, substantial uncertainty remains about the phylogenetic relationships and taxonomic status of key groups such as the Aplousobranchia, Appendicularia, and Thaliacea.
Thirty new complete 18S rRNA sequences were acquired from previously unsampled tunicate species, with special focus on groups presenting high evolutionary rate. The updated 18S rRNA dataset has been aligned with respect to the constraint on homology imposed by the rRNA secondary structure. A probabilistic framework of phylogenetic reconstruction was adopted to accommodate the particular evolutionary dynamics of this ribosomal marker. Detailed Bayesian analyses were conducted under the non-parametric CAT mixture model accounting for site-specific heterogeneity of the evolutionary process, and under RNA-specific doublet models accommodating the occurrence of compensatory substitutions in stem regions. Our results support the division of tunicates into three major clades: 1) Phlebobranchia + Thaliacea + Aplousobranchia, 2) Appendicularia, and 3) Stolidobranchia, but the position of Appendicularia could not be firmly resolved. Our study additionally reveals that most Aplousobranchia evolve at extremely high rates involving changes in secondary structure of their 18S rRNA, with the exception of the family Clavelinidae, which appears to be slowly evolving. This extreme rate heterogeneity precluded resolving with certainty the exact phylogenetic placement of Aplousobranchia. Finally, the best fitting secondary-structure and CAT-mixture models suggest a sister-group relationship between Salpida and Pyrosomatida within Thaliacea.
An updated phylogenetic framework for tunicates is provided based on phylogenetic analyses using the most realistic evolutionary models currently available for ribosomal molecules and an unprecedented taxonomic sampling. Detailed analyses of the 18S rRNA gene allowed a clear definition of the major tunicate groups and revealed contrasting evolutionary dynamics among major lineages. The resolving power of this gene nevertheless appears limited within the clades composed of Phlebobranchia + Thaliacea + Aplousobranchia and Pyuridae + Styelidae, which were delineated as spots of low resolution. These limitations underline the need to develop new nuclear markers in order to further resolve the phylogeny of this keystone group in chordate evolution.
Extracellular matrices regulate biological processes at the level of cells, tissues, and in some cases, entire multicellular organisms. The subphylum Urochordata exemplifies the latter case, where animals are partially or completely enclosed in “houses” or “tunics”. Despite this common strategy, we show that the house proteome of the appendicularian, Oikopleura, has very little in common with the proteome of the sister class, ascidian, Ciona. Of 80 identified house proteins (oikosins), ∼half lack domain modules or similarity to known proteins, suggesting de novo appearance in appendicularians. Gene duplication has been important in generating almost 1/3 of the current oikosin complement, with serial duplications up to 8 paralogs in one family. Expression pattern analyses revealed that individual oikosins are produced from specific fields of cells within the secretory epithelium, but in some cases, migrate up to at least 20 cell diameters in extracellular space to combine in defined house structures. Interestingly, peroxidasin and secretory phospholipase A2 domains, implicated in innate immune defence are secreted from the anlage associated with the food-concentrating filter, suggesting that this extra-organismal structure may play, in part, such a role in Oikopleura. We also show that sulfation of proteoglycans is required for the hydration and inflation of pre-house rudiments into functional houses. Though correct proportioning in the production of oikosins would seem important in repetitive assembly of the complex house structure, the genomic organization of oikosin loci appears incompatible with common enhancers or locus control regions exerting such a coordinate regulatory role. Thus, though all tunicates employ extracellular matrices based on a cellulose scaffold as a defining feature of the subphylum, they have evolved radically different protein compositions associated with this common underlying structural theme.
The renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system (RAAS) is not the sole, but perhaps the most important volume regulator in vertebrates. To gain insights into the function and evolution of its components, we conducted a phylogenetic analysis of its main related genes. We found that important parts of the system began to appear with primitive chordates and tunicates and that all major components were present at the divergence of bony fish, with the exception of the Mas receptor. The Mas receptor first appears after the bony-fish/tetrapod divergence. This phase of evolutionary innovation happened about 400 million years ago. We found solid evidence that angiotensinogen made its appearance in cartilage fish. The presence of several RAAS genes in organisms that lack all the components shows that these genes have had other ancestral functions outside of their current role. Our analysis underscores the utility of sequence comparisons in the study of evolution. Such analyses may provide new hypotheses as to how and why in today's population an increased activity of the RAAS frequently leads to faulty salt and volume regulation, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases, opening up new and clinically important research areas for evolutionary medicine.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00109-012-0894-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Evolution; Evolutionary medicine; Renin; Angiotensin; Aldosterone; Volume regulation; Salt; Hypertension; Cardiovascular diseases; RAAS
Animal mitochondrial DNA is a small, extrachromosomal genome, typically approximately 16 kb in size. With few exceptions, all animal mitochondrial genomes contain the same 37 genes: two for rRNAs, 13 for proteins and 22 for tRNAs. The products of these genes, along with RNAs and proteins imported from the cytoplasm, endow mitochondria with their own systems for DNA replication, transcription, mRNA processing and translation of proteins. The study of these genomes as they function in mitochondrial systems-'mitochondrial genomics'-serves as a model for genome evolution. Furthermore, the comparison of animal mitochondrial gene arrangements has become a very powerful means for inferring ancient evolutionary relationships, since rearrangements appear to be unique, generally rare events that are unlikely to arise independently in separate evolutionary lineages. Complete mitochondrial gene arrangements have been published for 58 chordate species and 29 non-chordate species, and partial arrangements for hundreds of other taxa. This review compares and summarizes these gene arrangements and points out some of the questions that may be addressed by comparing mitochondrial systems.
Mitochondrial (mt) genes and genomes are among the major sources of data for evolutionary studies in birds. This places mitogenomic studies in birds at the core of intense debates in avian evolutionary biology. Indeed, complete mt genomes are actively been used to unveil the phylogenetic relationships among major orders, whereas single genes (e.g., cytochrome c oxidase I [COX1]) are considered standard for species identification and defining species boundaries (DNA barcoding). In this investigation, we study the time of origin and evolutionary relationships among Neoaves orders using complete mt genomes. First, we were able to solve polytomies previously observed at the deep nodes of the Neoaves phylogeny by analyzing 80 mt genomes, including 17 new sequences reported in this investigation. As an example, we found evidence indicating that columbiforms and charadriforms are sister groups. Overall, our analyses indicate that by improving the taxonomic sampling, complete mt genomes can solve the evolutionary relationships among major bird groups. Second, we used our phylogenetic hypotheses to estimate the time of origin of major avian orders as a way to test if their diversification took place prior to the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary. Such timetrees were estimated using several molecular dating approaches and conservative calibration points. Whereas we found time estimates slightly younger than those reported by others, most of the major orders originated prior to the K/T boundary. Finally, we used our timetrees to estimate the rate of evolution of each mt gene. We found great variation on the mutation rates among mt genes and within different bird groups. COX1 was the gene with less variation among Neoaves orders and the one with the least amount of rate heterogeneity across lineages. Such findings support the choice of COX 1 among mt genes as target for developing DNA barcoding approaches in birds.
avian origins; barcoding; mitochondrial genomes; mitogenomics; molecular clock; phylogeny
The tunicate Ciona intestinalis (Enterogona, Ascidiacea), a major model system for evolutionary and developmental genetics of chordates, harbours two cryptic species. To assess the degree of intra- and inter-specific genetic variability, we report the identification and analysis of C. intestinalis SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) markers. A SNP subset was used to determine the genetic distance between Hox-5 and -10 genes.
DNA fragments were amplified from 12 regions of C. intestinalis sp. A. In total, 128 SNPs and 32 one bp indels have been identified within 8 Kb DNA. SNPs in coding regions cause 4 synonymous and 12 non-synonymous substitutions. The highest SNP frequency was detected in the Hox5 and Hox10 intragenic regions. In C. intestinalis, these two genes have lost their archetypal topology within the cluster, such that Hox10 is located between Hox4 and Hox5. A subset of the above primers was used to perform successful amplification in C. intestinalis sp. B. In this cryptic species, 62 SNPs were identified within 3614 bp: 41 in non-coding and 21 in coding regions. The genetic distance of the Hox-5 and -10 loci, computed combining a classical backcross approach with the application of SNP markers, was found to be 8.4 cM (Haldane's function). Based on the physical distance, 1 cM corresponds to 39.5 Kb. Linkage disequilibrium between the aforementioned loci was calculated in the backcross generation.
SNPs here described allow analysis and comparisons within and between C. intestinalis cryptic species. We provide the first reliable computation of genetic distance in this important model chordate. This latter result represents an important platform for future studies on Hox genes showing deviations from the archetypal topology.
