ResearchPad - amphibian-genomics Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Polyploidy breaks speciation barriers in Australian burrowing frogs <i>Neobatrachus</i>]]> Polyploidy or whole genome duplication is rare in animals and usually polyploid animals reproduce asexually. The Australian burrowing frogs of the genus Neobatrachus form an interesting exception amongst vertebrates with multiple independently originated autotetraploid sexual species. We generated population genomic data from 87 animals representing all six diploid and three tetraploid species of Neobatrachus. We show that, while diploid Neobatrachus species seem to be isolated from each other, their sister tetraploid species experience substantial levels of gene flow, and have wider distributions. Furthermore, we observe asymmetric gene flow from diploids to tetraploids. Based on our genomic and climate analyses we suggest that such inter-specific hybridization mediated by whole genome duplication rescues species diversity and allows tetraploids to more easily avoid impacts of climate-induced habitat loss.

<![CDATA[Genome-Wide Identification, Characterization and Phylogenetic Analysis of ATP-Binding Cassette (ABC) Transporter Genes in Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)]]>

The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) gene family is considered to be one of the largest gene families in all forms of prokaryotic and eukaryotic life. Although the ABC transporter genes have been annotated in some species, detailed information about the ABC superfamily and the evolutionary characterization of ABC genes in common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are still unclear. In this research, we identified 61 ABC transporter genes in the common carp genome. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that they could be classified into seven subfamilies, namely 11 ABCAs, six ABCBs, 19 ABCCs, eight ABCDs, two ABCEs, four ABCFs, and 11 ABCGs. Comparative analysis of the ABC genes in seven vertebrate species including common carp, showed that at least 10 common carp genes were retained from the third round of whole genome duplication, while 12 duplicated ABC genes may have come from the fourth round of whole genome duplication. Gene losses were also observed for 14 ABC genes. Expression profiles of the 61 ABC genes in six common carp tissues (brain, heart, spleen, kidney, intestine, and gill) revealed extensive functional divergence among the ABC genes. Different copies of some genes had tissue-specific expression patterns, which may indicate some gene function specialization. This study provides essential genomic resources for future studies in common carp.

<![CDATA[Improved Prediction of Non-methylated Islands in Vertebrates Highlights Different Characteristic Sequence Patterns]]>

Non-methylated islands (NMIs) of DNA are genomic regions that are important for gene regulation and development. A recent study of genome-wide non-methylation data in vertebrates by Long et al. (eLife 2013;2:e00348) has shown that many experimentally identified non-methylated regions do not overlap with classically defined CpG islands which are computationally predicted using simple DNA sequence features. This is especially true in cold-blooded vertebrates such as Danio rerio (zebrafish). In order to investigate how predictive DNA sequence is of a region’s methylation status, we applied a supervised learning approach using a spectrum kernel support vector machine, to see if a more complex model and supervised learning can be used to improve non-methylated island prediction and to understand the sequence properties of these regions. We demonstrate that DNA sequence is highly predictive of methylation status, and that in contrast to existing CpG island prediction methods our method is able to provide more useful predictions of NMIs genome-wide in all vertebrate organisms that were studied. Our results also show that in cold-blooded vertebrates (Anolis carolinensis, Xenopus tropicalis and Danio rerio) where genome-wide classical CpG island predictions consist primarily of false positives, longer primarily AT-rich DNA sequence features are able to identify these regions much more accurately.

<![CDATA[Missed, Not Missing: Phylogenomic Evidence for the Existence of Avian FoxP3]]>

The Forkhead box transcription factor FoxP3 is pivotal to the development and function of regulatory T cells (Tregs), which make a major contribution to peripheral tolerance. FoxP3 is believed to perform a regulatory role in all the vertebrate species in which it has been detected. The prevailing view is that FoxP3 is absent in birds and that avian Tregs rely on alternative developmental and suppressive pathways. Prompted by the automated annotation of foxp3 in the ground tit (Parus humilis) genome, we have questioned this assumption. Our analysis of all available avian genomes has revealed that the foxp3 locus is missing, incomplete or of poor quality in the relevant genomic assemblies for nearly all avian species. Nevertheless, in two species, the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the saker falcon (F. cherrug), there is compelling evidence for the existence of exons showing synteny with foxp3 in the ground tit. A broader phylogenomic analysis has shown that FoxP3 sequences from these three species are similar to crocodilian sequences, the closest living relatives of birds. In both birds and crocodilians, we have also identified a highly proline-enriched region at the N terminus of FoxP3, a region previously identified only in mammals.

