The evolution and origin of cave organisms is a recurring issue in evolutionary studies, but analyses are often hindered by the inaccessibility of caves, morphological convergence, and complex colonization processes. Here we investigated the evolutionary history of Nesticella cave spiders, which are mainly distributed in the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau, China. With comprehensive sampling and phylogenetic and coalescent-based analyses, we investigated the tempo and mode of diversification and the origins of these troglobites. We also aimed to determine which factors have influenced the diversification of this little-known group.
Coalescent-based species delimitation validated the 18 species recognized by morphological inspection and also suggested the existence of cryptic lineages. Divergence time estimates suggested that Nesticella cave spiders in the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau constituted a monophyletic troglobite clade that originated in the middle Miocene (11.1–18.6 Ma). Although the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau clade was composed exclusively of troglobite species, suggesting an ancient common subterranean ancestor, we favor multiple, independent cave colonizations during the Pleistocene over a single ancient cave colonization event to explain the origin of these cave faunas. The diversification of plateau Nesticella has been greatly influenced by the sequential uplift of the plateau and likely reflects multiple cave colonizations over time by epigean ancestors during Pleistocene glacial advances.
We concluded that plateau cave Nesticella represent an ancient group of spiders, but with young troglobite lineages that invaded caves only recently. The absence of extant epigean relatives and nearly complete isolation among caves supported their relict status. Our work highlights the importance of comprehensive sampling for studies of subterranean diversity and the evolution of cave organisms. The existence of potentially cryptic species and the relict status of Nesticella highlight the need to conserve these cave spiders.
Biogeography; Araneae; Troglobites; Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau; BPP; *BEAST
The glacial and interglacial cycles that characterized the Quaternary greatly affected the distribution and genetic diversity of plants. In the Neotropics, few phylogeographic studies have focused on coastal species outside of the Atlantic Rainforest. Climatic and sea level changes during the Quaternary played an important role in the evolutionary history of many organisms found in coastal regions. To contribute to a better understanding of plant evolution in this environment in Southern South America, we focused on Calibrachoa heterophylla (Solanaceae), an endemic and vulnerable wild petunia species from the South Atlantic Coastal Plain (SACP).
We assessed DNA sequences from two cpDNA intergenic spacers and analyzed them using a phylogeographic approach. The present phylogeographic study reveals the influence of complex geologic and climatic events on patterns of genetic diversification. The results indicate that C. heterophylla originated inland and subsequently colonized the SACP; the data show that the inland haplogroup is more ancient than the coastal one and that the inland was not affected by sea level changes in the Quaternary. The major diversification of C. heterophylla that occurred after 0.4 Myr was linked to sea level oscillations in the Quaternary, and any diversification that occurred before this time was obscured by marine transgressions that occurred before the coastal sand barrier’s formation. Results of the Bayesian skyline plot showed a recent population expansion detected in C. heterophylla seems to be related to an increase in temperature and humidity that occurred at the beginning of the Holocene.
The geographic clades have been formed when the coastal plain was deeply dissected by paleochannels and these correlate very well with the distributional limits of the clades. The four major sea transgressions formed a series of four sand barriers parallel to the coast that progressively increased the availability of coastal areas after the regressions and that may have promoted the geographic structuring of genetic diversity observed today. The recent population expansion for the entire species may be linked with the event of marine regression after the most recent sea transgression at ~5 kya.
South-Atlantic coastal plain; Phylogeography; Pleistocene; Quaternary; Genetic diversity; Climatic changes; Petunia
Fossil evidence of ginkgophyte ontogeny is exceedingly rare. Early development in the extant Ginkgo biloba is characterized by a series of distinct ontogenetic stages. Fossils providing insights into the early ontogeny of ancient ginkgophytes may be significant in assessing the degree of relatedness between fossil ginkgophytes and G. biloba.
An assemblage of seedlings from the early Middle Triassic of France is assigned to the ginkgophytes based on leaf morphology. The specimens represent an ontogenetic sequence consisting of four stages: (I) formation of the cotyledons in the seed and germination; (II) development of primary leaves and taproot; (III) thickening of the taproot and appearance of secondary roots; and (IV) development of the first differentiated leaves and absence of the seed remnants.
The fossil seedlings provide a rare opportunity to examine the early ontogeny of a Triassic ginkgophyte. Germination and seedling development in the fossil are nearly identical to that of the extant gymnosperm G. biloba. We hypothesize that the fossil may be closely related biologically to G. biloba, and that certain developmental processes in seedling development were in place by the Middle Triassic.
Ontogeny; Germination; Cotyledon; Ginkgophyta; Gymnosperms; Middle Triassic
Brown trout Salmo trutta have been described in terms of five major mtDNA lineages, four of which correspond to major ocean basins, and one, according to some authors, to a distinct taxon, marbled trout Salmo marmoratus. The Atlantic and Danubian lineages of brown trout meet in a poorly documented contact zone in Central Europe. The natural versus human mediated origin of the Atlantic lineage in the upper Danube is a question of both theoretical and practical importance with respect to conservation management. We provide a comprehensive population genetic analysis of brown trout in the region with the aim of evaluating the geographic distribution and genetic integrity of these two lineages in and around their contact zone.
