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1.  Cooperation and selfishness both occur during molecular evolution 
Biology Direct  2014;10:26.
Perhaps the ‘selfish’ aspect of evolution has been over-emphasised, and organisms considered as basically selfish. However, at the macromolecular level of genes and proteins the cooperative aspect of evolution is more obvious and balances this self-centred aspect. Thousands of proteins must function together in an integrated manner to use and to produce the many molecules necessary for a functioning cell. The macromolecules have no idea whether they are functioning cooperatively or competitively with other genes and gene products (such as proteins). The cell is a giant cooperative system of thousands of genes/proteins that function together, even if it has to simultaneously resist ‘parasites’. There are extensive examples of cooperative behavior among genes and proteins in both functioning cells and in the origin of life, so this cooperative nature, along with selfishness, must be considered part of normal evolution. The principles also apply to very large numbers of examples of ‘positive interactions’ between organisms, including both eukaryotes and akaryotes (prokaryotes). This does not negate in any way the ‘selfishness’ of genes – but macromolecules have no idea when they are helping, or hindering, other groups of macromolecules. We need to assert more strongly that genes, and gene products, function together as a cooperative unit.
Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Prof. Bill Martin (Düsseldorf), Dr. Nicolas Galtier (Montpellier) and Dr. Anthony Poole (Christchurch).
doi:10.1186/s13062-014-0026-5
PMCID: PMC4266915  PMID: 25486885
Cooperation; Molecular evolution; Molecular level; Origin of life; Natural selection
2.  Hepatitis E Virus Infection, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Kiribati, 2003–2005 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(6):1057-1058.
doi:10.3201/eid2006.130562
PMCID: PMC4036777  PMID: 24856799
Hepatitis E; seroprevalence; South Pacific; infection; viruses; Papua New Guinea; Fiji; Kiribati; zoonoses
3.  Phylogenetic Species Identification in Rattus Highlights Rapid Radiation and Morphological Similarity of New Guinean Species 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98002.
The genus Rattus is highly speciose, the taxonomy is complex, and individuals are often difficult to identify to the species level. Previous studies have demonstrated the usefulness of phylogenetic approaches to identification in Rattus but some species, especially among the endemics of the New Guinean region, showed poor resolution. Possible reasons for this are simple misidentification, incomplete gene lineage sorting, hybridization, and phylogenetically distinct lineages that are unrecognised taxonomically. To assess these explanations we analysed 217 samples, representing nominally 25 Rattus species, collected in New Guinea, Asia, Australia and the Pacific. To reduce misidentification problems we sequenced museum specimens from earlier morphological studies and recently collected tissues from samples with associated voucher specimens. We also reassessed vouchers from previously sequenced specimens. We inferred combined and separate phylogenies from two mitochondrial DNA regions comprising 550 base pair D-loop sequences and both long (655 base pair) and short (150 base pair) cytochrome oxidase I sequences. Our phylogenetic species identification for 17 species was consistent with morphological designations and current taxonomy thus reinforcing the usefulness of this approach. We reduced misidentifications and consequently the number of polyphyletic species in our phylogenies but the New Guinean Rattus clades still exhibited considerable complexity. Only three of our eight New Guinean species were monophyletic. We found good evidence for either incomplete mitochondrial lineage sorting or hybridization between species within two pairs, R. leucopus/R. cf. verecundus and R. steini/R. praetor. Additionally, our results showed that R. praetor, R. niobe and R. verecundus each likely encompass more than one species. Our study clearly points to the need for a revised taxonomy of the rats of New Guinea, based on broader sampling and informed by both morphology and phylogenetics. The remaining taxonomic complexity highlights the recent and rapid radiation of Rattus in the Australo-Papuan region.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098002
PMCID: PMC4035291  PMID: 24865350
4.  Two New Fern Chloroplasts and Decelerated Evolution Linked to the Long Generation Time in Tree Ferns 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(5):1166-1173.