<![CDATA[Genome-Assisted Prediction of Quantitative Traits Using the R Package sommer]]>

Most traits of agronomic importance are quantitative in nature, and genetic markers have been used for decades to dissect such traits. Recently, genomic selection has earned attention as next generation sequencing technologies became feasible for major and minor crops. Mixed models have become a key tool for fitting genomic selection models, but most current genomic selection software can only include a single variance component other than the error, making hybrid prediction using additive, dominance and epistatic effects unfeasible for species displaying heterotic effects. Moreover, Likelihood-based software for fitting mixed models with multiple random effects that allows the user to specify the variance-covariance structure of random effects has not been fully exploited. A new open-source R package called sommer is presented to facilitate the use of mixed models for genomic selection and hybrid prediction purposes using more than one variance component and allowing specification of covariance structures. The use of sommer for genomic prediction is demonstrated through several examples using maize and wheat genotypic and phenotypic data. At its core, the program contains three algorithms for estimating variance components: Average information (AI), Expectation-Maximization (EM) and Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA). Kernels for calculating the additive, dominance and epistatic relationship matrices are included, along with other useful functions for genomic analysis. Results from sommer were comparable to other software, but the analysis was faster than Bayesian counterparts in the magnitude of hours to days. In addition, ability to deal with missing data, combined with greater flexibility and speed than other REML-based software was achieved by putting together some of the most efficient algorithms to fit models in a gentle environment such as R.

<![CDATA[Molecular Evolution and Functional Divergence of Trace Amine–Associated Receptors]]>

Trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs) are a member of the G-protein-coupled receptor superfamily and are known to be expressed in olfactory sensory neurons. A limited number of molecular evolutionary studies have been done for TAARs so far. To elucidate how lineage-specific evolution contributed to their functional divergence, we examined 30 metazoan genomes. In total, 493 TAAR gene candidates (including 84 pseudogenes) were identified from 26 vertebrate genomes. TAARs were not identified from non-vertebrate genomes. An ancestral-type TAAR-like gene appeared to have emerged in lamprey. We found four therian-specific TAAR subfamilies (one eutherian-specific and three metatherian-specific) in addition to previously known nine subfamilies. Many species-specific TAAR gene duplications and losses contributed to a large variation of TAAR gene numbers among mammals, ranging from 0 in dolphin to 26 in flying fox. TAARs are classified into two groups based on binding preferences for primary or tertiary amines as well as their sequence similarities. Primary amine-detecting TAARs (TAAR1-4) have emerged earlier, generally have single-copy orthologs (very few duplication or loss), and have evolved under strong functional constraints. In contrast, tertiary amine-detecting TAARs (TAAR5-9) have emerged more recently and the majority of them experienced higher rates of gene duplications. Protein members that belong to the tertiary amine-detecting TAAR group also showed the patterns of positive selection especially in the area surrounding the ligand-binding pocket, which could have affected ligand-binding activities and specificities. Expansions of the tertiary amine-detecting TAAR gene family may have played important roles in terrestrial adaptations of therian mammals. Molecular evolution of the TAAR gene family appears to be governed by a complex, species-specific, interplay between environmental and evolutionary factors.

<![CDATA[A Single Transcriptome of a Green Toad (Bufo viridis) Yields Candidate Genes for Sex Determination and -Differentiation and Non-Anonymous Population Genetic Markers]]>