Although spliced leader (SL) trans-splicing in the chordates was discovered in the tunicate Ciona intestinalis there has been no genomic overview analysis of the extent of trans-splicing or the make-up of the trans-spliced and non-trans-spliced gene populations of this model organism. Here we report such an analysis for Ciona based on the oligo-capping full-length cDNA approach. We randomly sampled 2078 5′-full-length ESTs representing 668 genes, or 4.2% of the entire genome. Our results indicate that Ciona contains a single major SL, which is efficiently trans-spliced to mRNAs transcribed from a specific set of genes representing ∼50% of the total number of expressed genes, and that individual trans-spliced mRNA species are, on average, 2–3-fold less abundant than non-trans-spliced mRNA species. Our results also identify a relationship between trans-splicing status and gene functional classification; ribosomal protein genes fall predominantly into the non-trans-spliced category. In addition, our data provide the first evidence for the occurrence of polycistronic transcription in Ciona. An interesting feature of the Ciona polycistronic transcription units is that the great majority entirely lack intercistronic sequences.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is a neuroendocrine peptide that plays a central role in the vertebrate hypothalamo-pituitary axis. The roles of GnRH in the control of vertebrate reproductive functions have been established, while its non-reproductive function has been suggested but less well understood. Here we show that the tunicate Ciona intestinalis has in its non-reproductive larval stage a prominent GnRH system spanning the entire length of the nervous system. Tunicate GnRH receptors are phylogenetically closest to vertebrate GnRH receptors, yet functional analysis of the receptors revealed that these simple chordates have evolved a unique GnRH system with multiple ligands and receptor heterodimerization enabling complex regulation. One of the gnrh genes is conspicuously expressed in the motor ganglion and nerve cord, which are homologous structures to the hindbrain and spinal cord of vertebrates. Correspondingly, GnRH receptor genes were found to be expressed in the tail muscle and notochord of embryos, both of which are phylotypic axial structures along the nerve cord. Our findings suggest a novel non-reproductive role of GnRH in tunicates. Furthermore, we present evidence that GnRH-producing cells are present in the hindbrain and spinal cord of the medaka, Oryzias latipes, thereby suggesting the deep evolutionary origin of a non-reproductive GnRH system in chordates.
Lepidoptera encompasses more than 160,000 described species that have been classified into 45–48 superfamilies. The previously determined Lepidoptera mitochondrial genomes (mitogenomes) are limited to six superfamilies of the lineage Ditrysia. Compared with the ancestral insect gene order, these mitogenomes all contain a tRNA rearrangement. To gain new insights into Lepidoptera mitogenome evolution, we sequenced the mitogenomes of two ghost moths that belong to the non-ditrysian lineage Hepialoidea and conducted a comparative mitogenomic analysis across Lepidoptera.
The mitogenomes of Thitarodes renzhiensis and T. yunnanensis are 16,173 bp and 15,816 bp long with an A + T content of 81.28 % and 82.34 %, respectively. Both mitogenomes include 13 protein-coding genes, 22 transfer RNA genes, 2 ribosomal RNA genes, and the A + T-rich region. Different tandem repeats in the A + T-rich region mainly account for the size difference between the two mitogenomes. All the protein-coding genes start with typical mitochondrial initiation codons, except for cox1 (CGA) and nad1 (TTG) in both mitogenomes. The anticodon of trnS(AGN) in T. renzhiensis and T. yunnanensis is UCU instead of the mostly used GCU in other sequenced Lepidoptera mitogenomes. The 1,584-bp sequence from rrnS to nad2 was also determined for an unspecified ghost moth (Thitarodes sp.), which has no repetitive sequence in the A + T-rich region. All three Thitarodes species possess the ancestral gene order with trnI-trnQ-trnM located between the A + T-rich region and nad2, which is different from the gene order trnM-trnI-trnQ in all previously sequenced Lepidoptera species. The formerly identified conserved elements of Lepidoptera mitogenomes (i.e. the motif ‘ATAGA’ and poly-T stretch in the A + T-rich region and the long intergenic spacer upstream of nad2) are absent in the Thitarodes mitogenomes.