We report the chloroplast genomes of a tree fern (Dicksonia squarrosa) and a “fern ally” (Tmesipteris elongata), and show that the phylogeny of early land plants is basically as expected, and the estimates of divergence time are largely unaffected after removing the fastest evolving sites. The tree fern shows the major reduction in the rate of evolution, and there has been a major slowdown in the rate of mutation in both families of tree ferns. We suggest that this is related to a generation time effect; if there is a long time period between generations, then this is probably incompatible with a high mutation rate because otherwise nearly every propagule would probably have several lethal mutations. This effect will be especially strong in organisms that have large numbers of cell divisions between generations. This shows the necessity of going beyond phylogeny and integrating its study with other properties of organisms.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evu087
PMCID: PMC4040995  PMID: 24787621
Tmesipteris; Dicksonia; ferns and fern allies; chloroplast genomes; generation time effect; mutation rates
5.  Phylogenetic Position of Avian Nocturnal and Diurnal Raptors 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2014;6(2):326-332.
We report three new avian mitochondrial genomes, two from widely separated groups of owls and a falcon relative (the Secretarybird). We then report additional progress in resolving Neoavian relationships in that the two groups of owls do come together (it is not just long-branch attraction), and the Secretarybird is the deepest divergence on the Accipitridae lineage. This is now agreed between mitochondrial and nuclear sequences. There is no evidence for the monophyly of the combined three groups of raptors (owls, eagles, and falcons), and again this is agreed by nuclear and mitochondrial sequences. All three groups (owls, accipitrids [eagles], and falcons) do appear to be members of the “higher land birds,” and though there may not yet be full “consilience” between mitochondrial and nuclear sequences for the precise order of divergences of the eagles, falcons, and the owls, there is good progress on their relationships.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evu016
PMCID: PMC3942033  PMID: 24448983
raptor evolution; mitochondrial genomes; owls; Secretarybird; Accipitridae; Strigiformes
6.  Infection Frequency of Hepatitis C Virus and IL28B Haplotypes in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Kiribati 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e66749.
It has been estimated that there are more than 60 million Hepatitis C virus (HCV) carriers in the World Health Organisation's Western Pacific region (WHO-WPR), where liver cancer is among the top three causes of cancer death. WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report the prevalence of HCV in the South Pacific islands (countries within the WHO-WPR) to be high (5–10% and >2% respectively). However, since HCV is not tested for in many of these countries, there is sparse data available to support this assertion. We screened ∼2000 apparently healthy individuals from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Kiribati and found a sero-prevalence of 2.0%, 0.1% and 0%, respectively. All sero-positive samples tested negative for HCV RNA. Curious as to why all the sero-positive individuals were negative for HCV-RNA, we also screened them for the HCV protective IL28B SNP markers rs12979860 and rs8099917. All antibody-positive participants bar one had HCV protective haplotypes. Our results suggest that HCV is present in these Pacific island countries, albeit at a prevalence lower than previous estimates. As none of our participants had undergone antiviral treatment, and therefore must have cleared infection naturally, we hypothesise that genotypes 1 and/or 4 are circulating in South Pacific Island people and that these peoples are genetically predisposed to be more likely to spontaneous resolve HCV infection than to become chronic carriers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066749
PMCID: PMC3748064  PMID: 23976941
7.  Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Evolution from DNA Sequences 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69924.
We demonstrate quantitatively that, as predicted by evolutionary theory, sequences of homologous proteins from different species converge as we go further and further back in time. The converse, a non-evolutionary model can be expressed as probabilities, and the test works for chloroplast, nuclear and mitochondrial sequences, as well as for sequences that diverged at different time depths. Even on our conservative test, the probability that chance could produce the observed levels of ancestral convergence for just one of the eight datasets of 51 proteins is ≈1×10−19 and combined over 8 datasets is ≈1×10−132. By comparison, there are about 1080 protons in the universe, hence the probability that the sequences could have been produced by a process involving unrelated ancestral sequences is about 1050 lower than picking, among all protons, the same proton at random twice in a row. A non-evolutionary control model shows no convergence, and only a small number of parameters are required to account for the observations. It is time that that researchers insisted that doubters put up testable alternatives to evolution.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069924
PMCID: PMC3738579  PMID: 23950906
8.  In Silico Resurrection of the Major Vault Protein Suggests It Is Ancestral in Modern Eukaryotes 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(8):1567-1583.
