Several studies have suggested that proteins that interact with more partners evolve more slowly. The strength and validity of this association has been called into question. Here we investigate how biases in high-throughput protein–protein interaction studies could lead to a spurious correlation.
We examined the correlation between evolutionary rate and the number of protein–protein interactions for sets of interactions determined by seven different high-throughput methods in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Some methods have been shown to be biased towards counting more interactions for abundant proteins, a fact that could be important since abundant proteins are known to evolve more slowly. We show that the apparent tendency for interactive proteins to evolve more slowly varies directly with the bias towards counting more interactions for abundant proteins. Interactions studies with no bias show no correlation between evolutionary rate and the number of interactions, and the one study biased towards counting fewer interactions for abundant proteins actually suggests that interactive proteins evolve more rapidly. In all cases, controlling for protein abundance significantly decreases the observed correlation between interactions and evolutionary rate. Finally, we disprove the hypothesis that small data set size accounts for the failure of some interactions studies to show a correlation between evolutionary rate and the number of interactions.
The only correlation supported by a careful analysis of the data is between evolutionary rate and protein abundance. The reported correlation between evolutionary rate and protein–protein interactions cannot be separated from the biases of some protein–protein interactions studies to count more interactions for abundant proteins.
Understanding the diversity of interactions between RNA aptamers and nucleotide cofactors promises both to facilitate the design of new RNA enzymes that utilize these cofactors and to constrain models of RNA World evolution. In previous work, we isolated six pools of high affinity RNA aptamers to coenzyme A (CoA), the principle cofactor in biological acyltransfer reactions. Interpretation of the evolutionary significance of those results was made difficult by the fact that the affinity resin attachment strongly influenced the outcome of those selections. Here we describe the selection of four new pools isolated on a disulfide-linked CoA affinity matrix to minimize context-dependent recognition imposed by the attachment to the solid support.
The four new aptamer libraries show no sequence or structural relation to a previously dominant CoA-binding species, even though they were isolated from the same initial random libraries. Recognition appears to be limited to the adenosine portion of the CoA – in particular the Höogsteen edge – for most isolates surveyed, even when a counter selection was employed to remove such RNAs. Two of the recovered isolates are eluted with intact CoA more efficiently than with AMP alone suggesting a possible pantotheine interaction. However, a detailed examination of recognition specificity revealed that the 3' phosphate of CoA, and not the pantotheine arm, determined recognition by these two isolates.
Most aptamers that have been targeted towards cofactors containing adenosine recognize only the adenosine portion of the cofactor. They do not distinguish substituents on the 5' carbon, even when those substituents have offered hydrogen bonding opportunities and the selection conditions discouraged adenosine recognition. Beyond hydrogen bonding, additional factors that guide the selection towards adenosine recognition include aromatic stacking interactions and relatively few rotational degrees of freedom. In the present work, a sterically accessible, disulfide-linked CoA affinity resin afforded the selection of a more diverse aptamer collection then previous work with a N6 linked CoA resin.
CoA aptamers; Nucleotide cofactors; affinity chromatography matrix; SELEX; Acyltransferase ribozyme
Many studies in evolutionary biology and genetics are limited by the rate at which phenotypic information can be acquired. The wings of Drosophila species are a favorable target for automated analysis because of the many interesting questions in evolution and development that can be addressed with them, and because of their simple structure.
We have developed an automated image analysis system (WINGMACHINE) that measures the positions of all the veins and the edges of the wing blade of Drosophilid flies. A video image is obtained with the aid of a simple suction device that immobilizes the wing of a live fly. Low-level processing is used to find the major intersections of the veins. High-level processing then optimizes the fit of an a priori B-spline model of wing shape. WINGMACHINE allows the measurement of 1 wing per minute, including handling, imaging, analysis, and data editing. The repeatabilities of 12 vein intersections averaged 86% in a sample of flies of the same species and sex.
