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1.  Eye regression in blind Astyanax cavefish may facilitate the evolution of an adaptive behavior and its sensory receptors 
BMC Biology  2013;11:81.
The forces driving the evolutionary loss or simplification of traits such as vision and pigmentation in cave animals are still debated. Three alternative hypotheses are direct selection against the trait, genetic drift, and indirect selection due to antagonistic pleiotropy. Recent work establishes that Astyanax cavefish exhibit vibration attraction behavior (VAB), a presumed behavioral adaptation to finding food in the dark not exhibited by surface fish. Genetic analysis revealed two regions in the genome with quantitative trait loci (QTL) for both VAB and eye size. These observations were interpreted as genetic evidence that selection for VAB indirectly drove eye regression through antagonistic pleiotropy and, further, that this is a general mechanism to account for regressive evolution. These conclusions are unsupported by the data; the analysis fails to establish pleiotropy and ignores the numerous other QTL that map to, and potentially interact, in the same regions. It is likely that all three forces drive evolutionary change. We will be able to distinguish among them in individual cases only when we have identified the causative alleles and characterized their effects.
PMCID: PMC3726320  PMID: 23844714
Astyanax; Regressive evolution; Eye loss; Cavefish; QTL; Antagonistic pleiotropy; VAB
2.  Evolution of an adaptive behavior and its sensory receptors promotes eye regression in blind cavefish: response to Borowsky (2013) 
BMC Biology  2013;11:82.
Vibration attraction behavior (VAB) is the swimming of fish toward an oscillating object, a behavior that is likely adaptive because it increases foraging efficiency in darkness. VAB is seen in a small proportion of Astyanax surface-dwelling populations (surface fish) but is pronounced in cave-dwelling populations (cavefish). In a recent study, we identified two quantitative trait loci for VAB on Astyanax linkage groups 2 and 17. We also demonstrated that a small population of superficial neuromast sensors located within the eye orbit (EO SN) facilitate VAB, and two quantitative trait loci (QTL) were identified for EO SN that were congruent with those for VAB. Finally, we showed that both VAB and EO SN are negatively correlated with eye size, and that two (of several) QTL for eye size overlap VAB and EO SN QTLs. From these results, we concluded that the adaptive evolution of VAB and EO SN has contributed to the indirect loss of eyes in cavefish, either as a result of pleiotropy or tight physical linkage of the mutations underlying these traits. In a subsequent commentary, Borowsky argues that there is poor experimental support for our conclusions. Specifically, Borowsky states that: (1) linkage groups (LGs) 2 and 17 harbor QTL for many traits and, therefore, no evidence exists for an exclusive interaction among the overlapping VAB, EO SN and eye size QTL; (2) some of the QTL we identified are too broad (>20 cM) to support the hypothesis of correlated evolution due to pleiotropy or hitchhiking; and (3) VAB is unnecessary to explain the indirect evolution of eye-loss since the negative polarity of numerous eye QTL is consistent with direct selection against eyes. Borowsky further argues that (4) it is difficult to envision an evolutionary scenario whereby VAB and EO SN drive eye loss, since the eyes must first be reduced in order to increase the number of EO SN and, therefore, VAB. In this response, we explain why the evidence of one trait influencing eye reduction is stronger for VAB than other traits, and provide further support for a scenario whereby elaboration of VAB in surface fish may precede complete eye-loss.
PMCID: PMC3726343  PMID: 23844745
Animal behavior; Regressive evolution; Constructive evolution; Neuromast; Tradeoff; Pleiotropy; Quantitative trait locus; Eye; QTL cluster; Adaptation
3.  Re-analysis of the larval testis data on meiotic sex chromosome inactivation revealed evidence for tissue-specific gene expression related to the drosophila X chromosome 
BMC Biology  2012;10:49.
Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI) during spermatogenesis has been proposed as one of the evolutionary driving forces behind both the under-representation of male-biased genes on, and the gene movement out of, the X chromosome in Drosophila. However, the relevance of MSCI in shaping sex chromosome evolution is controversial. Here we examine two aspects of a recent study on testis gene expression (Mikhaylova and Nurminsky, BMC Biol 2011, 9:29) that failed to support the MSCI in Drosophila. First, Mikhaylova and Nurminsky found no differences between X-linked and autosomal genes based on the transcriptional profiling of the early testis development, and thus concluded that MSCI does not occur in D. melanogaster. Second, they also analyzed expression data from several D. melanogaster tissues and concluded that under-representation on the X chromosome is not an exclusive property of testis-biased genes, but instead, a general property of tissue-specific genes.
By re-analyzing the Mikhaylova and Nurminsky's testis data and the expression data on several D. melanogaster tissues, we made two major findings that refuted their original claims. First, the developmental testis data has generally greater experimental error than conventional analyses, which reduced significantly the power to detect chromosomal differences in expression. Nevertheless, our re-analysis observed significantly lower expression of the X chromosome in the genomic transcriptomes of later development stages of the testis, which is consistent with the MSCI hypothesis. Second, tissue-specific genes are also in general enriched with genes more expressed in testes than in ovaries, that is testis-biased genes. By completely excluding from the analyses the testis-biased genes, which are known to be under-represented in the X, we found that all the other tissue-specific genes are randomly distributed between the X chromosome and the autosomes.
Our findings negate the original study of Mikhaylova and Nurminsky, which concluded a lack of MSCI and generalized the pattern of paucity in the X chromosome for tissue-specific genes in Drosophila. Therefore, MSCI and other selection-based models such as sexual antagonism, dosage compensation, and meiotic-drive continue to be viable models as driving forces shaping the genomic distribution of male-related genes in Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC3391172  PMID: 22691264
4.  No severe and global X chromosome inactivation in meiotic male germline of Drosophila 
BMC Biology  2012;10:50.
This article is a response to Vibranovski et al.
See correspondence article and the original research article
We have previously reported a high propensity of testis-expressed X-linked genes to activation in meiotic cells, a similarity in global gene expression between the X chromosome and autosomes in meiotic germline, and under-representation of various types of tissue-specific genes on the X chromosome. Based on our findings and a critical review of the current literature, we believe that there is no global and severe silencing of the X chromosome in the meiotic male germline of Drosophila. The term 'meiotic sex chromosome inactivation' (MSCI) therefore seems misleading when used to describe the minor underexpression of the X chromosome in the testis of Drosophila, because this term erroneously implies a profound and widespread silencing of the X-linked genes, by analogy to the well-studied MSCI system in mammals, and therefore distracts from identification and analysis of the real mechanisms that orchestrate gene expression and evolution in this species.
PMCID: PMC3391177
5.  Polyploidization increases meiotic recombination frequency in Arabidopsis: a close look at statistical modeling and data analysis 
BMC Biology  2012;10:30.
This paper is a response to Pecinka A, Fang W, Rehmsmeier M, Levy AA, Mittelsten Scheid, O: Polyploidization increases meiotic recombination frequency in Arabidopsis. BMC Biology 2011, 9:24.
See research article at
PMCID: PMC3349525  PMID: 22513114
6.  Answer to Wang and Luo, "Polyploidization increases meiotic recombination frequency in Arabidopsis: a close look at statistical modelling and data analysis" 
BMC Biology  2012;10:31.
This article is a response to Wang and Luo.
See correspondence article [WEBCITE] and the original research article [WEBCITE].
PMCID: PMC3353204  PMID: 22513141
7.  Response to Wang and Luo 
BMC Biology  2012;10:32.
This article is a response to Wang and Luo.
See correspondence article and the original research article
PMCID: PMC3379956  PMID: 22513177
8.  The IGF1 small dog haplotype is derived from Middle Eastern grey wolves: a closer look at statistics, sampling, and the alleged Middle Eastern origin of small dogs 
BMC Biology  2010;8:119.
This paper is a response to Gray MM, Sutter NB, Ostrander EA, Wayne RK: The IGF1 small dog haplotype is derived from Middle Eastern grey wolves. BMC Biology 2010, 8:16.