Genetic screening of 114 populations of brown trout across the Danube/Rhine/Elbe catchments revealed a counter-intuitive phylogeographic structure with near fixation of the Atlantic lineage in the sampled portions of the Bavarian Danube. Along the Austrian Danube, phylogeographic informative markers revealed increasing percentages of Danube-specific alleles with downstream distance. Pure Danube lineage populations were restricted to peri-alpine isolates within previously glaciated regions. Both empirical data and simulated hybrid comparisons support that trout in non-glaciated regions north and northeast of the Alps have an admixed origin largely based on natural colonization. In contrast, the presence of Atlantic basin alleles south and southeast of the Alps stems from hatchery introductions and subsequent introgression. Despite extensive stocking of the Atlantic lineage, little evidence of first generation stocked fish or F1 hybrids were found implying that admixture has been established over time.
A purely phylogeographic paradigm fails to describe the distribution of genetic lineages of Salmo in Central Europe. The distribution pattern of the Atlantic and Danube lineages is extremely difficult to explain without invoking very strong biological mechanisms.
The peri-alpine distribution of relict populations of pure Danubian lineage brown trout implies that they colonized headwater river courses post-glacially ahead of the expansion of the Atlantic lineage. The recognition of natural as opposed to anthropogenic introgression of the Atlantic lineage into Danubian gene pools is of fundamental importance to management strategies.
Paleo-hydrology; Phylogeography; Alpine; Austria; Bavaria; mtDNA; Microsatellites; LDH-C1; Stocking; Conservation
The Galapagos Islands constitute a highly diverse ecosystem and a unique source of variation in the form of endemic species. There are two endemic tomato species, Solanum galapagense and S. cheesmaniae and two introduced tomato species, S. pimpinellifolium and S. lycopersicum. Morphologically the two endemic tomato species of the Galapagos Islands are clearly distinct, but molecular marker analysis showed no clear separation. Tomatoes on the Galapagos are affected by both native and exotic herbivores. Bemisia tabaci is an important introduced insect species that feeds on a wide range of plants. In this article, we address the question whether the differentiation between S. galapagense and S. cheesmaniae may be related to differences in susceptibility towards phloem-feeders and used B. tabaci as a model to evaluate this.
We have characterized 12 accessions of S. galapagense, 22 of S. cheesmaniae, and one of S. lycopersicum as reference for whitefly resistance using no-choice experiments. Whitefly resistance was found in S. galapagense only and was associated with the presence of relatively high levels of acyl sugars and the presence of glandular trichomes of type I and IV. Genetic fingerprinting using 3316 SNP markers did not show a clear differentiation between the two endemic species. Acyl sugar accumulation as well as the climatic and geographical conditions at the collection sites of the accessions did not follow the morphological species boundaries.
Our results suggest that S. galapagense and S. cheesmaniae might be morphotypes rather than two species and that their co-existence is likely the result of selective pressure.
Bemisia tabaci; Solanum galapagense; Solanum cheesmaniae; Whitefly; Trichomes; Acyl sugars; Selection pressure
Sex in higher diploids carries a two-fold cost of males that should reduce its fitness relative to cloning, and result in its extinction. Instead, sex is widespread and clonal species face early obsolescence. One possible reason is that sex is an adaptation that allows organisms to respond more effectively to endless changes in their environment. The purpose of this study was to model mutation and selection in a diploid organism in an evolving environment and ascertain their support for sex.
We used a computational approach to model finite populations where a haploid environment subjects a diploid host to endlessly evolving change. Evolution in both populations is primarily through adoption of novel advantageous mutations within a large allele space. Sex outcompetes cloning by two complementary mechanisms. First, sexual diploids adopt advantageous homozygous mutations more rapidly than clonal ones under conditions of lag load (the gap between the actual adaptation of the diploid population and its theoretical optimum). This rate advantage can offset the higher fecundity of cloning. Second, a relative advantage to sex emerges where populations are significantly polymorphic, because clonal polymorphism runs the risk of clonal interference caused by selection on numerous lines of similar adaptation. This interference extends allele lifetime and reduces the rate of adaptation. Sex abolishes the interference, making selection faster and elevating population fitness. Differences in adaptation between sexual and clonal populations increase markedly with the number of loci under selection, the rate of mutation in the host, and a rapidly evolving environment. Clonal interference in these circumstances leads to conditions where the greater fecundity of clones is unable to offset their poor adaptation. Sexual and clonal populations then either co-exist, or sex emerges as the more stable evolutionary strategy.
Sex can out-compete clones in a rapidly evolving environment, such as that characterized by pathogens, where clonal interference reduces the adaptation of clonal populations and clones adopt advantageous mutations more slowly. Since all organisms carry parasitic loads, the model is of potentially general applicability.
