The Weddell seal (
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The Antarctic Weddell seal genome reveals evidence of selection on cardiovascular phenotype and lipid handling
The Weddell seal (
Leptonychotes weddellii) thrives in its extreme Antarctic environment. We generated the Weddell seal genome assembly and a high-quality annotation to investigate genome-wide evolutionary pressures that underlie its phenotype and to study genes implicated in hypoxia tolerance and a lipid-based metabolism. Genome-wide analyses included gene family expansion/contraction, positive selection, and diverged sequence (acceleration) compared to other placental mammals, identifying selection in coding and non-coding sequence in five pathways that may shape cardiovascular phenotype. Lipid metabolism as well as hypoxia genes contained more accelerated regions in the Weddell seal compared to genomic background. Top-significant genes were SUMO2and EP300; both regulate hypoxia inducible factor signaling. Liver expression of four genes with the strongest acceleration signals differ between Weddell seals and a terrestrial mammal, sheep. We also report a high-density lipoprotein-like particle in Weddell seal serum not present in other mammals, including the shallow-diving harbor seal.
The Zoonomia Project is investigating the genomics of shared and specialized traits in eutherian mammals. Here we provide genome assemblies for 131 species, of which all but 9 are previously uncharacterized, and describe a whole-genome alignment of 240 species of considerable phylogenetic diversity, comprising representatives from more than 80% of mammalian families. We find that regions of reduced genetic diversity are more abundant in species at a high risk of extinction, discern signals of evolutionary selection at high resolution and provide insights from individual reference genomes. By prioritizing phylogenetic diversity and making data available quickly and without restriction, the Zoonomia Project aims to support biological discovery, medical research and the conservation of biodiversity.