skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Friday, September 29 until 11:59 PM ET on Saturday, September 30 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Byrne, Maria"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Chromatin configuration is highly dynamic during embryonic development in animals, exerting an important point of control in transcriptional regulation. Yet there exists remarkably little information about the role of evolutionary changes in chromatin configuration to the evolution of gene expression and organismal traits. Genome-wide assays of chromatin configuration, coupled with whole-genome alignments, can help address this gap in knowledge in several ways. In this study we present a comparative analysis of regulatory element sequences and accessibility throughout embryogenesis in three sea urchin species with divergent life histories: a lecithotroph Heliocidaris erythrogramma, a closely related planktotroph H. tuberculata, and a distantly related planktotroph Lytechinus variegatus. We identified distinct epigenetic and mutational signatures of evolutionary modifications to the function of putative cis-regulatory elements in H. erythrogramma that have accumulated nonuniformly throughout the genome, suggesting selection, rather than drift, underlies many modifications associated with the derived life history. Specifically, regulatory elements composing the sea urchin developmental gene regulatory network are enriched for signatures of positive selection and accessibility changes which may function to alter binding affinity and access of developmental transcription factors to these sites. Furthermore, regulatory element changes often correlate with divergent expression patterns of genes involved in cell type specification, morphogenesis, and development of other derived traits, suggesting these evolutionary modifications have been consequential for phenotypic evolution in H. erythrogramma. Collectively, our results demonstrate that selective pressures imposed by changes in developmental life history rapidly reshape the cis-regulatory landscape of core developmental genes to generate novel traits and embryonic programs. 
    more » « less
  2. Changes in developmental gene regulatory networks (dGRNs) underlie much of the diversity of life, but the evolutionary mechanisms that operate on interactions with these networks remain poorly understood. Closely related species with extreme phenotypic divergence provide a valuable window into the genetic and molecular basis for changes in dGRNs and their relationship to adaptive changes in organismal traits. Here we analyze genomes, epigenomes, and transcriptomes during early development in two sea urchin species in the genus Heliocidaris that exhibit highly divergent life histories and in an outgroup species. Signatures of positive selection and changes in chromatin status within putative gene regulatory elements are both enriched on the branch leading to the derived life history, and particularly so near core dGRN genes; in contrast, positive selection within protein-coding regions have at most a modest enrichment in branch and function. Single-cell transcriptomes reveal a dramatic delay in cell fate specification in the derived state, which also has far fewer open chromatin regions, especially near dGRN genes with conserved roles in cell fate specification. Experimentally perturbing the function of three key transcription factors reveals profound evolutionary changes in the earliest events that pattern the embryo, disrupting regulatory interactions previously conserved for ~225 million years. Together, these results demonstrate that natural selection can rapidly reshape developmental gene expression on a broad scale when selective regimes abruptly change and that even highly conserved dGRNs and patterning mechanisms in the early embryo remain evolvable under appropriate ecological circumstances. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    The diversity and distribution of marine species in eastern Australia is influenced by one of the world's strongest western boundary currents, the East Australia Current, which propels water and propagules poleward, a flow intensifying due to climate change.

    Population genetic structure of the asterinid sea starMeridiastra calcarwas investigated across its range in eastern Australia (12° of latitude, 2,500 km) from northern New South Wales to its poleward‐extending range in Tasmania at the southern edge influence of the East Australia Current.

    Population structure and connectivity ofM. calcarwere examined across six bioregions using six microsatellite loci (nuclear DNA) and the control region (mitochondrial DNA). The potential influence of the extent ofM. calcar's intertidal rock platform habitat was also assessed.

    Genetic structure analysis indicated that the Hawkesbury Shelf contained distinct genetic clusters, whereas the two sites in the Batemans Shelf differed from each other, with Jervis Bay Marine Park having just one genetic cluster. The Manning Shelf, Twofold Shelf, and Bruny bioregions all had similar genetic composition.

    Strong self‐seeding (68–98%) was indicated by microsatellite loci for all bioregions, with lower (0.3–6.5%) migration between bioregions. Poleward (New South Wales to Tasmania) migration was low except from the Manning Shelf (30%).

    Contemporary population connectivity and genetic structure ofM. calcarappear to be influenced by ocean currents, habitat distribution, and its short planktonic larval duration, which was a minimum of 12–14 days, depending on availability of a settlement cue.

    The dominance of unique genetic groups in the Hawkesbury bioregion shows the importance of this region forM. calcarand possibly a diversity of co‐distributed rock platform species. This highlights how important it is to have a large marine park in the Hawkesbury bioregion, which is presently lacking.

    more » « less
  5. Animal gastrointestinal tracts harbor a microbiome that is integral to host function, yet species from diverse phyla have evolved a reduced digestive system or lost it completely. Whether such changes are associated with alterations in the diversity and/or abundance of the microbiome remains an untested hypothesis in evolutionary symbiosis. Here, using the life history transition from planktotrophy (feeding) to lecithotrophy (nonfeeding) in the sea urchinHeliocidaris, we demonstrate that the lack of a functional gut corresponds with a reduction in microbial community diversity and abundance as well as the association with a diet-specific microbiome. We also determine that the lecithotroph vertically transmits a Rickettsiales that may complement host nutrition through amino acid biosynthesis and influence host reproduction. Our results indicate that the evolutionary loss of a functional gut correlates with a reduction in the microbiome and the association with an endosymbiont. Symbiotic transitions can therefore accompany life history transitions in the evolution of developmental strategies.

    more » « less
  6. Abstract The Echinodermata is characterized by a secondarily evolved pentameral body plan. While the evolutionary origin of this body plan has been the subject of debate, the molecular mechanisms underlying its development are poorly understood. We assembled a de novo developmental transcriptome from the embryo through metamorphosis in the sea star Parvulastra exigua. We use the asteroid model as it represents the basal-type echinoderm body architecture. Global variation in gene expression distinguished the gastrula profile and showed that metamorphic and juvenile stages were more similar to each other than to the pre-metamorphic stages, pointing to the marked changes that occur during metamorphosis. Differential expression and gene ontology (GO) analyses revealed dynamic changes in gene expression throughout development and the transition to pentamery. Many GO terms enriched during late metamorphosis were related to neurogenesis and signalling. Neural transcription factor genes exhibited clusters with distinct expression patterns. A suite of these genes was up-regulated during metamorphosis (e.g. Pax6, Eya, Hey, NeuroD, FoxD, Mbx, and Otp). In situ hybridization showed expression of neural genes in the CNS and sensory structures. Our results provide a foundation to understand the metamorphic transition in echinoderms and the genes involved in development and evolution of pentamery. 
    more » « less