Comparison of 2400 wings of 25 Drosophilid species shows that wing shape is quite conservative within the group, but that almost all taxa are diagnosably different from one another. Wing shape retains some phylogenetic structure, although some species have shapes very different from closely related species. The WINGMACHINE system facilitates artificial selection experiments on complex aspects of wing shape. We selected on an index which is a function of 14 separate measurements of each wing. After 14 generations, we achieved a 15 S.D. difference between up and down-selected treatments.
WINGMACHINE enables rapid, highly repeatable measurements of wings in the family Drosophilidae. Our approach to image analysis may be applicable to a variety of biological objects that can be represented as a framework of connected lines.
The widespread introduction of amino acid substitutions into organismal proteomes has occurred during natural evolution, but has been difficult to achieve by directed evolution. The adaptation of the translation apparatus represents one barrier, but the multiple mutations that may be required throughout a proteome in order to accommodate an alternative amino acid or analogue is an even more daunting problem. The evolution of a small bacteriophage proteome to accommodate an unnatural amino acid analogue can provide insights into the number and type of substitutions that individual proteins will require to retain functionality.
The bacteriophage Qβ initially grows poorly in the presence of the amino acid analogue 6-fluorotryptophan. After 25 serial passages, the fitness of the phage on the analogue was substantially increased; there was no loss of fitness when the evolved phage were passaged in the presence of tryptophan. Seven mutations were fixed throughout the phage in two independent lines of descent. None of the mutations changed a tryptophan residue.
A relatively small number of mutations allowed an unnatural amino acid to be functionally incorporated into a highly interdependent set of proteins. These results support the 'ambiguous intermediate' hypothesis for the emergence of divergent genetic codes, in which the adoption of a new genetic code is preceded by the evolution of proteins that can simultaneously accommodate more than one amino acid at a given codon. It may now be possible to direct the evolution of organisms with novel genetic codes using methods that promote ambiguous intermediates.
Models of the maintenance of sex predict that one reproductive strategy, sexual or parthenogenetic, should outcompete the other. Distribution patterns may reflect the outcome of this competition as well as the effect of chance and historical events. We review the distribution data of sexual and parthenogenetic biotypes of the planarian Schmidtea polychroa.
S. polychroa lives in allopatry or sympatry across Europe except for Central and North-Western Europe, where sexual individuals have never been reported. A phylogenetic relationship between 36 populations based on a 385 bp fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene revealed that haplotypes were often similar over large geographic distances. In North Italian lakes, however, diversity was extreme, with sequence differences of up to 5% within the same lake in both sexuals and parthenogens. Mixed populations showed "endemic" parthenogenetic lineages that presumably originated from coexisting sexuals, and distantly related ones that probably result from colonization by parthenogens independent from sexuals.
Parthenogens originated repeatedly from sexuals, mainly in Italy, but the same may apply to other Mediterranean regions (Spain, Greece). The degree of divergence between populations suggests that S. polychroa survived the ice ages in separate ice-free areas in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe and re-colonised Europe after the retreat of the major glaciers. Combining these results with those based on nuclear markers, the data suggest that repeated hybridisation between sexuals and parthenogenetic lineages in mixed populations maintains high levels of genetic diversity in parthenogens. This can explain why parthenogens persist in populations that were originally sexual. Exclusive parthenogenesis in central and western populations suggests better colonisation capacity, possibly because of inbreeding costs as well as hybridisation of sexuals with parthenogens.
Analytical methods have been proposed to determine whether there are evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS) for a trait of ecological significance, or whether there is disruptive selection in a population approaching a candidate ESS. These criteria do not take into account all consequences of small patch size in populations with limited dispersal.
We derive local stability conditions which account for the consequences of small and constant patch size. All results are derived from considering Rm, the overall production of successful emigrants from a patch initially colonized by a single mutant immigrant. Further, the results are interpreted in term of concepts of inclusive fitness theory. The condition for convergence to an evolutionarily stable strategy is proportional to some previous expressions for inclusive fitness. The condition for evolutionary stability stricto sensu takes into account effects of selection on relatedness, which cannot be neglected. It is function of the relatedness between pairs of genes in a neutral model and also of a three-genes relationship. Based on these results, I analyze basic models of dispersal and of competition for resources. In the latter scenario there are cases of global instability despite local stability. The results are developed for haploid island models with constant patch size, but the techniques demonstrated here would apply to more general scenarios with an island mode of dispersal.