Maintenance of sex; Advantageous mutation; Frequency-dependent selection; Red Queen; Computational model
Few mitochondrial gene rearrangements are found in vertebrates and large-scale changes in these genomes occur even less frequently. It is difficult, therefore, to propose a mechanism to account for observed changes in mitogenome structure. Mitochondrial gene rearrangements are usually explained by the recombination model or tandem duplication and random loss model.
In this study, the complete mitochondrial genomes of four flatfishes, Crossorhombus azureus (blue flounder), Grammatobothus krempfi, Pleuronichthys cornutus, and Platichthys stellatus were determined. A striking finding is that eight genes in the C. azureus mitogenome are located in a novel position, differing from that of available vertebrate mitogenomes. Specifically, the ND6 and seven tRNA genes (the Q, A, C, Y, S1, E, P genes) encoded by the L-strand have been translocated to a position between tRNA-T and tRNA-F though the original order of the genes is maintained.
These special features are used to suggest a mechanism for C. azureus mitogenome rearrangement. First, a dimeric molecule was formed by two monomers linked head-to-tail, then one of the two sets of promoters lost function and the genes controlled by the disabled promoters became pseudogenes, non-coding sequences, and even were lost from the genome. This study provides a new gene-rearrangement model that accounts for the events of gene-rearrangement in a vertebrate mitogenome.
Hotspots of angiosperm species richness and endemism in Mediterranean-climate regions are among the most striking, but least well-understood, geographic patterns of biodiversity. Recent studies have emphasized the importance of rapid diversification within hotspots, compared to non-hotspot regions, as a major contributor to these patterns. We constructed the first near-complete phylogeny of Banksia (Proteaceae) to test whether diversification rates have differed between lineages confined to the southwest Australian hotspot and those found throughout southern, eastern and northern Australia. We then tested for variation in diversification rates among the bioclimatic zones within the southwest hotspot itself.
Although Banksia species richness in the southwest is ten times that of the rest of the continent, we find little evidence for more rapid diversification in the southwest, although this result is inconclusive. However, we find firmer support for substantial rate variation within the southwest hotspot, with more rapid diversification in the semi-arid heaths and shrublands, compared to the high-rainfall forests. Most of the Banksia diversity of the southwest appears to be generated in the heaths and shrublands, with a high migration rate out of this zone boosting diversity of the adjacent forest zone.
The geographic pattern of diversification in Banksia appears more complex than can be characterized by a simple hotspot vs. non-hotspot comparison, but in general, these findings contrast with the view that the high diversity of Mediterranean hotspots is underpinned by rapid radiations. Steady accumulation of species at unexceptional rates, but over long periods of time, may also have contributed substantially to the great botanical richness of these regions.
Angiosperm diversity; Diversification; Mediterranean hotspots; Southwest Australia; Species richness
A dual olfactory system, represented by two anatomically distinct but spatially proximate chemosensory epithelia that project to separate areas of the forebrain, is known in several classes of tetrapods. Lungfish are the earliest evolving vertebrates known to have this dual system, comprising a main olfactory and a vomeronasal system (VNO). Lampreys, a group of jawless vertebrates, have a single nasal capsule containing two anatomically distinct epithelia, the main (MOE) and the accessory olfactory epithelia (AOE). We speculated that lamprey AOE projects to specific telencephalic regions as a precursor to the tetrapod vomeronasal system.
To test this hypothesis, we characterized the neural circuits and molecular profiles of the accessory olfactory epithelium in the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Neural tract-tracing revealed direct and reciprocal connections with the dorsomedial telencephalic neuropil (DTN) which in turn projects directly to the dorsal pallium and the rostral hypothalamus. High-throughput sequencing demonstrated that the main and the accessory olfactory epithelia have virtually identical profiles of expressed genes. Real time quantitative PCR confirmed expression of representatives of all 3 chemoreceptor gene families identified in the sea lamprey genome.
Anatomical and molecular evidence shows that the sea lamprey has a primordial accessory olfactory system that may serve a chemosensory function.
Two theories for the origin of animal life cycles with planktotrophic larvae are now discussed seriously: The terminal addition theory proposes a holopelagic, planktotrophic gastraea as the ancestor of the eumetazoans with addition of benthic adult stages and retention of the planktotrophic stages as larvae, i.e. the ancestral life cycles were indirect. The intercalation theory now proposes a benthic, deposit-feeding gastraea as the bilaterian ancestor with a direct development, and with planktotrophic larvae evolving independently in numerous lineages through specializations of juveniles.
