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Title: Single-Cell Heterogeneity in Snake Venom Expression Is Hardwired by Co-Option of Regulators from Progressively Activated Pathways

The ubiquitous cellular heterogeneity underlying many organism-level phenotypes raises questions about what factors drive this heterogeneity and how these complex heterogeneous systems evolve. Here, we use single-cell expression data from a Prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) venom gland to evaluate hypotheses for signaling networks underlying snake venom regulation and the degree to which different venom gene families have evolutionarily recruited distinct regulatory architectures. Our findings suggest that snake venom regulatory systems have evolutionarily co-opted trans-regulatory factors from extracellular signal-regulated kinase and unfolded protein response pathways that specifically coordinate expression of distinct venom toxins in a phased sequence across a single population of secretory cells. This pattern of co-option results in extensive cell-to-cell variation in venom gene expression, even between tandemly duplicated paralogs, suggesting this regulatory architecture has evolved to circumvent cellular constraints. While the exact nature of such constraints remains an open question, we propose that such regulatory heterogeneity may circumvent steric constraints on chromatin, cellular physiological constraints (e.g., endoplasmic reticulum stress or negative protein–protein interactions), or a combination of these. Regardless of the precise nature of these constraints, this example suggests that, in some cases, dynamic cellular constraints may impose previously unappreciated secondary constraints on the evolution of gene regulatory networks that favors heterogeneous expression.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Genome Biology and Evolution
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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