The results allow to identity and to analyze the relative importance of the different selective pressures involved. They bridge the gap between the modelling frameworks that have led to the Rm concept and to inclusive fitness.
Drosophila nasuta nasuta (2n = 8) and Drosophila nasuta albomicans (2n = 6) are a pair of sibling allopatric chromosomal cross-fertile races of the nasuta subgroup of immigrans species group of Drosophila. Interracial hybridization between these two races has given rise to new karyotypic strains called Cytorace 1 and Cytorace 2 (first phase). Further hybridization between Thailand strain of D. n. albomicans and D. n. nasuta of Coorg strain has resulted in the evolution of two more Cytoraces, namely Cytorace 3 and Cytorace 4 (second phase). The third phase Cytoraces (Cytorace 5 to Cytorace 16) have evolved through interracial hybridization among first, second phase Cytoraces along with parental races. Each of these Cytoraces is composed of recombined genomes of the parental races. Here, we have made an attempt to systematically assess the impact of hybridization on karyotypes, morphometric and life history traits in all 16 Cytoraces.
The results reveal that in most cases, the newly evolved Cytoraces, with different chromosome constitutions, exhibit decreased body size, better fitness and live longer than their parents. Particularly, Cytorace 5, 6 and 8 have evolved with very much higher range values of quantitative traits than the parents and other Cytoraces, which suggests the role of transgressive segregation in the evolution of these Cytoraces.
Thus, the rapid divergence recorded in the chromosomes, karyotypes, body size and fitness traits of Cytoraces exhibit the early event of recombinational raciation / speciation in the evolution of the Cytoraces under laboratory conditions.
The binding sites of sequence specific transcription factors are an important and relatively well-understood class of functional non-coding DNAs. Although a wide variety of experimental and computational methods have been developed to characterize transcription factor binding sites, they remain difficult to identify. Comparison of non-coding DNA from related species has shown considerable promise in identifying these functional non-coding sequences, even though relatively little is known about their evolution.
Here we analyse the genome sequences of the budding yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S. bayanus, S. paradoxus and S. mikatae to study the evolution of transcription factor binding sites. As expected, we find that both experimentally characterized and computationally predicted binding sites evolve slower than surrounding sequence, consistent with the hypothesis that they are under purifying selection. We also observe position-specific variation in the rate of evolution within binding sites. We find that the position-specific rate of evolution is positively correlated with degeneracy among binding sites within S. cerevisiae. We test theoretical predictions for the rate of evolution at positions where the base frequencies deviate from background due to purifying selection and find reasonable agreement with the observed rates of evolution. Finally, we show how the evolutionary characteristics of real binding motifs can be used to distinguish them from artefacts of computational motif finding algorithms.
As has been observed for protein sequences, the rate of evolution in transcription factor binding sites varies with position, suggesting that some regions are under stronger functional constraint than others. This variation likely reflects the varying importance of different positions in the formation of the protein-DNA complex. The characterization of the pattern of evolution in known binding sites will likely contribute to the effective use of comparative sequence data in the identification of transcription factor binding sites and is an important step toward understanding the evolution of functional non-coding DNA.
Dof proteins are a family of plant-specific transcription factors that contain a particular class of zinc-finger DNA-binding domain. Members of this family have been found to play diverse roles in gene regulation of processes restricted to the plants. The completed genome sequences of rice and Arabidopsis constitute a valuable resource for comparative genomic analyses, since they are representatives of the two major evolutionary lineages within the angiosperms. In this framework, the identification of phylogenetic relationships among Dof proteins in these species is a fundamental step to unravel functionality of new and yet uncharacterised genes belonging to this group.
