skip to main content

Title: The Tiger Rattlesnake genome reveals a complex genotype underlying a simple venom phenotype

Variation in gene regulation is ubiquitous, yet identifying the mechanisms producing such variation, especially for complex traits, is challenging. Snake venoms provide a model system for studying the phenotypic impacts of regulatory variation in complex traits because of their genetic tractability. Here, we sequence the genome of the Tiger Rattlesnake, which possesses the simplest and most toxic venom of any rattlesnake species, to determine whether the simple venom phenotype is the result of a simple genotype through gene loss or a complex genotype mediated through regulatory mechanisms. We generate the most contiguous snake-genome assembly to date and use this genome to show that gene loss, chromatin accessibility, and methylation levels all contribute to the production of the simplest, most toxic rattlesnake venom. We provide the most complete characterization of the venom gene-regulatory network to date and identify key mechanisms mediating phenotypic variation across a polygenic regulatory network.

Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1638902 1822417 1638879
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10210553
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
118
Issue:
4
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. e2014634118
ISSN:
0027-8424
Publisher:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The same selective forces that give rise to rapid inter- and intraspecific divergence in snake venoms can also favor differences in venoms across life-history stages. Ontogenetic changes in venom composition are well known and widespread in snakes but have not been investigated to the level of unambiguously identifying the specific loci involved. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake was previously shown to undergo an ontogenetic shift in venom composition at sexual maturity, and this shift accounted for more venom variation than geography. To characterize the genetics underlying the ontogenetic venom compositional change inC. adamanteus, we sequenced adult/juvenile pairs of venom-gland transcriptomes from five populations previously shown to have different adult venom compositions. We identified a total of 59 putative toxin transcripts for C. adamanteus, and 12 of these were involved in the ontogenetic change. Three toxins were downregulated, and nine were upregulated in adults relative to juveniles. Adults and juveniles expressed similar total levels of snake-venom metalloproteinases but differed substantially in their featured paralogs, and adults expressed higher levels of Bradykinin-potentiating and C-type natriuretic peptides, nerve growth factor, and specific paralogs of phospholipases A2and snake venom serine proteinases. Juvenile venom was more toxic to mice, indicating that the expression differences resulted inmore »a phenotypically, and therefore potentially ecologically, significant difference in venom function. We also showed that adult and juvenile venom-gland transcriptomes for a species with known ontogenetic venom variation were equally effective at individually providing a full characterization of the venom genes of a species but that any particular individual was likely to lack several toxins in their transcriptome. A full characterization of a species’ venom-gene complement therefore requires sequencing more than one individual, although the ages of the individuals are unimportant.

    « less
  2. True, John (Ed.)
    Abstract Novel phenotypes are commonly associated with gene duplications and neofunctionalization, less documented are the cases of phenotypic maintenance through the recruitment of novel genes. Proteolysis is the primary toxic character of many snake venoms, and ADAM metalloproteinases, named snake venom metalloproteinases (SVMPs), are largely recognized as the major effectors of this phenotype. However, by investigating original transcriptomes from 58 species of advanced snakes (Caenophidia) across their phylogeny, we discovered that a different enzyme, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), is actually the dominant venom component in three tribes (Tachymenini, Xenodontini, and Conophiini) of rear-fanged snakes (Dipsadidae). Proteomic and functional analyses of these venoms further indicate that MMPs are likely playing an “SVMP-like” function in the proteolytic phenotype. A detailed look into the venom-specific sequences revealed a new highly expressed MMP subtype, named snake venom MMP (svMMP), which originated independently on at least three occasions from an endogenous MMP-9. We further show that by losing ancillary noncatalytic domains present in its ancestors, svMMPs followed an evolutionary path toward a simplified structure during their expansion in the genomes, thus paralleling what has been proposed for the evolution of their Viperidae counterparts, the SVMPs. Moreover, we inferred an inverse relationship between the expression of svMMPsmore »and SVMPs along the evolutionary history of Xenodontinae, pointing out that one type of enzyme may be substituting for the other, whereas the general (metallo)proteolytic phenotype is maintained. These results provide rare evidence on how relevant phenotypic traits can be optimized via natural selection on nonhomologous genes, yielding alternate biochemical components.« less
  3. Ecologically divergent selection can lead to the evolution of reproductive isolation through the process of ecological speciation, but the balance of responsible evolutionary forces is often obscured by an inadequate assessment of demographic history and the genetics of traits under selection. Snake venoms have emerged as a system for studying the genetic basis of adaptation because of their genetic tractability and contributions to fitness, and speciation in venomous snakes can be associated with ecological diversification such as dietary shifts and corresponding venom changes. Here, we explored the neurotoxic (type A)–hemotoxic (type B) venom dichotomy and the potential for ecological speciation among Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) populations. Previous work identified the genetic basis of this phenotypic difference, enabling us to characterize the roles geography, history, ecology, selection, and chance play in determining when and why new species emerge or are absorbed. We identified significant genetic, proteomic, morphological, and ecological/environmental differences at smaller spatial scales, suggestive of incipient ecological speciation between type A and type B C. horridus. Range-wide analyses, however, rejected the reciprocal monophyly of venom type, indicative of varying intensities of introgression and a lack of reproductive isolation across the range. Given that we have now established the phenotypic distributionsmore »and ecological niche models of type A and B populations, genome-wide data are needed and capable of determining whether type A and type B C. horridus represent distinct, reproductively isolated lineages due to incipient ecological speciation or differentiated populations within a single species.« less
  4. Major advances in crop yields are needed in the coming decades. However, plant breeding is currently limited by incremental improvements in quantitative traits that often rely on laborious selection of rare naturally occurring mutations in gene-regulatory regions. Here, we demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing of promoters generates diverse cis-regulatory alleles that provide beneficial quantitative variation for breeding. We devised a simple genetic scheme, which exploits trans-generational heritability of Cas9 activity in heterozygous loss-of-function mutant backgrounds, to rapidly evaluate the phenotypic impact of numerous promoter variants for genes regulating three major productivity traits in tomato: fruit size, inflorescence branching, and plant architecture. Our approach allows immediate selection and fixation of novel alleles in transgene-free plants and fine manipulation of yield components. Beyond a platform to enhance variation for diverse agricultural traits, our findings provide a foundation for dissecting complex relationships between gene-regulatory changes and control of quantitative traits.
  5. Ontogenetic shifts in venom occur in many snakes but establishing their nature as gradual or discrete processes required additional study. We profiled shifts in venom expression from the neonate to adult sizes of two rattlesnake species, the eastern diamondback and the timber rattlesnake. We used serial sampling and venom chromatographic profiling to test if ontogenetic change occurs gradually or discretely. We found evidence for gradual shifts in overall venom composition in six of eight snakes, which sometimes spanned more than two years. Most chromatographic peaks shift gradually, but one quarter shift in a discrete fashion. Analysis of published diet data showed gradual shifts in overall diet composition across the range of body sizes attained by our eight study animals, while the shifts in abundance of different prey classes varied in form from gradual to discrete. Testosterone concentrations were correlated with the change in venom protein composition, but the relationship is not strong enough to suggest causation. Venom research employing simple juvenile versus adult size thresholds may be failing to account for continuous variation in venom composition lifespan. Our results imply that venom shifts represent adaptive matches to dietary shifts and highlight venom for studies of alternative gene regulatory mechanisms.