Vaults are very large oligomeric ribonucleoproteins conserved among a variety of species. The rat vault 3D structure shows an ovoid oligomeric particle, consisting of 78 major vault protein monomers, each of approximately 861 amino acids. Vaults are probably the largest ribonucleoprotein structures in eukaryote cells, being approximately 70 nm in length with a diameter of 40 nm—the size of three ribosomes and with a lumen capacity of 50 million Å3. We use both protein sequences and inferred ancestral sequences for in silico virtual resurrection of tertiary and quaternary structures to search for vaults in a wide variety of eukaryotes. We find that the vault’s phylogenetic distribution is widespread in eukaryotes, but is apparently absent in some notable model organisms. Our conclusion from the distribution of vaults is that they were present in the last eukaryote common ancestor but they have apparently been lost from a number of groups including fungi, insects, and probably plants. Our approach of inferring ancestral 3D and quaternary structures is expected to be useful generally.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evt113
PMCID: PMC3762200  PMID: 23887922
vault ribonucleoprotein; ancestral reconstruction (ASR); BLAST; I-TASSER; RosettaDock; last eukaryotic common ancestor
9.  Rewriting Evolution—“Been There, Done That” 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(5):819-821.
A recent paper by a science journalist in Nature shows major errors in understanding phylogenies, in this case of placental mammals. The underlying unrooted tree is probably correct, but the placement of the root just reflects a well-known error from the acceleration in the rate of evolution among some myomorph rodents.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evt048
PMCID: PMC3673624  PMID: 23558594
placental mammals; phylogeny errors; rates of evolution
10.  Beyond BLASTing: Tertiary and Quaternary Structure Analysis Helps Identify Major Vault Proteins 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2012;5(1):217-232.
We examine the advantages of going beyond sequence similarity and use both protein three-dimensional (3D) structure prediction and then quaternary structure (docking) of inferred 3D structures to help evaluate whether comparable sequences can fold into homologous structures with sufficient lateral associations for quaternary structure formation. Our test case is the major vault protein (MVP) that oligomerizes in multiple copies to form barrel-like vault particles and is relatively widespread among eukaryotes. We used the iterative threading assembly refinement server (I-TASSER) to predict whether putative MVP sequences identified by BLASTp and PSI Basic Local Alignment Search Tool are structurally similar to the experimentally determined rodent MVP tertiary structures. Then two identical predicted quaternary structures from I-TASSER are analyzed by RosettaDock to test whether a pair-wise association occurs, and hence whether the oligomeric vault complex is likely to form for a given MVP sequence. Positive controls for the method are the experimentally determined rat (Rattus norvegicus) vault X-ray crystal structure and the purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) MVP sequence that forms experimentally observed vaults. These and two kinetoplast MVP structural homologs were predicted with high confidence value, and RosettaDock predicted that these MVP sequences would dock laterally and therefore could form oligomeric vaults. As the negative control, I-TASSER did not predict an MVP-like structure from a randomized rat MVP sequence, even when constrained to the rat MVP crystal structure (PDB:2ZUO), thus further validating the method. The protocol identified six putative homologous MVP sequences in the heterobolosean Naegleria gruberi within the excavate kingdom. Two of these sequences are predicted to be structurally similar to rat MVP, despite being in excess of 300 residues shorter. The method can be used generally to help test predictions of homology via structural analysis.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evs135
PMCID: PMC3595041  PMID: 23275487
homology modeling; BLAST; I-TASSER; RosettaDock; Naegleria gruberi
11.  The Q2 Mitochondrial Haplogroup in Oceania 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52022.
Many details surrounding the origins of the peoples of Oceania remain to be resolved, and as a step towards this we report seven new complete mitochondrial genomes from the Q2a haplogroup, from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Kiribati. This brings the total to eleven Q2 genomes now available. The Q haplogroup (that includes Q2) is an old and diverse lineage in Near Oceania, and is reasonably common; within our sample set of 430, 97 are of the Q haplogroup. However, only 8 are Q2, and we report 7 here. The tree with all complete Q genomes is proven to be minimal. The dating estimate for the origin of Q2 (around 35 Kya) reinforces the understanding that humans have been in Near Oceania for tens of thousands of years; nevertheless the Polynesian maternal haplogroups remain distinctive. A major focus now, with regard to Polynesian ancestry, is to address the differences and timing of the ‘Melanesian’ contribution to the maternal and paternal lineages as people moved further and further into Remote Oceania. Input from other fields such as anthropology, history and linguistics is required for a better understanding and interpretation of the genetic data.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052022