Information from the fossil record, from mapping of developmental types onto known phylogenies, from occurrence of apical organs, and from genetics gives no direct information about the ancestral eumetazoan life cycle; however, there are plenty of examples of evolution from an indirect development to direct development, and no unequivocal example of evolution in the opposite direction. Analyses of scenarios for the two types of evolution are highly informative. The evolution of the indirect spiralian life cycle with a trochophora larva from a planktotrophic gastraea is explained by the trochophora theory as a continuous series of ancestors, where each evolutionary step had an adaptational advantage. The loss of ciliated larvae in the ecdysozoans is associated with the loss of outer ciliated epithelia. A scenario for the intercalation theory shows the origin of the planktotrophic larvae of the spiralians through a series of specializations of the general ciliation of the juvenile. The early steps associated with the enhancement of swimming seem probable, but the following steps which should lead to the complicated downstream-collecting ciliary system are without any advantage, or even seem disadvantageous, until the whole structure is functional. None of the theories account for the origin of the ancestral deuterostome (ambulacrarian) life cycle.
All the available information is strongly in favor of multiple evolution of non-planktotrophic development, and only the terminal addition theory is in accordance with the Darwinian theory by explaining the evolution through continuous series of adaptational changes. This implies that the ancestor of the eumetazoans was a holopelagic, planktotrophic gastraea, and that the adult stages of cnidarians (sessile) and bilaterians (creeping) were later additions to the life cycle. It further implies that the various larval types are of considerable phylogenetic value.
Larvae; Evolution; Adaptation; Planktotrophy; Gastraea; Trochaea; Dipleurula
Niche construction has received increasing attention in recent years as a vital force in evolution and examples of niche construction have been identified in a wide variety of taxa, but viruses are conspicuously absent. In this study we explore how niche construction can lead to viruses engineering their hosts (including behavioural manipulation) with feedback on selective pressures for viral transmission and virulence. To illustrate this concept we focus on Baculoviridae, a family of invertebrate viruses that have evolved to modify the feeding behaviour of their lepidopteran hosts and liquefy their cadavers as part of the course of infection.
We present a mathematical model showing how niche construction leads to feedback from the behavioural manipulation to the liquefaction of the host, linking the evolution of both of these traits, and show how this association arises from the action of niche construction. Model results show that niche construction is plausible in this system and delineates the conditions under which niche construction will occur. Niche construction in this system is also shown to be sensitive to parameter values that reflect ecological forces.
Our model demonstrates that niche construction can be a potent force in viral evolution and can lead to the acquisition and maintenance of the behavioural manipulation and liquefaction traits in Baculoviridae via the niche constructing effects on the host. These results show the potential for niche construction theory to provide new insights into viral evolution.
Patterns of genetic diversity between and within natural plant populations and their driving forces are of great interest in evolutionary biology. However, few studies have been performed on the genetic structure and population divergence in wild emmer wheat using a large number of EST-related single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers.
In the present study, twenty-five natural wild emmer wheat populations representing a wide range of ecological conditions in Israel and Turkey were used. Genetic diversity and genetic structure were investigated using over 1,000 SNP markers. A moderate level of genetic diversity was detected due to the biallelic property of SNP markers. Clustering based on Bayesian model showed that grouping pattern is related to the geographical distribution of the wild emmer wheat. However, genetic differentiation between populations was not necessarily dependent on the geographical distances. A total of 33 outlier loci under positive selection were identified using a FST-outlier method. Significant correlations between loci and ecogeographical factors were observed.
Natural selection appears to play a major role in generating adaptive structures in wild emmer wheat. SNP markers are appropriate for detecting selectively-channeled adaptive genetic diversity in natural populations of wild emmer wheat. This adaptive genetic diversity is significantly associated with ecological factors.
Triticum dicoccoides; SNP marker; Adaptive genetic diversity; Population structure; Natural selection
On August 9th 2012, we published an original research article in Scientific Reports, concluding that artificial radionuclides released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant exerted genetically and physiologically adverse effects on the pale grass blue butterfly Zizeeria maha in the Fukushima area. Immediately following publication, many questions and comments were generated from all over the world. Here, we have clarified points made in the original paper and answered questions posed by the readers.
The following points were clarified. (1) There are many advantages to using the pale grass blue butterfly as an indicator species. (2) The forewings of the individuals collected in Fukushima were significantly smaller than in the northern and southern localities. (3) We observed growth retardation in the butterflies from the Fukushima area. (4) The aberrant colour patterns in the butterflies obtained in the Fukushima area were different from the colour patterns induced by temperature and sibling crosses but similar to those induced by external and internal exposures to the artificial radionuclides and by a chemical mutagen, suggesting that genetic mutations caused the aberrations. (5) This species of butterfly has been plentiful in Fukushima area for at least half a century. We here present specimens collected from Fukushima Prefecture before the accident. (6) Mutation accumulation was detected by the increase in the abnormality rates from May 2011 to September 2011. (7) The abnormal traits were heritable. (8) Our sampling localities were not affected by the tsunami. (9) We used a high enough number of samples to obtain statistically significant results. (10) The standard rearing method was followed, producing normal adults in the control groups. (11) The exposure experiments successfully reproduced the results of the field work. This species of butterfly is vulnerable to long-term low-dose internal and external exposures; however, insect cells are known to be resistant to short-term high-dose irradiation. This discrepancy is reconcilable based on the differences in the experimental conditions.