See research article at
PMCID: PMC2944129  PMID: 20825653
9.  Response to Klütsch and Crapon de Caprona 
BMC Biology  2010;8:120.
This article is a response to Klütsch and Crapon de Caprona
See correspondence article and our original research article
PMCID: PMC2944130  PMID: 20825654
10.  A New Replicator: A theoretical framework for analysing replication 
BMC Biology  2010;8:21.
Replicators are the crucial entities in evolution. The notion of a replicator, however, is far less exact than the weight of its importance. Without identifying and classifying multiplying entities exactly, their dynamics cannot be determined appropriately. Therefore, it is importance to decide the nature and characteristics of any multiplying entity, in a detailed and formal way.
Replication is basically an autocatalytic process which enables us to rest on the notions of formal chemistry. This statement has major implications. Simple autocatalytic cycle intermediates are considered as non-informational replicators. A consequence of which is that any autocatalytically multiplying entity is a replicator, be it simple or overly complex (even nests). A stricter definition refers to entities which can inherit acquired changes (informational replicators). Simple autocatalytic molecules (and nests) are excluded from this group. However, in turn, any entity possessing copiable information is to be named a replicator, even multicellular organisms. In order to deal with the situation, an abstract, formal framework is presented, which allows the proper identification of various types of replicators. This sheds light on the old problem of the units and levels of selection and evolution. A hierarchical classification for the partition of the replicator-continuum is provided where specific replicators are nested within more general ones. The classification should be able to be successfully applied to known replicators and also to future candidates.
This paper redefines the concept of the replicator from a bottom-up theoretical approach. The formal definition and the abstract models presented can distinguish between among all possible replicator types, based on their quantity of variable and heritable information. This allows for the exact identification of various replicator types and their underlying dynamics. The most important claim is that replication, in general, is basically autocatalysis, with a specific defined environment and selective force. A replicator is not valid unless its working environment, and the selective force to which it is subject, is specified.
PMCID: PMC2850328  PMID: 20219099
11.  Rapid progress on the vertebrate tree of life 
BMC Biology  2010;8:19.
Among the greatest challenges for biology in the 21st century is inference of the tree of life. Interest in, and progress toward, this goal has increased dramatically with the growing availability of molecular sequence data. However, we have very little sense, for any major clade, of how much progress has been made in resolving a full tree of life and the scope of work that remains. A series of challenges stand in the way of completing this task but, at the most basic level, progress is limited by data: a limited fraction of the world's biodiversity has been incorporated into a phylogenetic analysis. More troubling is our poor understanding of what fraction of the tree of life is understood and how quickly research is adding to this knowledge. Here we measure the rate of progress on the tree of life for one clade of particular research interest, the vertebrates.
Using an automated phylogenetic approach, we analyse all available molecular data for a large sample of vertebrate diversity, comprising nearly 12,000 species and 210,000 sequences. Our results indicate that progress has been rapid, increasing polynomially during the age of molecular systematics. It is also skewed, with birds and mammals receiving the most attention and marine organisms accumulating far fewer data and a slower rate of increase in phylogenetic resolution than terrestrial taxa. We analyse the contributors to this phylogenetic progress and make recommendations for future work.
Our analyses suggest that a large majority of the vertebrate tree of life will: (1) be resolved within the next few decades; (2) identify specific data collection strategies that may help to spur future progress; and (3) identify branches of the vertebrate tree of life in need of increased research effort.
PMCID: PMC2842240  PMID: 20211001
12.  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has failed to distinguish between smaller gut regions and larger haemal sinuses in sea urchins (Echinodermata: Echinoidea) 
BMC Biology  2009;7:39.
A response to Ziegler A, Faber C, Mueller S, Bartolomaeus T: Systematic comparison and reconstruction of sea urchin (Echinoidea) internal anatomy: a novel approach using magnetic resonance imaging. BMC Biol 2008, 6: 33.
PMCID: PMC2729296  PMID: 19594924

Results 1-12 (12)