We identified 30 different Dof genes in the rice Oryza sativa genome and performed a phylogenetic analysis of a complete collection of the 36-reported Arabidopsis thaliana and the rice Dof transcription factors identified herein. This analysis led to a classification into four major clusters of orthologous genes and showed gene loss and duplication events in Arabidopsis and rice, that occurred before and after the last common ancestor of the two species.
According to our analysis, the Dof gene family in angiosperms is organized in four major clusters of orthologous genes or subfamilies. The proposed clusters of orthology and their further analysis suggest the existence of monocot specific genes and invite to explore their functionality in relation to the distinct physiological characteristics of these evolutionary groups.
Phylogenetic hypotheses of higher-level relationships in the order Charadriiformes based on morphological data, partly disagree with those based on DNA-DNA hybridisation data. So far, these relationships have not been tested by analysis of DNA sequence data. Herein we utilize 1692 bp of aligned, nuclear DNA sequences obtained from 23 charadriiform species, representing 15 families. We also test earlier suggestions that bustards and sandgrouses may be nested with the charadriiforms. The data is analysed with methods based on the parsimony and maximum-likelihood criteria.
Several novel phylogenetic relationships were recovered and strongly supported by the data, regardless of which method of analysis was employed. These include placing the gulls and allied groups as a sistergroup to the sandpiper-like birds, and not to the plover-like birds. The auks clearly belong to the clade with the gulls and allies, and are not basal to most other charadriiform birds as suggested in analyses of morphological data. Pluvialis, which has been supposed to belong to the plover family (Charadriidae), represents a basal branch that constitutes the sister taxon to a clade with plovers, oystercatchers and avocets. The thick-knees and sheathbills unexpectedly cluster together.
The DNA sequence data contains a strong phylogenetic signal that results in a well-resolved phylogenetic tree with many strongly supported internodes. Taxonomically it is the most inclusive study of shorebird families that relies on nucleotide sequences. The presented phylogenetic hypothesis provides a solid framework for analyses of macroevolution of ecological, morphological and behavioural adaptations observed within the order Charadriiformes.
The ars gene system provides arsenic resistance for a variety of microorganisms and can be chromosomal or plasmid-borne. The arsC gene, which codes for an arsenate reductase is essential for arsenate resistance and transforms arsenate into arsenite, which is extruded from the cell. A survey of GenBank shows that arsC appears to be phylogenetically widespread both in organisms with known arsenic resistance and those organisms that have been sequenced as part of whole genome projects.
Phylogenetic analysis of aligned arsC sequences shows broad similarities to the established 16S rRNA phylogeny, with separation of bacterial, archaeal, and subsequently eukaryotic arsC genes. However, inconsistencies between arsC and 16S rRNA are apparent for some taxa. Cyanobacteria and some of the γ-Proteobacteria appear to possess arsC genes that are similar to those of Low GC Gram-positive Bacteria, and other isolated taxa possess arsC genes that would not be expected based on known evolutionary relationships. There is no clear separation of plasmid-borne and chromosomal arsC genes, although a number of the Enterobacteriales (γ-Proteobacteria) possess similar plasmid-encoded arsC sequences.
The overall phylogeny of the arsenate reductases suggests a single, early origin of the arsC gene and subsequent sequence divergence to give the distinct arsC classes that exist today. Discrepancies between 16S rRNA and arsC phylogenies support the role of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in the evolution of arsenate reductases, with a number of instances of HGT early in bacterial arsC evolution. Plasmid-borne arsC genes are not monophyletic suggesting multiple cases of chromosomal-plasmid exchange and subsequent HGT. Overall, arsC phylogeny is complex and is likely the result of a number of evolutionary mechanisms.
Genomic imprinting refers to the differential expression of genes inherited from the mother and father (matrigenes and patrigenes). The kinship theory of genomic imprinting treats parent-specific gene expression as products of within-genome conflict. Specifically, matrigenes and patrigenes will be in conflict over treatment of relatives to which they are differently related. Haplodiploid females have many such relatives, and social insects have many contexts in which they affect relatives, so haplodiploid social insects are prime candidates for tests of the kinship theory of imprinting.