We are just beginning to understand the biological effects of long-term low-dose exposures in animals. Further research is necessary to accurately assess the possible biological effects of the accident.
Abnormality rate; Artificial radionuclides; Colour pattern; Fukushima nuclear accident; Long-term low-dose radiation exposure; Pale grass blue butterfly; Zizeeria maha
The accumulation of repetitive DNA during sex chromosome differentiation is a common feature of many eukaryotes and becomes more evident after recombination has been restricted or abolished. The accumulated repetitive sequences include multigene families, microsatellites, satellite DNAs and mobile elements, all of which are important for the structural remodeling of heterochromatin. In grasshoppers, derived sex chromosome systems, such as neo-XY♂/XX♀ and neo-X1X2Y♂/X1X1X2X2♀, are frequently observed in the Melanoplinae subfamily. However, no studies concerning the evolution of sex chromosomes in Melanoplinae have addressed the role of the repetitive DNA sequences. To further investigate the evolution of sex chromosomes in grasshoppers, we used classical cytogenetic and FISH analyses to examine the repetitive DNA sequences in six phylogenetically related Melanoplinae species with X0♂/XX♀, neo-XY♂/XX♀ and neo-X1X2Y♂/X1X1X2X2♀ sex chromosome systems.
Our data indicate a non-spreading of heterochromatic blocks and pool of repetitive DNAs (C0t-1 DNA) in the sex chromosomes; however, the spreading of multigene families among the neo-sex chromosomes of Eurotettix and Dichromatos was remarkable, particularly for 5S rDNA. In autosomes, FISH mapping of multigene families revealed distinct patterns of chromosomal organization at the intra- and intergenomic levels.
These results suggest a common origin and subsequent differential accumulation of repetitive DNAs in the sex chromosomes of Dichromatos and an independent origin of the sex chromosomes of the neo-XY and neo-X1X2Y systems. Our data indicate a possible role for repetitive DNAs in the diversification of sex chromosome systems in grasshoppers.
Molecular phylogenetics has provided unprecedented resolution in the ruminant evolutionary tree. However, molecular age estimates using only one or a few (often misapplied) fossil calibration points have produced a diversity of conflicting ages for important evolutionary events within this clade. I here identify 16 fossil calibration points of relevance to the phylogeny of Bovidae and Ruminantia and use these, individually and together, to construct a dated molecular phylogeny through a reanalysis of the full mitochondrial genome of over 100 ruminant species.
The new multi-calibrated tree provides ages that are younger overall than found in previous studies. Among these are young ages for the origin of crown Ruminantia (39.3–28.8 Ma), and crown Bovidae (17.3–15.1 Ma). These are argued to be reasonable hypotheses given that many basal fossils assigned to these taxa may in fact lie on the stem groups leading to the crown clades, thus inflating previous age estimates. Areas of conflict between molecular and fossil dates do persist, however, especially with regard to the base of the rapid Pecoran radiation and the sister relationship of Moschidae to Bovidae. Results of the single-calibrated analyses also show that a very wide range of molecular age estimates are obtainable using different calibration points, and that the choice of calibration point can influence the topology of the resulting tree. Compared to the single-calibrated trees, the multi-calibrated tree exhibits smaller variance in estimated ages and better reflects the fossil record.
The use of a large number of vetted fossil calibration points with soft bounds is promoted as a better approach than using just one or a few calibrations, or relying on internal-congruency metrics to discard good fossil data. This study also highlights the importance of considering morphological and ecological characteristics of clades when delimiting higher taxa. I also illustrate how phylogeographic and paleoenvironmental hypotheses inferred from a tree containing only extant taxa can be problematic without consideration of the fossil record. Incorporating the fossil record of Ruminantia is a necessary step for future analyses aiming to reconstruct the evolutionary history of this clade.
Fossil calibration; Ruminantia; Bayesian analysis; Phylogenetic systematics; Neogene
In recent years, as the development of next-generation sequencing technology, a growing number of genes have been reported as being horizontally transferred from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, most of them involving arthropods. As a member of the phylum Arthropoda, the Pacific white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei has to adapt to the complex water environments with various symbiotic or parasitic microorganisms, which provide a platform for horizontal gene transfer (HGT).
In this study, we analyzed the genome-wide HGT events in L. vannamei. Through homology search and phylogenetic analysis, followed by experimental PCR confirmation, 14 genes with HGT event were identified: 12 of them were transferred from bacteria and two from fungi. Structure analysis of these genes showed that the introns of the two fungi-originated genes were substituted by shrimp DNA fragment, two genes transferred from bacteria had shrimp specific introns inserted in them. Furthermore, around other three bacteria-originated genes, there were three large DNA segments inserted into the shrimp genome. One segment was a transposon that fully transferred, and the other two segments contained only coding regions of bacteria. Functional prediction of these 14 genes showed that 6 of them might be related to energy metabolism, and 4 others related to defense of the organism.
