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  1. Abstract

    Herbivorous insects are exceptionally diverse, accounting for a quarter of all known eukaryotic species, but the genomic basis of adaptations that enabled this dietary transition remains poorly understood. Many studies have suggested that expansions and contractions of chemosensory and detoxification gene families—genes directly mediating interactions with plant chemical defenses—underlie successful plant colonization. However, this hypothesis has been challenging to test because the origins of herbivory in many insect lineages are ancient (>150 million years ago (mya)), obscuring genomic evolutionary patterns. Here, we characterized chemosensory and detoxification gene family evolution across Scaptomyza, a genus nested within Drosophila that includes a recently derived (<15 mya) herbivore lineage of mustard (Brassicales) specialists and carnation (Caryophyllaceae) specialists, and several nonherbivorous species. Comparative genomic analyses revealed that herbivorous Scaptomyza has among the smallest chemosensory and detoxification gene repertoires across 12 drosophilid species surveyed. Rates of gene turnover averaged across the herbivore clade were significantly higher than background rates in over half of the surveyed gene families. However, gene turnover was more limited along the ancestral herbivore branch, with only gustatory receptors and odorant-binding proteins experiencing strong losses. The genes most significantly impacted by gene loss, duplication, or changes in selective constraint were those involvedmore »in detecting compounds associated with feeding on living plants (bitter or electrophilic phytotoxins) or their ancestral diet (fermenting plant volatiles). These results provide insight into the molecular and evolutionary mechanisms of plant-feeding adaptations and highlight gene candidates that have also been linked to other dietary transitions in Drosophila.

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  2. Abstract

    Hibernation in brown bears is an annual process involving multiple physiologically distinct seasons—hibernation, active, and hyperphagia. While recent studies have characterized broad patterns of differential gene regulation and isoform usage between hibernation and active seasons, patterns of gene and isoform expression during hyperphagia remain relatively poorly understood. The hyperphagia stage occurs between active and hibernation seasons and involves the accumulation of large fat reserves in preparation for hibernation. Here, we use time-series analyses of gene expression and isoform usage to interrogate transcriptomic regulation associated with all three seasons. We identify a large number of genes with significant differential isoform usage (DIU) across seasons and show that these patterns of isoform usage are largely tissue-specific. We also show that DIU and differential gene-level expression responses are generally non-overlapping, with only a small subset of multi-isoform genes showing evidence of both gene-level expression changes and changes in isoform usage across seasons. Additionally, we investigate nuanced regulation of candidate genes involved in the insulin signaling pathway and find evidence of hyperphagia-specific gene expression and isoform regulation that may enhance fat accumulation during hyperphagia. Our findings highlight the value of using temporal analyses of both gene- and isoform-level gene expression when interrogating complexmore »physiological phenotypes and provide new insight into the mechanisms underlying seasonal changes in bear physiology.

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  3. Abstract

    The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is the second largest and most widespread extant terrestrial carnivore on Earth and has recently emerged as a medical model for human metabolic diseases. Here, we report a fully phased chromosome-level assembly of a male North American brown bear built by combining Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) HiFi data and publicly available Hi-C data. The final genome size is 2.47 Gigabases (Gb) with a scaffold and contig N50 length of 70.08 and 43.94 Megabases (Mb), respectively. Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Ortholog (BUSCO) analysis revealed that 94.5% of single copy orthologs from Mammalia were present in the genome (the highest of any ursid genome to date). Repetitive elements accounted for 44.48% of the genome and a total of 20,480 protein coding genes were identified. Based on whole genome alignment to the polar bear, the brown bear is highly syntenic with the polar bear, and our phylogenetic analysis of 7,246 single-copy orthologs supports the currently proposed species tree for Ursidae. This highly contiguous genome assembly will support future research on both the evolutionary history of the bear family and the physiological mechanisms behind hibernation, the latter of which has broad medical implications.

  4. Gossmann, Toni (Ed.)
    Abstract Spiders (Araneae) have a diverse spectrum of morphologies, behaviors, and physiologies. Attempts to understand the genomic-basis of this diversity are often hindered by their large, heterozygous, and AT-rich genomes with high repeat content resulting in highly fragmented, poor-quality assemblies. As a result, the key attributes of spider genomes, including gene family evolution, repeat content, and gene function, remain poorly understood. Here, we used Illumina and Dovetail Chicago technologies to sequence the genome of the long-jawed spider Tetragnatha kauaiensis, producing an assembly distributed along 3,925 scaffolds with an N50 of ∼2 Mb. Using comparative genomics tools, we explore genome evolution across available spider assemblies. Our findings suggest that the previously reported and vast genome size variation in spiders is linked to the different representation and number of transposable elements. Using statistical tools to uncover gene-family level evolution, we find expansions associated with the sensory perception of taste, immunity, and metabolism. In addition, we report strikingly different histories of chemosensory, venom, and silk gene families, with the first two evolving much earlier, affected by the ancestral whole genome duplication in Arachnopulmonata (∼450 Ma) and exhibiting higher numbers. Together, our findings reveal that spider genomes are highly variable and that genomic noveltymore »may have been driven by the burst of an ancient whole genome duplication, followed by gene family and transposable element expansion.« less
  5. The unprecedented rate of extinction calls for efficient use of genetics to help conserve biodiversity. Several recent genomic and simulation-based studies have argued that the field of conservation biology has placed too much focus on conserving genome-wide genetic variation, and that the field should instead focus on managing the subset of functional genetic variation that is thought to affect fitness. Here, we critically evaluate the feasibility and likely benefits of this approach in conservation. We find that population genetics theory and empirical results show that conserving genome-wide genetic variation is generally the best approach to prevent inbreeding depression and loss of adaptive potential from driving populations toward extinction. Focusing conservation efforts on presumably functional genetic variation will only be feasible occasionally, often misleading, and counterproductive when prioritized over genome-wide genetic variation. Given the increasing rate of habitat loss and other environmental changes, failure to recognize the detrimental effects of lost genome-wide genetic variation on long-term population viability will only worsen the biodiversity crisis.

  6. Abstract

    The diversification of a host lineage can be influenced by both the external environment and its assemblage of microbes. Here, we use a young lineage of spiders, distributed along a chronologically arranged series of volcanic mountains, to investigate how their associated microbial communities have changed as the spiders colonized new locations. Using the stick spiderAriamnes waikula(Araneae, Theridiidae) on the island of Hawaiʻi, and outgroup taxa on older islands, we tested whether each component of the “holobiont” (spider hosts, intracellular endosymbionts and gut microbial communities) showed correlated signatures of diversity due to sequential colonization from older to younger volcanoes. To investigate this, we generated ddRAD data for the host spiders and 16S rRNA gene amplicon data from their microbiota. We expected sequential colonizations to result in a (phylo)genetic structuring of the host spiders and in a diversity gradient in microbial communities. The results showed that the hostA.waikulais indeed structured by geographical isolation, suggesting sequential colonization from older to younger volcanoes. Similarly, the endosymbiont communities were markedly different betweenAriamnesspecies on different islands, but more homogeneous amongA.waikulapopulations on the island of Hawaiʻi. Conversely, the gut microbiota, which we suspect is generally environmentally derived, was largely conserved across all populations and species. Ourmore »results show that different components of the holobiont respond in distinct ways to the dynamic environment of the volcanic archipelago. This highlights the necessity of understanding the interplay between different components of the holobiont, to properly characterize its evolution.

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