Matrigenic and patrigenic relatednesses are derived for individuals affected in a variety of contexts, including queen competition, sex ratio, worker laying of male eggs and policing, colony fission, and adoption of new queens. Numerous predictions emerge for what contexts should elicit imprinting, which individuals and tissues will show it, and the direction of imprinting effects. The predictions often vary for different genetic structures (varying queen and mate number) and often contrast with predictions for diploids.
Because the contexts differ from the normal imprinting case, and because nothing is currently known about imprinting in social insects, these predictions can serve as a strong a priori test of the kinship theory of imprinting. If the predictions are correct, then social insects, which have long served as exemplars of cooperation between individuals, will also be shown to be extraordinary examples of competition within individual genomes.
Lateral gene transfer can introduce genes with novel functions into genomes or replace genes with functionally similar orthologs or paralogs. Here we present a study of the occurrence of the latter gene replacement phenomenon in the four gene families encoding different classes of glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH), to evaluate and compare the patterns and rates of lateral gene transfer (LGT) in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
We extend the taxon sampling of gdh genes with nine new eukaryotic sequences and examine the phylogenetic distribution pattern of the various GDH classes in combination with maximum likelihood phylogenetic analyses. The distribution pattern analyses indicate that LGT has played a significant role in the evolution of the four gdh gene families. Indeed, a number of gene transfer events are identified by phylogenetic analyses, including numerous prokaryotic intra-domain transfers, some prokaryotic inter-domain transfers and several inter-domain transfers between prokaryotes and microbial eukaryotes (protists).
LGT has apparently affected eukaryotes and prokaryotes to a similar extent within the gdh gene families. In the absence of indications that the evolution of the gdh gene families is radically different from other families, these results suggest that gene transfer might be an important evolutionary mechanism in microbial eukaryote genome evolution.
Many groups of land snails show great interspecific diversity in shell ornamentation, which may include spines on the shell and flanges on the aperture. Such structures have been explained as camouflage or defence, but the possibility that they might be under sexual selection has not previously been explored.
Presentation of the hypothesis
The hypothesis that is presented consists of two parts. First, that shell ornamentation is the result of sexual selection. Second, that such sexual selection has caused the divergence in shell shape in different species.
Testing the hypothesis
The first part of the hypothesis may be tested by searching for sexual dimorphism in shell ornamentation in gonochoristic snails, by searching for increased variance in shell ornamentation relative to other shell traits, and by mate choice experiments using individuals with experimentally enhanced ornamentation. The second part of the hypothesis may be tested by comparing sister groups and correlating shell diversity with degree of polygamy.
Implications of the hypothesis
If the hypothesis were true, it would provide an explanation for the many cases of allopatric evolutionary radiation in snails, where shell diversity cannot be related to any niche differentiation or environmental differences.
A key event in the origin of life on this planet has been formation of self-replicating RNA-type molecules, which were complex enough to undergo a Darwinian-type evolution (origin of the "RNA world"). However, so far there has been no explanation of how the first RNA-like biopolymers could originate and survive on the primordial Earth.
As condensation of sugar phosphates and nitrogenous bases is thermodynamically unfavorable, these compounds, if ever formed, should have undergone rapid hydrolysis. Thus, formation of oligonucleotide-like structures could have happened only if and when these structures had some selective advantage over simpler compounds. It is well known that nitrogenous bases are powerful quenchers of UV quanta and effectively protect the pentose-phosphate backbones of RNA and DNA from UV cleavage. To check if such a protection could play a role in abiogenic evolution on the primordial Earth (in the absence of the UV-protecting ozone layer), we simulated, by using Monte Carlo approach, the formation of the first oligonucleotides under continuous UV illumination. The simulations confirmed that UV irradiation could have worked as a selective factor leading to a relative enrichment of the system in longer sugar-phosphate polymers carrying nitrogenous bases as UV-protectors. Partial funneling of the UV energy into the condensation reactions could provide a further boost for the oligomerization.