PMCID: PMC3527380  PMID: 23284859
12.  Characterization of RNase MRP RNA and novel snoRNAs from Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:550.
Background
Eukaryotic cells possess a complex network of RNA machineries which function in RNA-processing and cellular regulation which includes transcription, translation, silencing, editing and epigenetic control. Studies of model organisms have shown that many ncRNAs of the RNA-infrastructure are highly conserved, but little is known from non-model protists. In this study we have conducted a genome-scale survey of medium-length ncRNAs from the protozoan parasites Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis.
Results
We have identified the previously 'missing' Giardia RNase MRP RNA, which is a key ribozyme involved in pre-rRNA processing. We have also uncovered 18 new H/ACA box snoRNAs, expanding our knowledge of the H/ACA family of snoRNAs.
Conclusions
Results indicate that Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis, like their distant multicellular relatives, contain a rich infrastructure of RNA-based processing. From here we can investigate the evolution of RNA processing networks in eukaryotes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-550
PMCID: PMC3228867  PMID: 22053856
13.  Systematic Error in Seed Plant Phylogenomics 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2011;3:1340-1348.
Resolving the closest relatives of Gnetales has been an enigmatic problem in seed plant phylogeny. The problem is known to be difficult because of the extent of divergence between this diverse group of gymnosperms and their closest phylogenetic relatives. Here, we investigate the evolutionary properties of conifer chloroplast DNA sequences. To improve taxon sampling of Cupressophyta (non-Pinaceae conifers), we report sequences from three new chloroplast (cp) genomes of Southern Hemisphere conifers. We have applied a site pattern sorting criterion to study compositional heterogeneity, heterotachy, and the fit of conifer chloroplast genome sequences to a general time reversible + G substitution model. We show that non-time reversible properties of aligned sequence positions in the chloroplast genomes of Gnetales mislead phylogenetic reconstruction of these seed plants. When 2,250 of the most varied sites in our concatenated alignment are excluded, phylogenetic analyses favor a close evolutionary relationship between the Gnetales and Pinaceae—the Gnepine hypothesis. Our analytical protocol provides a useful approach for evaluating the robustness of phylogenomic inferences. Our findings highlight the importance of goodness of fit between substitution model and data for understanding seed plant phylogeny.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evr105
PMCID: PMC3237385  PMID: 22016337
compositional heterogeneity; heterotachy; Gnetales; systematic error
14.  Genomic Analysis of Hepatitis B Virus Reveals Antigen State and Genotype as Sources of Evolutionary Rate Variation 
Viruses  2011;3(2):83-101.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) genomes are small, semi-double-stranded DNA circular genomes that contain alternating overlapping reading frames and replicate through an RNA intermediary phase. This complex biology has presented a challenge to estimating an evolutionary rate for HBV, leading to difficulties resolving the evolutionary and epidemiological history of the virus. Here, we re-examine rates of HBV evolution using a novel data set of 112 within-host, transmission history (pedigree) and among-host genomes isolated over 20 years from the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific, combined with 313 previously published HBV genomes. We employ Bayesian phylogenetic approaches to examine several potential causes and consequences of evolutionary rate variation in HBV. Our results reveal rate variation both between genotypes and across the genome, as well as strikingly slower rates when genomes are sampled in the Hepatitis B e antigen positive state, compared to the e antigen negative state. This Hepatitis B e antigen rate variation was found to be largely attributable to changes during the course of infection in the preCore and Core genes and their regulatory elements.
