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Specificity of Loxosceles α clade phospholipase D enzymes for choline-containing lipids: Role of a conserved aromatic cageWei, Guanghong (Ed.)Spider venom GDPD-like phospholipases D ( SicTox ) have been identified to be one of the major toxins in recluse spider venom. They are divided into two major clades: the α clade and the β clade. Most α clade toxins present high activity against lipids with choline head groups such as sphingomyelin, while activities in β clade toxins vary and include preference for substrates containing ethanolamine headgroups ( Sicarius terrosus , St_βIB1). A structural comparison of available structures of phospholipases D (PLDs) reveals a conserved aromatic cage in the α clade. To test the potential influence of the aromatic cage on membrane-lipid specificity we performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of the binding of several PLDs onto lipid bilayers containing choline headgroups; two SicTox from the α clade, Loxosceles intermedia αIA1 (Li_αIA) and Loxosceles laeta αIII1 (Ll_αIII1), and one from the β clade, St_βIB1. The simulation results reveal that the aromatic cage captures a choline-headgroup and suggest that the cage plays a major role in lipid specificity. We also simulated an engineered St_βIB1, where we introduced the aromatic cage, and this led to binding with choline-containing lipids. Moreover, a multiple sequence alignment revealed the conservation of the aromatic cage among themore »
Island systems provide excellent arenas to test evolutionary hypotheses pertaining to gene flow and diversification of dispersal-limited organisms. Here we focus on an orbweaver spider genus
Cyrtognatha(Tetragnathidae) from the Caribbean, with the aims to reconstruct its evolutionary history, examine its biogeographic history in the archipelago, and to estimate the timing and route of Caribbean colonization. Specifically, we test if Cyrtognathabiogeographic history is consistent with an ancient vicariant scenario (the GAARlandia landbridge hypothesis) or overwater dispersal. We reconstructed a species level phylogeny based on one mitochondrial (COI) and one nuclear (28S) marker. We then used this topology to constrain a time-calibrated mtDNA phylogeny, for subsequent biogeographical analyses in BioGeoBEARS of over 100 originally sampled Cyrtognathaindividuals, using models with and without a founder event parameter. Our results suggest a radiation of Caribbean Cyrtognatha, containing 11 to 14 species that are exclusively single island endemics. Although biogeographic reconstructions cannot refute a vicariant origin of the Caribbean clade, possibly an artifact of sparse outgroup availability, they indicate timing of colonization that is much too recent for GAARlandia to have played a role. Instead, an overwater colonization to the Caribbean in mid-Miocene better explains the data. From Hispaniola, Cyrtognathasubsequently dispersed to, and diversified on, the other islands of themore »
Spintharus flavidus in the Caribbean—a 30 million year biogeographical history and radiation of a ‘widespread species’
The Caribbean island biota is characterized by high levels of endemism, the result of an interplay between colonization opportunities on islands and effective oceanic barriers among them. A relatively small percentage of the biota is represented by ‘widespread species,’ presumably taxa for which oceanic barriers are ineffective. Few studies have explored in detail the genetic structure of widespread Caribbean taxa. The cobweb spider
Spintharus flavidusHentz, 1850 (Theridiidae) is one of two described Spintharusspecies and is unique in being widely distributed from northern N. America to Brazil and throughout the Caribbean. As a taxonomic hypothesis, Spintharus “flavidus”predicts maintenance of gene flow among Caribbean islands, a prediction that seems contradicted by known S. flavidusbiology, which suggests limited dispersal ability. As part of an extensive survey of Caribbean arachnids (project CarBio), we conducted the first molecular phylogenetic analysis of S. flaviduswith the primary goal of testing the ‘widespread species’ hypothesis. Our results, while limited to three molecular loci, reject the hypothesis of a single widespread species. Instead this lineage seems to represent a radiation with at least 16 species in the Caribbean region. Nearly all are short range endemics with several distinct mainland groups and others are single island endemics. While limited taxon sampling, with a single specimenmore »