These results suggest that accumulation of the first polynucleotides could be explained by their abiogenic selection as the most UV-resistant biopolymers.
It has been shown for an evolutionarily distant genomic comparison that the number of protein-protein interactions a protein has correlates negatively with their rates of evolution. However, the generality of this observation has recently been challenged. Here we examine the problem using protein-protein interaction data from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and genome sequences from two other yeast species.
In contrast to a previous study that used an incomplete set of protein-protein interactions, we observed a highly significant correlation between number of interactions and evolutionary distance to either Candida albicans or Schizosaccharomyces pombe. This study differs from the previous one in that it includes all known protein interactions from S. cerevisiae, and a larger set of protein evolutionary rates. In both evolutionary comparisons, a simple monotonic relationship was found across the entire range of the number of protein-protein interactions. In agreement with our earlier findings, this relationship cannot be explained by the fact that proteins with many interactions tend to be important to yeast. The generality of these correlations in other kingdoms of life unfortunately cannot be addressed at this time, due to the incompleteness of protein-protein interaction data from organisms other than S. cerevisiae.
Protein-protein interactions tend to slow the rate at which proteins evolve. This may be due to structural constraints that must be met to maintain interactions, but more work is needed to definitively establish the mechanism(s) behind the correlations we have observed.
Swarm-founding epiponine wasps are an intriguing group of social insects in which colonies are polygynic (several queens share reproduction) and differentiation between castes is often not obvious. However, caste differences in some may be more pronounced in later phases of the colony cycle.
Using morphometric analyses and multivariate statistics, it was found that caste differences in Metapolybia docilis are slight but more distinct in latter stages of the colony cycle.
Because differences in body parts are so slight, it is proposed that such variation may be due to differential growth rates of body parts rather than to queens being larger in size, similar to other previously observed epiponines.
Aminoadipate reductase (Lys2) is a fungal-specific protein. This enzyme contains an adenylating domain. A similar primary structure can be found in some bacterial antibiotic/peptide synthetases. In this study, we aimed to determine which bacterial adenylating domain is most closely related to Lys2. In addition, we analyzed the substitution rate of the adenylating domain-encoding region.
Some bacterial proteins contain more than two similar sequences to that of the adenylating domain of Lys2. We compared 67 amino acid sequences from 37 bacterial and 10 fungal proteins. Phylogenetic trees revealed that the lys2 genes are monophyletic; on the other hand, bacterial antibiotic/peptide synthase genes were not found to be monophyletic. Comparative phylogenetic studies among closely related fungal lys2 genes showed that the rate of insertion/deletion in these genes was lower and the nucleotide substitution rate was higher than that in the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions.
The lys2 gene is one of the most useful tools for revealing the phylogenetic relationships among fungi, due to its low insertion/deletion rate and its high substitution rate. Lys2 is most closely related to certain bacterial antibiotic/peptide synthetases, but a common ancestor of Lys2 and these synthetases evolutionarily branched off in the distant past.
The study of organisms with restricted dispersal abilities and presence in the fossil record is particularly adequate to understand the impact of climate changes on the distribution and genetic structure of species. Trochoidea geyeri (Soós 1926) is a land snail restricted to a patchy, insular distribution in Germany and France. Fossil evidence suggests that current populations of T. geyeri are relicts of a much more widespread distribution during more favourable climatic periods in the Pleistocene.
Phylogeographic analysis of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA and nuclear ITS-1 sequence variation was used to infer the history of the remnant populations of T. geyeri. Nested clade analysis for both loci suggested that the origin of the species is in the Provence from where it expanded its range first to Southwest France and subsequently from there to Germany. Estimated divergence times predating the last glacial maximum between 25–17 ka implied that the colonization of the northern part of the current species range occurred during the Pleistocene.