doi:10.3390/v3020083
PMCID: PMC3136878  PMID: 21765983
hepatitis B virus; molecular clock; Bayesian phylogenetics
15.  Darwin's Theory of Descent with Modification, versus the Biblical Tree of Life 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(7):e1001096.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001096
PMCID: PMC3130011  PMID: 21750664
16.  Genomic Analysis of Hepatitis B Virus Reveals Antigen State and Genotype as Sources of Evolutionary Rate Variation 
Viruses  2011;3(2):83-101.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) genomes are small, semi-double-stranded DNA circular genomes that contain alternating overlapping reading frames and replicate through an RNA intermediary phase. This complex biology has presented a challenge to estimating an evolutionary rate for HBV, leading to difficulties resolving the evolutionary and epidemiological history of the virus. Here, we re-examine rates of HBV evolution using a novel data set of 112 within-host, transmission history (pedigree) and among-host genomes isolated over 20 years from the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific, combined with 313 previously published HBV genomes. We employ Bayesian phylogenetic approaches to examine several potential causes and consequences of evolutionary rate variation in HBV. Our results reveal rate variation both between genotypes and across the genome, as well as strikingly slower rates when genomes are sampled in the Hepatitis B e antigen positive state, compared to the e antigen negative state. This Hepatitis B e antigen rate variation was found to be largely attributable to changes during the course of infection in the preCore and Core genes and their regulatory elements.
doi:10.3390/v3020083
PMCID: PMC3136878  PMID: 21765983
hepatitis B virus; molecular clock; Bayesian phylogenetics
17.  Index-Free De Novo Assembly and Deconvolution of Mixed Mitochondrial Genomes 
Second-generation sequencing technology has allowed a very large increase in sequencing throughput. In order to make use of this high throughput, we have developed a pipeline for sequencing and de novo assembly of multiple mitochondrial genomes without the costs of indexing. Simulation studies on a mixture of diverse animal mitochondrial genomes showed that mitochondrial genomes could be reassembled from a high coverage of short (35 nt) reads, such as those generated by a second-generation Illumina Genome Analyzer. We then assessed this experimentally with long-range polymerase chain reaction products from mitochondria of a human, a rat, a bird, a frog, an insect, and a mollusc. Comparison with reference genomes was used for deconvolution of the assembled contigs rather than for mapping of sequence reads. As proof of concept, we report the complete mollusc mitochondrial genome of an olive shell (Amalda northlandica). It has a very unusual putative control region, which contains a structure that would probably only be detectable by next-generation sequencing. The general approach has considerable potential, especially when combined with indexed sequencing of different groups of genomes.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evq029
PMCID: PMC2997550  PMID: 20624744
multiplex sequencing; informatic deconvolution; control region; noncomplementary; molluscs
18.  Phylogenetic Tree Reconstruction Accuracy and Model Fit when Proportions of Variable Sites Change across the Tree 
Systematic Biology  2010;59(3):288-297.
Commonly used phylogenetic models assume a homogeneous process through time in all parts of the tree. However, it is known that these models can be too simplistic as they do not account for nonhomogeneous lineage-specific properties. In particular, it is now widely recognized that as constraints on sequences evolve, the proportion and positions of variable sites can vary between lineages causing heterotachy. The extent to which this model misspecification affects tree reconstruction is still unknown. Here, we evaluate the effect of changes in the proportions and positions of variable sites on model fit and tree estimation. We consider 5 current models of nucleotide sequence evolution in a Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo framework as well as maximum parsimony (MP). We show that for a tree with 4 lineages where 2 nonsister taxa undergo a change in the proportion of variable sites tree reconstruction under the best-fitting model, which is chosen using a relative test, often results in the wrong tree. In this case, we found that an absolute test of model fit is a better predictor of tree estimation accuracy. We also found further evidence that MP is not immune to heterotachy. In addition, we show that increased sampling of taxa that have undergone a change in proportion and positions of variable sites is critical for accurate tree reconstruction.
