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1.  Description of Embryonic Development of Spotted Green Pufferfish (Tetraodon nigroviridis) 
Zebrafish  2014;11(6):509-517.
Pufferfish species of the Tetraodontidae family carry the smallest genomes among vertebrates. Their compressed genomes are thought to be enriched for functional DNA compared to larger vertebrate genomes, and they are important models for comparative genomics. The significance of pufferfish as model organisms in comparative genomics is due to the availability of two sequenced genomes, that of spotted green pufferfish (Tetraodon nigroviridis) and fugu (Takifugu rubripes). However, there is only a very limited utilization of pufferfish as an experimental model organism, due to the lack of established husbandry and developmental genetics protocols. In this study, we provide the first description of the normal embryonic development of Tetraodon nigroviridis. Embryos were obtained by in vitro fertilization of eggs, and subsequent development was monitored by brightfield microscopy at constant temperature. Tetraodon development was divided into distinct stages based on diagnostic morphological features, which were adopted from published literature on normal development of other fish species like medaka (Oryzias latipes), zebrafish (Danio rerio), and fugu. Tetraodon embryos show more similar morphologies to medaka than to zebrafish, reflecting its phylogenetic position. The early developmental stage series described in this study forms the foundation for the utilization of tetraodon as an experimental model organism for comparative developmental studies.
PMCID: PMC4248246  PMID: 25243591
2.  Long-range evolutionary constraints reveal cis-regulatory interactions on the human X chromosome 
Nature Communications  2015;6:6904.
Enhancers can regulate the transcription of genes over long genomic distances. This is thought to lead to selection against genomic rearrangements within such regions that may disrupt this functional linkage. Here we test this concept experimentally using the human X chromosome. We describe a scoring method to identify evolutionary maintenance of linkage between conserved noncoding elements and neighbouring genes. Chromatin marks associated with enhancer function are strongly correlated with this linkage score. We test >1,000 putative enhancers by transgenesis assays in zebrafish to ascertain the identity of the target gene. The majority of active enhancers drive a transgenic expression in a pattern consistent with the known expression of a linked gene. These results show that evolutionary maintenance of linkage is a reliable predictor of an enhancer's function, and provide new information to discover the genetic basis of diseases caused by the mis-regulation of gene expression.
Enhancers regulate the transcription of genes over long genomic distances. Here, the authors show that enhancer function is correlated with maintenance of linkage between non-coding elements and neighbouring genes in the human X chromosome and that enhancers in zebrafish drive expression in a pattern consistent with the expression of a linked gene.
PMCID: PMC4423230  PMID: 25908307
3.  GenomicusPlants: A Web Resource to Study Genome Evolution in Flowering Plants 
Plant and Cell Physiology  2014;56(1):e4.
Comparative genomics combined with phylogenetic reconstructions are powerful approaches to study the evolution of genes and genomes. However, the current rapid expansion of the volume of genomic information makes it increasingly difficult to interrogate, integrate and synthesize comparative genome data while taking into account the maximum breadth of information available. GenomicusPlants ( is an extension of the Genomicus webserver that addresses this issue by allowing users to explore flowering plant genomes in an intuitive way, across the broadest evolutionary scales. Extant genomes of 26 flowering plants can be analyzed, as well as 23 ancestral reconstructed genomes. Ancestral gene order provides a long-term chronological view of gene order evolution, greatly facilitating comparative genomics and evolutionary studies. Four main interfaces (‘views’) are available where: (i) PhyloView combines phylogenetic trees with comparisons of genomic loci across any number of genomes; (ii) AlignView projects loci of interest against all other genomes to visualize its topological conservation; (iii) MatrixView compares two genomes in a classical dotplot representation; and (iv) Karyoview visualizes chromosome karyotypes ‘painted’ with colours of another genome of interest. All four views are interconnected and benefit from many customizable features.
PMCID: PMC4301744  PMID: 25432975
Ancestral reconstruction; Evolution; Flowering plants; Genomics; Synteny
4.  Genomicus update 2015: KaryoView and MatrixView provide a genome-wide perspective to multispecies comparative genomics 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D682-D689.
The Genomicus web server ( is a visualization tool allowing comparative genomics in four different phyla (Vertebrate, Fungi, Metazoan and Plants). It provides access to genomic information from extant species, as well as ancestral gene content and gene order for vertebrates and flowering plants. Here we present the new features available for vertebrate genome with a focus on new graphical tools. The interface to enter the database has been improved, two pairwise genome comparison tools are now available (KaryoView and MatrixView) and the multiple genome comparison tools (PhyloView and AlignView) propose three new kinds of representation and a more intuitive menu. These new developments have been implemented for Genomicus portal dedicated to vertebrates. This allows the analysis of 68 extant animal genomes, as well as 58 ancestral reconstructed genomes. The Genomicus server also provides access to ancestral gene orders, to facilitate evolutionary and comparative genomics studies, as well as computationally predicted regulatory interactions, thanks to the representation of conserved non-coding elements with their putative gene targets.
PMCID: PMC4383929  PMID: 25378326
5.  Genomicus: five genome browsers for comparative genomics in eukaryota 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D700-D705.