The mitogenomes of T. renzhiensis and T. yunnanensis exhibit unusual features compared with the previously determined Lepidoptera mitogenomes. Their ancestral gene order indicates that the tRNA rearrangement event(s) likely occurred after Hepialoidea diverged from other lepidopteran lineages. Characterization of the two ghost moth mitogenomes has enriched our knowledge of Lepidoptera mitogenomes and contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying mitogenome evolution, especially gene rearrangements.
Thitarodes renzhiensis; Thitarodes yunnanensis; mitochondrial genome; gene rearrangement
The role of RNA-based duplication, or retroposition, in the evolution of new gene functions in mammals, plants, and Drosophila has been widely reported. However, little is known about RNA-based duplication in non-mammalian chordates. In this study, we screened ten non-mammalian chordate genomes for retrocopies and investigated their evolutionary patterns. We identified numerous retrocopies in these species. Examination of the age distribution of these retrocopies revealed no burst of young retrocopies in ancient chordate species. Upon comparing these non-mammalian chordate species to the mammalian species, we observed that a larger fraction of the non-mammalian retrocopies was under strong evolutionary constraints than mammalian retrocopies are, as evidenced by signals of purifying selection and expression profiles. For the Western clawed frog, Medaka, and Sea squirt, many retrogenes have evolved gonad and brain expression patterns, similar to what was observed in human. Testing of retrogene movement in the Medaka genome, where the nascent sex chrosomes have been well assembled, did not reveal any significant gene movement. Taken together, our analyses demonstrate that RNA-based duplication generates many functional genes and can make a significant contribution to the evolution of non-mammalian genomes.
Vertebrate embryos exploit the mutual inhibition between the RA and FGF signalling pathways to coordinate the proliferative elongation of the main body axis with the progressive patterning and differentiation of its neuroectodermal and paraxial mesodermal structures. The evolutionary history of this patterning system is still poorly understood. Here, we investigate the role played by the RA and FGF/MAPK signals during the development of the tail structures in the tunicate Ciona intestinalis, an invertebrate chordate belonging to the sister clade of vertebrates, in which the prototypical chordate body plan is established through very derived morphogenetic processes. Ciona embryos are constituted of few cells and develop according to a fixed lineage; elongation of the tail occurs largely by rearrangement of postmitotic cells; mesoderm segmentation and somitogenesis are absent. We show that in the Ciona embryo, the antagonism of the RA and FGF/MAPK signals is required to control the anteroposterior patterning of the tail epidermis. We also demonstrate that the RA, FGF/MAPK and canonical Wnt pathways control the anteroposterior patterning of the tail peripheral nervous system, and reveal the existence of distinct subpopulations of caudal epidermal neurons with different responsiveness to the RA, FGF/MAPK and canonical Wnt signals. Our data provide the first demonstration that the use of the antagonism between the RA and FGF signals to pattern the main body axis predates the emergence of vertebrates and highlight the evolutionary plasticity of this patterning strategy, showing that in different chordates it can be used to pattern different tissues within the same homologous body region.
Olfaction is a primitive sense in organisms. Both vertebrates and insects have
receptors for detecting odor molecules in the environment, but the evolutionary
origins of these genes are different. Among studied vertebrates, mammals have
∼1,000 olfactory receptor (OR) genes, whereas teleost fishes have much
smaller (∼100) numbers of OR genes. To investigate the origin and
evolution of vertebrate OR genes, I attempted to determine near-complete OR gene
repertoires by searching whole-genome sequences of 14 nonmammalian chordates,
including cephalochordates (amphioxus), urochordates (ascidian and larvacean),
and vertebrates (sea lamprey, elephant shark, five teleost fishes, frog, lizard,
and chicken), followed by a large-scale phylogenetic analysis in conjunction
with mammalian OR genes identified from nine species. This analysis showed that
the amphioxus has >30 vertebrate-type OR genes though it lacks
distinctive olfactory organs, whereas all OR genes appear to have been lost in
the urochordate lineage. Some groups of genes (θ, κ, and
λ) that are phylogenetically nested within vertebrate OR genes showed
few gene gains and losses, which is in sharp contrast to the evolutionary
pattern of OR genes, suggesting that they are actually non-OR genes. Moreover,
the analysis demonstrated a great difference in OR gene repertoires between
aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates, reflecting the necessity for the detection
of water-soluble and airborne odorants, respectively. However, a minor group
(β) of genes that are atypically present in both aquatic and
terrestrial vertebrates was also found. These findings should provide a critical
foundation for further physiological, behavioral, and evolutionary studies of
olfaction in various organisms.