HGT events from bacteria or fungi were happened in the genome of L. vannamei, and these horizontally transferred genes can be transcribed in shrimp. This is the first time to report the existence of horizontally transferred genes in shrimp. Importantly, most of these genes are exposed to a negative selection pressure and appeared to be functional.
Horizontal gene transfer; Litopenaeus vannamei; Shrimp; Bacteria; Fungi
Synonymous or silent mutations are usually thought to evolve neutrally. However, accumulating recent evidence has demonstrated that silent mutations may destabilize RNA structures or disrupt cis regulatory motifs superimposed on coding sequences. Such observations suggest the existence of stretches of codon sites that are evolutionary conserved at both DNA-RNA and protein levels. Such stretches may point to functionally important regions within protein coding sequences not necessarily reflecting functional constraints on the amino-acid sequence. The HIV-1 genome is highly compact, and often harbors overlapping functional elements at the protein, RNA, and DNA levels. This superimposition of functions leads to complex selective forces acting on all levels of the genome and proteome. Considering the constraints on HIV-1 to maintain such a highly compact genome, we hypothesized that stretches of synonymous conservation would be common within its genome.
We used a combined computational-experimental approach to detect and characterize regions exhibiting strong purifying selection against synonymous substitutions along the HIV-1 genome. Our methodology is based on advanced probabilistic evolutionary models that explicitly account for synonymous rate variation among sites and rate dependencies among adjacent sites. These models are combined with a randomization procedure to automatically identify the most statistically significant regions of conserved synonymous sites along the genome. Using this procedure we identified 21 conserved regions. Twelve of these are mapped to regions within overlapping genes, seven correlate with known functional elements, while the functions of the remaining four are yet unknown. Among these four regions, we chose the one that deviates most from synonymous rate homogeneity for in-depth computational and experimental characterization. In our assays aiming to quantify viral fitness in both early and late stages of the replication cycle, no differences were observed between the mutated and the wild type virus following the introduction of synonymous mutations.
The contradiction between the inferred purifying selective forces and the lack of effect of these mutations on viral replication may be explained by the fact that the phenotype was measured in single-cycle infection assays in cell culture. Such a system does not account for the complexity of HIV-1 infections in vivo, which involves multiple infection cycles and interaction with the host immune system.
Codon models; HIV-1; Synonymous substitutions; Silent substitutions; Ka/Ks
Despite rapid progress in understanding the mechanisms that shape the evolution of proteins, the relative importance of various factors remain to be elucidated. In this study, we have assessed the effects of 16 different biological features on the evolutionary rates (ERs) of protein-coding sequences in bacterial genomes.
Our analysis of 18 bacterial species revealed new correlations between ERs and constraining factors. Previous studies have suggested that transcriptional abundance overwhelmingly constrains the evolution of yeast protein sequences. This transcriptional abundance leads to selection against misfolding or misinteractions. In this study we found that there was no single factor in determining the evolution of bacterial proteins. Not only transcriptional abundance (codon adaptation index and expression level), but also protein-protein associations (PPAs), essentiality (ESS), subcellular localization of cytoplasmic membrane (SLM), transmembrane helices (TMH) and hydropathicity score (HS) independently and significantly affected the ERs of bacterial proteins. In some species, PPA and ESS demonstrate higher correlations with ER than transcriptional abundance.
Different forces drive the evolution of protein sequences in yeast and bacteria. In bacteria, the constraints are involved in avoiding a build-up of toxic molecules caused by misfolding/misinteraction (transcriptional abundance), while retaining important functions (ESS, PPA) and maintaining the cell membrane (SLM, TMH and HS). Each of these independently contributes to the variation in protein evolution.
Evolutionary rates; Bacteria; Multiple features; Transcriptional abundance
The persistence of antibiotic resistance depends on the fitness effects of resistance elements in the absence of antibiotics. Recent work shows that the fitness effect of a given resistance mutation is influenced by other resistance mutations on the same genome. However, resistant bacteria acquire additional beneficial mutations during evolution in the absence of antibiotics that do not alter resistance directly but may modify the fitness effects of new resistance mutations.
We experimentally evolved rifampicin-resistant and sensitive Escherichia coli in a drug-free environment, before measuring the effects of new resistance elements on fitness in antibiotic-free conditions. Streptomycin-resistance mutations had small fitness effects in rifampicin-resistant genotypes that had adapted to antibiotic-free growth medium, compared to the same genotypes without adaptation. We observed a similar effect when resistance was encoded by a different mechanism and carried on a plasmid. Antibiotic-sensitive bacteria that adapted to the same conditions showed the same pattern for some resistance elements but not others.
Epistatic variation of costs of resistance can result from evolution in the absence of antibiotics, as well as the presence of other resistance mutations.