We conclude that T. geyeri could quite successfully persist in cryptic refugia during major climatic changes in the past, despite of a restricted capacity of individuals to actively avoid unfavourable conditions.
We have studied spliceosomal introns in the ribosomal (r)RNA of fungi to discover the forces that guide their insertion and fixation.
Comparative analyses of flanking sequences at 49 different spliceosomal intron sites showed that the G – intron – G motif is the conserved flanking sequence at sites of intron insertion. Information analysis showed that these rRNA introns contain significant information in the flanking exons. Analysis of all rDNA introns in the three phylogenetic domains and two organelles showed that group I introns are usually located after the most conserved sites in rRNA, whereas spliceosomal introns occur at less conserved positions. The distribution of spliceosomal and group I introns in the primary structure of small and large subunit rRNAs was tested with simulations using the broken-stick model as the null hypothesis. This analysis suggested that the spliceosomal and group I intron distributions were not produced by a random process. Sequence upstream of rRNA spliceosomal introns was significantly enriched in G nucleotides. We speculate that these G-rich regions may function as exonic splicing enhancers that guide the spliceosome and facilitate splicing.
Our results begin to define some of the rules that guide the distribution of rRNA spliceosomal introns and suggest that the exon context is of fundamental importance in intron fixation.
An important component of sexual selection arises because females obtain viability benefits for their offspring from their mate choice. Females choosing extra-pair fertilization generally favor males with exaggerated secondary sexual characters, and extra-pair paternity increases the variance in male reproductive success. Furthermore, females are assumed to benefit from 'good genes' from extra-pair sires. How additive genetic variance in such viability genes is maintained despite strong directional selection remains an evolutionary enigma. We propose that sexual selection is associated with elevated mutation rates, changing the balance between mutation and selection, thereby increasing variance in fitness and hence the benefits to be obtained from good genes sexual selection. Two hypotheses may account for such elevated mutation: (1) Increased sperm production associated with sperm competition may increase mutation rate. (2) Mutator alleles increase mutation rates that are revealed by the expression of condition-dependent secondary sexual characters used by choosy females during their mate choice. M Petrie has independently developed the idea that mutator alleles may account for the maintenance of genetic variation in viability despite strong directional selection.
A comparative study of birds revealed a positive correlation between mutation rate at minisatellite loci and extra-pair paternity, but not between mutation rate and relative testes mass which is a measure of relative sperm production. Minisatellite mutation rates were not related to longevity, suggesting a meiotic rather than a mitotic origin of mutations.
We found evidence of increased mutation rate in species with more intense sexual selection. Increased mutation was not associated with increased sperm production, and we suggest that species with intense sexual selection may maintain elevated mutation rates because sexual selection continuously benefits viability alleles expressed in condition-dependent characters. Sexual selection may increase mutational input, which in turn feeds back on sexual selection because of increased variance in viability traits.
birds; extra-pair paternity; minisatellites; sex-biased mutation; sperm
Runx genes encode proteins defined by the highly conserved Runt DNA-binding domain. Studies of Runx genes and proteins in model organisms indicate that they are key transcriptional regulators of animal development. However, little is known about Runx gene evolution.
A phylogenetically broad sampling of publicly available Runx gene sequences was collected. In addition to the published sequences from mouse, sea urchin, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, we collected several previously uncharacterised Runx sequences from public genome sequence databases. Among deuterostomes, mouse and pufferfish each contain three Runx genes, while the tunicate Ciona intestinalis and the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus were each found to have only one Runx gene. Among protostomes, C. elegans has a single Runx gene, while Anopheles gambiae has three and D. melanogaster has four, including two genes that have not been previously described. Comparative sequence analysis reveals two highly conserved introns, one within and one just downstream of the Runt domain. All vertebrate Runx genes utilize two alternative promoters.
In the current public sequence database, the Runt domain is found only in bilaterians, suggesting that it may be a metazoan invention. Bilaterians appear to ancestrally contain a single Runx gene, suggesting that the multiple Runx genes in vertebrates and insects arose by independent duplication events within those respective lineages. At least two introns were present in the primordial bilaterian Runx gene. Alternative promoter usage arose prior to the duplication events that gave rise to three Runx genes in vertebrates.