doi:10.1093/sysbio/syq003
PMCID: PMC2850392  PMID: 20525636
Covarion model; heterotachy; model fit; phylogenetics; simulation; taxon sampling
19.  LineageSpecificSeqgen: generating sequence data with lineage-specific variation in the proportion of variable sites 
Correction to Shavit Grievink L, Penny D, Hendy MD, Holland BR: LineageSpecificSeqgen: generating sequence data with lineage-specific variation in the proportion of variable sites. BMC Evol Biol 2008, 8(1):317.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-200
PMCID: PMC2731753
20.  High Throughput Genome-Wide Survey of Small RNAs from the Parasitic Protists Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis 
RNA interference (RNAi) is a set of mechanisms which regulate gene expression in eukaryotes. Key elements of RNAi are small sense and antisense RNAs from 19 to 26 nt generated from double-stranded RNAs. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a major type of RNAi-associated small RNAs and are found in most eukaryotes studied to date. To investigate whether small RNAs associated with RNAi appear to be present in all eukaryotic lineages, and therefore present in the ancestral eukaryote, we studied two deep-branching protozoan parasites, Giardia intestinalis and Trichomonas vaginalis. Little is known about endogenous small RNAs involved in RNAi of these organisms. Using Illumina Solexa sequencing and genome-wide analysis of small RNAs from these distantly related deep-branching eukaryotes, we identified 10 strong miRNA candidates from Giardia and 11 from Trichomonas. We also found evidence of Giardia short-interfering RNAs potentially involved in the expression of variant-specific surface proteins. In addition, eight new small nucleolar RNAs from Trichomonas are identified. Our results indicate that miRNAs are likely to be general in ancestral eukaryotes and therefore are likely to be a universal feature of eukaryotes.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evp017
PMCID: PMC2817412  PMID: 20333187
ancestral eukaryotes; miRNA; protists; RNA evolution
21.  The Emergence of Predators in Early Life: There was No Garden of Eden 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5507.
Background
Eukaryote cells are suggested to arise somewhere between 0.85∼2.7 billion years ago. However, in the present world of unicellular organisms, cells that derive their food and metabolic energy from larger cells engulfing smaller cells (phagocytosis) are almost exclusively eukaryotic. Combining these propositions, that eukaryotes were the first phagocytotic predators and that they arose only 0.85∼2.7 billion years ago, leads to an unexpected prediction of a long period (∼1–3 billion years) with no phagocytotes – a veritable Garden of Eden.
Methodology
We test whether such a long period is reasonable by simulating a population of very simple unicellular organisms - given only basic physical, biological and ecological principles. Under a wide range of initial conditions, cellular specialization occurs early in evolution; we find a range of cell types from small specialized primary producers to larger opportunistic or specialized predators.
Conclusions
Both strategies, specialized smaller cells and phagocytotic larger cells are apparently fundamental biological strategies that are expected to arise early in cellular evolution. Such early predators could have been ‘prokaryotes’, but if the earliest cells on the eukaryote lineage were predators then this explains most of their characteristic features.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005507
PMCID: PMC2685975  PMID: 19492046
22.  Deciphering Past Human Population Movements in Oceania: Provably Optimal Trees of 127 mtDNA Genomes 
Molecular biology and evolution  2006;23(10):1966-1975.
The settlement of the many island groups of Remote Oceania occurred relatively late in prehistory, beginning approximately 3,000 years ago when people sailed eastwards into the Pacific from Near Oceania, where evidence of human settlement dates from as early as 40,000 years ago. Archeological and linguistic analyses have suggested the settlers of Remote Oceania had ancestry in Taiwan, as descendants of a proposed Neolithic expansion that began approximately 5,500 years ago. Other researchers have suggested that the settlers were descendants of peoples from Island Southeast Asia or the existing inhabitants of Near Oceania alone. To explore patterns of maternal descent in Oceania, we have assembled and analyzed a data set of 137 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genomes from Oceania, Australia, Island Southeast Asia, and Taiwan that includes 19 sequences generated for this project. Using the MinMax Squeeze Approach (MMS), we report the consensus network of 165 most parsimonious trees for the Oceanic data set, increasing by many orders of magnitude the numbers of trees for which a provable minimal solution has been found. The new mtDNA sequences highlight the limitations of partial sequencing for assigning sequences to haplogroups and dating recent divergence events. The provably optimal trees found for the entire mtDNA sequences using the MMS method provide a reliable and robust framework for the interpretation of evolutionary relationships and confirm that the female settlers of Remote Oceania descended from both the existing inhabitants of Near Oceania and more recent migrants into the region.
doi:10.1093/molbev/msl063
PMCID: PMC2674580  PMID: 16855009
human; mtDNA; Oceania; MMS; prehistory
23.  LineageSpecificSeqgen: generating sequence data with lineage-specific variation in the proportion of variable sites 
Background
Commonly used phylogenetic models assume a homogeneous evolutionary process throughout the tree. It is known that these homogeneous models are often too simplistic, and that with time some properties of the evolutionary process can change (due to selection or drift). In particular, as constraints on sequences evolve, the proportion of variable sites can vary between lineages. This affects the ability of phylogenetic methods to correctly estimate phylogenetic trees, especially for long timescales. To date there is no phylogenetic model that allows for change in the proportion of variable sites, and the degree to which this affects phylogenetic reconstruction is unknown.