Antibiotic resistance; Epistasis; Experimental evolution; Escherichia coli
The intention of this editorial is to steer researchers through methodological choices in molecular evolution, drawing on the combined expertise of the authors. Our aim is not to review the most advanced methods for a specific task. Rather, we define several general guidelines to help with methodology choices at different stages of a typical phylogenetic ‘pipeline’. We are not able to provide exhaustive citation of a literature that is vast and plentiful, but we point the reader to a set of classical textbooks that reflect the state-of-the-art. We do not wish to appear overly critical of outdated methodology but rather provide some practical guidance on the sort of issues which should be considered. We stress that a reported study should be well-motivated and evaluate a specific hypothesis or scientific question. However, a publishable study should not be merely a compilation of available sequences for a protein family of interest followed by some standard analyses, unless it specifically addresses a scientific hypothesis or question. The rapid pace at which sequence data accumulate quickly outdates such publications. Although clearly, discoveries stemming from data mining, reports of new tools and databases and review papers are also desirable.
The extent of phenotypic differentiation in response to local environmental conditions is a key component of species adaptation and persistence. Understanding the structuring of phenotypic diversity in response to local environmental pressures can provide important insights into species evolutionary dynamics and responses to environmental change. This work examines the influence of steep environmental gradients on intraspecific phenotypic variation and tests two hypotheses about how the tropical soft grass mouse, Akodon mollis (Cricetidae, Rodentia), contends with the disparate environmental conditions encompassed by its broad distribution. Specifically, we test if the species expresses a geographically unstructured, or generalist, phenotype throughout its range or if it shows geographically localized morphological differentiation across disparate environments.
Using geometric morphometric and ecomorphological analyses of skull shape variation we found that despite distinct environmental conditions, geographically structured morphological variation is limited, with the notable exception of a distinct morphological disjunction at the high-elevation forest-grassland transition in the southern portion of A. mollis distribution. Based on genetic analyses, geographic isolation alone does not explain this localized phenotype, given that similar levels of genetic differentiation were also observed among individuals inhabiting other ecosystems that are nonetheless not distinct morphologically.
Instead of phenotypic specialization across environments in these tropical mountains, there was limited differentiation of skull shape and size across the broad range of A. mollis, with the exception of individuals from the puna, the highest-elevation ecosystem. The high morphological variance among individuals, together with a weak association with local environmental conditions, not only highlights the flexibility of A. mollis’ skull, but also highlights the need for further study to understand what maintains the observed morphological patterns. The work also indicates that mechanisms other than processes linked to local ecological specialization as a driver of diversification may contribute to the high diversity of this tropical region.
Adaptation; Akodon mollis; Geometric morphometrics; Skull shape; Tropical mountains
Light, the driving force of photosynthesis, can be harmful when present in excess; therefore, any light harvesting system requires photoprotection. Members of the extended light-harvesting complex (LHC) protein superfamily are involved in light harvesting as well as in photoprotection and are found in the red and green plant lineages, with a complex distribution pattern of subfamilies in the different algal lineages.
Here, we demonstrate that the recently discovered “red lineage chlorophyll a/b-binding-like proteins” (RedCAPs) form a monophyletic family within this protein superfamily. The occurrence of RedCAPs was found to be restricted to the red algal lineage, including red algae (with primary plastids) as well as cryptophytes, haptophytes and heterokontophytes (with secondary plastids of red algal origin). Expression of a full-length RedCAP:GFP fusion construct in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum confirmed the predicted plastid localisation of RedCAPs. Furthermore, we observed that similarly to the fucoxanthin chlorophyll a/c-binding light-harvesting antenna proteins also RedCAP transcripts in diatoms were regulated in a diurnal way at standard light conditions and strongly repressed at high light intensities.
The absence of RedCAPs from the green lineage implies that RedCAPs evolved in the red lineage after separation from the the green lineage. During the evolution of secondary plastids, RedCAP genes therefore must have been transferred from the nucleus of the endocytobiotic alga to the nucleus of the host cell, a process that involved complementation with pre-sequences allowing import of the gene product into the secondary plastid bound by four membranes. Based on light-dependent transcription and on localisation data, we propose that RedCAPs might participate in the light (intensity and quality)-dependent structural or functional reorganisation of the light-harvesting antennae of the photosystems upon dark to light shifts as regularly experienced by diatoms in nature. Remarkably, in plastids of the red lineage as well as in green lineage plastids, the phycobilisome based cyanobacterial light harvesting system has been replaced by light harvesting systems that are based on members of the extended LHC protein superfamily, either for one of the photosystems (PS I of red algae) or for both (diatoms). In their proposed function, the RedCAP protein family may thus have played a role in the evolutionary structural remodelling of light-harvesting antennae in the red lineage.
Complex plastids; Diatoms; Chloroplast; Gene transfer; Light-harvesting antenna proteins; Red lineage chlorophyll a/b-binding-like proteins
One of the most intriguing questions in evolutionary developmental biology is how an insect acquires a mimicry pattern within its body parts. A striking example of pattern mimicry is found in the pattern diversity of moth and butterfly wings, which is thought to evolve from preexisting elements illustrated by the nymphalid ground plan (NGP). Previous studies demonstrated that individuality of the NGP facilitates the decoupling of associated common elements, leading to divergence. In contrast, recent studies on the concept of modularity have argued the importance of a combination of coupling and decoupling of the constituent elements. Here, we examine the modularity of a mimicry wing pattern in a moth and explore an evolvable characteristic of the NGP.