Large genome size, including immense repetitive and non-coding fractions, still present challenges for capacity, bioinformatics and thus affordability of whole genome sequencing in most amphibians. Here, we test the performance of a single transcriptome to understand whether it can provide a cost-efficient resource for species with large unknown genomes. Using RNA from six different tissues from a single Palearctic green toad (Bufo viridis) specimen and Hiseq2000, we obtained 22,5 Mio reads and publish >100,000 unigene sequences. To evaluate efficacy and quality, we first use this data to identify green toad specific candidate genes, known from other vertebrates for their role in sex determination and differentiation. Of a list of 37 genes, the transcriptome yielded 32 (87%), many of which providing the first such data for this non-model anuran species. However, for many of these genes, only fragments could be retrieved. In order to allow also applications to population genetics, we further used the transcriptome for the targeted development of 21 non-anonymous microsatellites and tested them in genetic families and backcrosses. Eleven markers were specifically developed to be located on the B. viridis sex chromosomes; for eight markers we can indeed demonstrate sex-specific transmission in genetic families. Depending on phylogenetic distance, several markers, which are sex-linked in green toads, show high cross-amplification success across the anuran phylogeny, involving nine systematic anuran families. Our data support the view that single transcriptome sequencing (based on multiple tissues) provides a reliable genomic resource and cost-efficient method for non-model amphibian species with large genome size and, despite limitations, should be considered as long as genome sequencing remains unaffordable for most species.

<![CDATA[The Change of a Medically Important Genus: Worldwide Occurrence of Genetically Diverse Novel Brucella Species in Exotic Frogs]]>

The genus Brucella comprises various species of both veterinary and human medical importance. All species are genetically highly related to each other, sharing intra-species average nucleotide identities (ANI) of > 99%. Infections occur among various warm-blooded animal species, marine mammals, and humans. Until recently, amphibians had not been recognized as a host for Brucella. In this study, however, we show that novel Brucella species are distributed among exotic frogs worldwide. Comparative recA gene analysis of 36 frog isolates from various continents and different frog species revealed an unexpected high genetic diversity, not observed among classical Brucella species. In phylogenetic reconstructions the isolates consequently formed various clusters and grouped together with atypical more distantly related brucellae, like B. inopinata, strain BO2, and Australian isolates from rodents, some of which were isolated as human pathogens. Of one frog isolate (10RB9215) the genome sequence was determined. Comparative genome analysis of this isolate and the classical Brucella species revealed additional genetic material, absent from classical Brucella species but present in Ochrobactrum, the closest genetic neighbor of Brucella, and in other soil associated genera of the Alphaproteobacteria. The presence of gene clusters encoding for additional metabolic functions, flanked by tRNAs and mobile genetic elements, as well as by bacteriophages is suggestive for a different ecology compared to classical Brucella species. Furthermore it suggests that amphibian isolates may represent a link between free living soil saprophytes and the pathogenic Brucella with a preferred intracellular habitat. We therefore assume that brucellae from frogs have a reservoir in soil and, in contrast to classical brucellae, undergo extensive horizontal gene transfer.

<![CDATA[Genome Wide Identification, Phylogeny, and Expression of Aquaporin Genes in Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)]]>


Aquaporins (Aqps) are integral membrane proteins that facilitate the transport of water and small solutes across cell membranes. Among vertebrate species, Aqps are highly conserved in both gene structure and amino acid sequence. These proteins are vital for maintaining water homeostasis in living organisms, especially for aquatic animals such as teleost fish. Studies on teleost Aqps are mainly limited to several model species with diploid genomes. Common carp, which has a tetraploidized genome, is one of the most common aquaculture species being adapted to a wide range of aquatic environments. The complete common carp genome has recently been released, providing us the possibility for gene evolution of aqp gene family after whole genome duplication.


In this study, we identified a total of 37 aqp genes from common carp genome. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that most of aqps are highly conserved. Comparative analysis was performed across five typical vertebrate genomes. We found that almost all of the aqp genes in common carp were duplicated in the evolution of the gene family. We postulated that the expansion of the aqp gene family in common carp was the result of an additional whole genome duplication event and that the aqp gene family in other teleosts has been lost in their evolution history with the reason that the functions of genes are redundant and conservation. Expression patterns were assessed in various tissues, including brain, heart, spleen, liver, intestine, gill, muscle, and skin, which demonstrated the comprehensive expression profiles of aqp genes in the tetraploidized genome. Significant gene expression divergences have been observed, revealing substantial expression divergences or functional divergences in those duplicated aqp genes post the latest WGD event.


To some extent, the gene families are also considered as a unique source for evolutionary studies. Moreover, the whole set of common carp aqp gene family provides an essential genomic resource for future biochemical, toxicological, physiological, and evolutionary studies in common carp.