Genomicus ( is a database and an online tool that allows easy comparative genomic visualization in >150 eukaryote genomes. It provides a way to explore spatial information related to gene organization within and between genomes and temporal relationships related to gene and genome evolution. For the specific vertebrate phylum, it also provides access to ancestral gene order reconstructions and conserved non-coding elements information. We extended the Genomicus database originally dedicated to vertebrate to four new clades, including plants, non-vertebrate metazoa, protists and fungi. This visualization tool allows evolutionary phylogenomics analysis and exploration. Here, we describe the graphical modules of Genomicus and show how it is capable of revealing differential gene loss and gain, segmental or genome duplications and study the evolution of a locus through homology relationships.
PMCID: PMC3531091  PMID: 23193262
6.  How much does the amphioxus genome represent the ancestor of chordates? 
One of the main motivations to study amphioxus is its potential for understanding the last common ancestor of chordates, which notably gave rise to the vertebrates. An important feature in this respect is the slow evolutionary rate that seems to have characterized the cephalochordate lineage, making amphioxus an interesting proxy for the chordate ancestor, as well as a key lineage to include in comparative studies. Whereas slow evolution was first noticed at the phenotypic level, it has also been described at the genomic level. Here, we examine whether the amphioxus genome is indeed a good proxy for the genome of the chordate ancestor, with a focus on protein-coding genes. We investigate genome features, such as synteny, gene duplication and gene loss, and contrast the amphioxus genome with those of other deuterostomes that are used in comparative studies, such as Ciona, Oikopleura and urchin.
PMCID: PMC3310212  PMID: 22373648
deuterostomes; evolutionary rates; gene duplication; gene loss; orthology; synteny
7.  Nucleosome rotational setting is associated with transcriptional regulation in promoters of tissue-specific human genes 
Genome Biology  2010;11(5):R51.
Human genes contain a 10 bp repeat of RR dinucleotides focused around the first nucleosome position suggesting a role in transcriptional control.
The position of a nucleosome, both translational along the DNA molecule and rotational between the histone core and the DNA, is controlled by many factors, including the regular occurrence of specific dinucleotides with a period of approximately 10 bp, important for the rotational setting of the DNA around the histone octamer.
We show that such a 10 bp periodic signal of purine-purine dinucleotides occurs in phase with the transcription start site (TSS) of human genes and is centered on the position of the first (+1) nucleosome downstream of the TSS. These data support a direct link between transcription and the rotational setting of the nucleosome. The periodic signal is most prevalent in genes that contain CpG islands that are expressed at low levels in a tissue-specific manner and are involved in the control of transcription.
These results, together with several lines of evidence from the recent literature, support a new model whereby the +1 nucleosome could be more efficiently disassembled from gene promoters by H3K56 acetylation marks if the periodic signal specifies an optimal rotational setting.
PMCID: PMC2898081  PMID: 20462404
8.  Human and Non-Human Primate Genomes Share Hotspots of Positive Selection 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000840.
Among primates, genome-wide analysis of recent positive selection is currently limited to the human species because it requires extensive sampling of genotypic data from many individuals. The extent to which genes positively selected in human also present adaptive changes in other primates therefore remains unknown. This question is important because a gene that has been positively selected independently in the human and in other primate lineages may be less likely to be involved in human specific phenotypic changes such as dietary habits or cognitive abilities. To answer this question, we analysed heterozygous Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in the genomes of single human, chimpanzee, orangutan, and macaque individuals using a new method aiming to identify selective sweeps genome-wide. We found an unexpectedly high number of orthologous genes exhibiting signatures of a selective sweep simultaneously in several primate species, suggesting the presence of hotspots of positive selection. A similar significant excess is evident when comparing genes positively selected during recent human evolution with genes subjected to positive selection in their coding sequence in other primate lineages and identified using a different test. These findings are further supported by comparing several published human genome scans for positive selection with our findings in non-human primate genomes. We thus provide extensive evidence that the co-occurrence of positive selection in humans and in other primates at the same genetic loci can be measured with only four species, an indication that it may be a widespread phenomenon. The identification of positive selection in humans alongside other primates is a powerful tool to outline those genes that were selected uniquely during recent human evolution.
Author Summary
An advantageous mutation spreads from generation to generation in a population until individuals that carry it, because of their higher reproductive success, completely replace those that do not. This process, commonly known as positive Darwinian selection, requires the selected mutation to induce a new non-neutral heritable phenotypic trait, and this has been shown to occur unexpectedly frequently during recent human evolution. Although the exact advantageous mutation is difficult to identify, it leaves a wider footprint on neighbouring linked neutral variation called a selective sweep. We have developed an empirical method that uses whole-genome shotgun sequences of single individuals to detect selective sweeps. By doing so, we were able to extend to chimpanzee, orangutan, and macaque individuals analyses of recent positive selection that until now were only available for human. Comparisons of genes candidates for positive selection between human and non-human primates then revealed an unexpectedly high number of cases where a selective sweep at a gene in humans is mirrored by independent positive selection at the same gene in multiple other primates. This result has future implications for understanding the nature of biological changes that underlie selective sweeps in humans.
PMCID: PMC2816677  PMID: 20140238

Results 1-8 (8)