This study examined the wings of the noctuid moth Oraesia excavata, which closely resemble leaves with a leaf venation pattern. Based on a comparative morphological procedure, we found that this leaf pattern was formed by the NGP common elements. Using geometric morphometrics combined with network analysis, we found that each of the modules in the leaf pattern integrates the constituent components of the leaf venation pattern (i.e., the main and lateral veins). Moreover, the detected modules were established by coupling different common elements and decoupling even a single element into different modules. The modules of the O. excavata wing pattern were associated with leaf mimicry, not with the individuality of the NGP common elements. For comparison, we also investigated the modularity of a nonmimetic pattern in the noctuid moth Thyas juno. Quantitative analysis demonstrated that the modules of the T. juno wing pattern regularly corresponded to the individuality of the NGP common elements, unlike those in the O. excavata wing pattern.
This study provides the first evidence for modularity in a leaf mimicry pattern. The results suggest that the evolution of this pattern involves coupling and decoupling processes to originate these modules, free from the individuality of the NGP system. We propose that this evolution has been facilitated by a versatile characteristic of the NGP, allowing the association of freely modifiable subordinate common elements to make modules.
Morphological integration; Modularity; Evolvability; Moth and butterfly wing patterns; Masquerade; Leaf mimicry; Nymphalid ground plan; Geometric morphometrics; Correlation network
The rate of female remating can have important impacts on a species, from affecting conflict and cooperation within families, to population viability and gene flow. However, determining the level of polyandry in a species can be difficult, with information on the mating system of many species being based on a single experiment, or completely absent. Here we investigate the mating system of the fruit fly Drosophila subobscura. Reports from England, Spain and Canada suggest D. subobscura is entirely monandrous, with no females remating. However, work in Greece suggests that 23% of females remate. We examine the willingness of female D. subobscura to remate in the laboratory in a range of conditions, using flies from both Greece and England. We make a distinction between pseudopolyandry, where a female remates after an ineffective first mating that is incapable of fertilising her eggs, and true polyandry, where a female remates even though she has received suitable sperm from a previous mating.
We find a low rate of true polyandry by females (4%), with no difference between populations. The rate of true polyandry is affected by temperature, but not starvation. Pseudopolyandry is three times as common as true polyandry, and most females showing pseudopolyandry mated at their first opportunity after their first failed mating. However, despite the lack of differences in polyandry between the populations, we do find differences in the way males respond to exposure to other males prior to mating. In line with previous work, English flies responded to one or more rivals by increasing their copulation duration, a response previously thought to be driven by sperm competition. Greek males only show increased copulation duration when exposed to four or more rival males. This suggests that the response to rivals in D. subobscura is not related to sperm competition, because sperm competition is rare, and there is no correlation of response to rivals and mating system across the populations.
These results illustrate the difficulties in determining the mating system of a species, even one that is well known and an excellent laboratory species, with results being highly dependent on the conditions used to assay the behaviour, and the population used.
Copulation duration; Infertility; Monandry; Plasticity; Polyandry; Sperm competition; Social environment
GroESL is a heat-shock protein ubiquitous in bacteria and eukaryotic organelles. This evolutionarily conserved protein is involved in the folding of a wide variety of other proteins in the cytosol, being essential to the cell. The folding activity proceeds through strong conformational changes mediated by the co-chaperonin GroES and ATP. Functions alternative to folding have been previously described for GroEL in different bacterial groups, supporting enormous functional and structural plasticity for this molecule and the existence of a hidden combinatorial code in the protein sequence enabling such functions. Describing this plasticity can shed light on the functional diversity of GroEL. We hypothesize that different overlapping sets of amino acids coevolve within GroEL, GroES and between both these proteins. Shifts in these coevolutionary relationships may inevitably lead to evolution of alternative functions.
We conducted the first coevolution analyses in an extensive bacterial phylogeny, revealing complex networks of evolutionary dependencies between residues in GroESL. These networks differed among bacterial groups and involved amino acid sites with functional importance and others with previously unsuspected functional potential. Coevolutionary networks formed statistically independent units among bacterial groups and map to structurally continuous regions in the protein, suggesting their functional link. Sites involved in coevolution fell within narrow structural regions, supporting dynamic combinatorial functional links involving similar protein domains. Moreover, coevolving sites within a bacterial group mapped to regions previously identified as involved in folding-unrelated functions, and thus, coevolution may mediate alternative functions.
Our results highlight the evolutionary plasticity of GroEL across the entire bacterial phylogeny. Evidence on the functional importance of coevolving sites illuminates the as yet unappreciated functional diversity of proteins.