Results
We present LineageSpecificSeqgen, an extension to the seq-gen program that allows generation of sequences with both changes in the proportion of variable sites and changes in the rate at which sites switch between being variable and invariable. In contrast to seq-gen and its derivatives to date, we interpret branch lengths as the mean number of substitutions per variable site, as opposed to the mean number of substitutions per site (which is averaged over all sites, including invariable sites). This allows specification of the substitution rates of variable sites, independently of the proportion of invariable sites.
Conclusion
LineageSpecificSeqgen allows simulation of DNA and amino acid sequence alignments under a lineage-specific evolutionary process. The program can be used to test current models of evolution on sequences that have undergone lineage-specific evolution. It facilitates the development of both new methods to identify such processes in real data, and means to account for such processes. The program is available at: http://awcmee.massey.ac.nz/downloads.htm.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-317
PMCID: PMC2613921  PMID: 19021917
24.  Computational Identification of Four Spliceosomal snRNAs from the Deep-Branching Eukaryote Giardia intestinalis 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e3106.
RNAs processing other RNAs is very general in eukaryotes, but is not clear to what extent it is ancestral to eukaryotes. Here we focus on pre-mRNA splicing, one of the most important RNA-processing mechanisms in eukaryotes. In most eukaryotes splicing is predominantly catalysed by the major spliceosome complex, which consists of five uridine-rich small nuclear RNAs (U-snRNAs) and over 200 proteins in humans. Three major spliceosomal introns have been found experimentally in Giardia; one Giardia U-snRNA (U5) and a number of spliceosomal proteins have also been identified. However, because of the low sequence similarity between the Giardia ncRNAs and those of other eukaryotes, the other U-snRNAs of Giardia had not been found. Using two computational methods, candidates for Giardia U1, U2, U4 and U6 snRNAs were identified in this study and shown by RT-PCR to be expressed. We found that identifying a U2 candidate helped identify U6 and U4 based on interactions between them. Secondary structural modelling of the Giardia U-snRNA candidates revealed typical features of eukaryotic U-snRNAs. We demonstrate a successful approach to combine computational and experimental methods to identify expected ncRNAs in a highly divergent protist genome. Our findings reinforce the conclusion that spliceosomal small-nuclear RNAs existed in the last common ancestor of eukaryotes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003106
PMCID: PMC2518118  PMID: 18769729
25.  Bird evolution: testing the Metaves clade with six new mitochondrial genomes 
Background
Evolutionary biologists are often misled by convergence of morphology and this has been common in the study of bird evolution. However, the use of molecular data sets have their own problems and phylogenies based on short DNA sequences have the potential to mislead us too. The relationships among clades and timing of the evolution of modern birds (Neoaves) has not yet been well resolved. Evidence of convergence of morphology remain controversial. With six new bird mitochondrial genomes (hummingbird, swift, kagu, rail, flamingo and grebe) we test the proposed Metaves/Coronaves division within Neoaves and the parallel radiations in this primary avian clade.
Results
Our mitochondrial trees did not return the Metaves clade that had been proposed based on one nuclear intron sequence. We suggest that the high number of indels within the seventh intron of the β-fibrinogen gene at this phylogenetic level, which left a dataset with not a single site across the alignment shared by all taxa, resulted in artifacts during analysis. With respect to the overall avian tree, we find the flamingo and grebe are sister taxa and basal to the shorebirds (Charadriiformes). Using a novel site-stripping technique for noise-reduction we found this relationship to be stable. The hummingbird/swift clade is outside the large and very diverse group of raptors, shore and sea birds. Unexpectedly the kagu is not closely related to the rail in our analysis, but because neither the kagu nor the rail have close affinity to any taxa within this dataset of 41 birds, their placement is not yet resolved.
Conclusion
Our phylogenetic hypothesis based on 41 avian mitochondrial genomes (13,229 bp) rejects monophyly of seven Metaves species and we therefore conclude that the members of Metaves do not share a common evolutionary history within the Neoaves.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-20
PMCID: PMC2259304  PMID: 18215323

Results 1-25 (30)