olfactory receptor; multigene family; molecular evolution; chordate; vertebrate; amphioxus
Bodonids and trypanosomatids are derived from a common ancestor with the bodonids being a more primitive lineage. The Neobodonida, one of the three clades of bodonids, can be free-living, commensal or parasitic. Despite the ecological and evolutionary significance of these organisms, however, many of their biological and pathological features are currently unknown. Here, we employed metatranscriptomics using RNA-seq technology combined with field-emission microscopy to reveal the virulence factors of a recently described genus of Neobodonida that is considered to be responsible for ascidian soft tunic syndrome (AsSTS), but whose pathogenesis is unclear. Our microscopic observation of infected tunic tissues suggested putative virulence factors, enabling us to extract novel candidate transcripts; these included cysteine proteases of the families C1 and C2, serine proteases of S51 and S9 families, and metalloproteases grouped into families M1, M3, M8, M14, M16, M17, M24, M41, and M49. Protease activity/inhibition assays and the estimation of expression levels within gene clusters allowed us to identify metalloprotease-like enzymes as potential virulence attributes for AsSTS. Furthermore, a multimarker-based phylogenetic analysis using 1,184 concatenated amino acid sequences clarified the order Neobodo sp. In sum, we herein used metatranscriptomics to elucidate the in situ expression profiles of uncharacterized putative transcripts of Neobodo sp., combined these results with microscopic observation to select candidate genes relevant to pathogenesis, and used empirical screening to define important virulence factors.
The availability of mitochondrial genome sequences is growing as a result of recent technological advances in molecular biology. In phylogenetic analyses, the complete mitogenome is increasingly becoming the marker of choice, usually providing better phylogenetic resolution and precision relative to traditional markers such as cytochrome b (CYTB) and the control region (CR). In some cases, the differences in phylogenetic estimates between mitogenomic and single-gene markers have yielded incongruent conclusions. By comparing phylogenetic estimates made from different genes, we identified the most informative mitochondrial regions and evaluated the minimum amount of data necessary to reproduce the same results as the mitogenome. We compared results among individual genes and the mitogenome for recently published complete mitogenome datasets of selected delphinids (Delphinidae) and killer whales (genus Orcinus). Using Bayesian phylogenetic methods, we investigated differences in estimation of topologies, divergence dates, and clock-like behavior among genes for both datasets. Although the most informative regions were not the same for each taxonomic group (COX1, CYTB, ND3 and ATP6 for Orcinus, and ND1, COX1 and ND4 for Delphinidae), in both cases they were equivalent to less than a quarter of the complete mitogenome. This suggests that gene information content can vary among groups, but can be adequately represented by a portion of the complete sequence. Although our results indicate that complete mitogenomes provide the highest phylogenetic resolution and most precise date estimates, a minimum amount of data can be selected using our approach when the complete sequence is unavailable. Studies based on single genes can benefit from the addition of a few more mitochondrial markers, producing topologies and date estimates similar to those obtained using the entire mitogenome.
The phylogenetic relationships of primates have been extensively investigated, but key issues remain unresolved. Complete mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) data have many advantages in phylogenetic analyses, but such data are available for only 46 primate species. In this work, we determined the complete mitogenome sequence of the black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella). The genome was 16,538 bp in size and consisted of 13 protein-coding genes, 22 tRNAs, two rRNAs and a control region. The genome organization, nucleotide composition and codon usage did not differ significantly from those of other primates. The control region contained several distinct repeat motifs, including a putative termination-associated sequence (TAS) and several conserved sequence blocks (CSB-F, E, D, C, B and 1). Among the protein-coding genes, the COII gene had lower nonsynonymous and synonymous substitutions rates while the ATP8 and ND4 genes had higher rates. A phylogenetic analysis using Maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods and the complete mitogenome data for platyrrhine species confirmed the basal position of the Callicebinae and the sister relationship between Atelinae and Cebidae, as well as the sister relationship between Aotinae (Aotus) and Cebinae (Cebus/Saimiri) in Cebidae. These conclusions agreed with the most recent molecular phylogenetic investigations on primates. This work provides a framework for the use of complete mitogenome information in phylogenetic analyses of the Platyrrhini and primates in general.
Cebus apella; control region; mitochondrial genome; phylogenomics