The rate at which fitness declines as an organism's genome accumulates random mutations is an important variable in several evolutionary theories. At an intuitive level, it might seem natural that random mutations should tend to interact synergistically, such that the rate of mean fitness decline accelerates as the number of random mutations is increased. However, in a number of recent studies, a prevalence of antagonistic epistasis (the tendency of multiple mutations to have a mitigating rather than reinforcing effect) has been observed.
We studied in silico the net amount and form of epistatic interactions in RNA secondary structure folding by measuring the fraction of neutral mutants as a function of mutational distance d. We found a clear prevalence of antagonistic epistasis in RNA secondary structure folding. By relating the fraction of neutral mutants at distance d to the average neutrality at distance d, we showed that this prevalence derives from the existence of many compensatory mutations at larger mutational distances.
Our findings imply that the average direction of epistasis in simple fitness landscapes is directly related to the density with which fitness peaks are distributed in these landscapes.
RNA secondary structure folding; synergistic epistasis; antagonistic epistasis; compensatory mutations
Comparative analysis of sequenced genomes reveals numerous instances of apparent horizontal gene transfer (HGT), at least in prokaryotes, and indicates that lineage-specific gene loss might have been even more common in evolution. This complicates the notion of a species tree, which needs to be re-interpreted as a prevailing evolutionary trend, rather than the full depiction of evolution, and makes reconstruction of ancestral genomes a non-trivial task.
We addressed the problem of constructing parsimonious scenarios for individual sets of orthologous genes given a species tree. The orthologous sets were taken from the database of Clusters of Orthologous Groups of proteins (COGs). We show that the phyletic patterns (patterns of presence-absence in completely sequenced genomes) of almost 90% of the COGs are inconsistent with the hypothetical species tree. Algorithms were developed to reconcile the phyletic patterns with the species tree by postulating gene loss, COG emergence and HGT (the latter two classes of events were collectively treated as gene gains). We prove that each of these algorithms produces a parsimonious evolutionary scenario, which can be represented as mapping of loss and gain events on the species tree. The distribution of the evolutionary events among the tree nodes substantially depends on the underlying assumptions of the reconciliation algorithm, e.g. whether or not independent gene gains (gain after loss after gain) are permitted. Biological considerations suggest that, on average, gene loss might be a more likely event than gene gain. Therefore different gain penalties were used and the resulting series of reconstructed gene sets for the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of the extant life forms were analysed. The number of genes in the reconstructed LUCA gene sets grows as the gain penalty increases. However, qualitative examination of the LUCA versions reconstructed with different gain penalties indicates that, even with a gain penalty of 1 (equal weights assigned to a gain and a loss), the set of 572 genes assigned to LUCA might be nearly sufficient to sustain a functioning organism. Under this gain penalty value, the numbers of horizontal gene transfer and gene loss events are nearly identical. This result holds true for two alternative topologies of the species tree and even under random shuffling of the tree. Therefore, the results seem to be compatible with approximately equal likelihoods of HGT and gene loss in the evolution of prokaryotes.
The notion that gene loss and HGT are major aspects of prokaryotic evolution was supported by quantitative analysis of the mapping of the phyletic patterns of COGs onto a hypothetical species tree. Algorithms were developed for constructing parsimonious evolutionary scenarios, which include gene loss and gain events, for orthologous gene sets, given a species tree. This analysis shows, contrary to expectations, that the number of predicted HGT events that occurred during the evolution of prokaryotes might be approximately the same as the number of gene losses. The approach to the reconstruction of evolutionary scenarios employed here is conservative with regard to the detection of HGT because only patterns of gene presence-absence in sequenced genomes are taken into account. In reality, horizontal transfer might have contributed to the evolution of many other genes also, which makes it a dominant force in prokaryotic evolution.