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  1. Abstract

    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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  2. Abstract Background

    Snake venoms are trophic adaptations that represent an ideal model to examine the evolutionary factors that shape polymorphic traits under strong natural selection. Venom compositional variation is substantial within and among venomous snake species. However, the forces shaping this phenotypic complexity, as well as the potential integrated roles of biotic and abiotic factors, have received little attention. Here, we investigate geographic variation in venom composition in a wide-ranging rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis) and contextualize this variation by investigating dietary, phylogenetic, and environmental variables that covary with venom.


    Using shotgun proteomics, venom biochemical profiling, and lethality assays, we identify 2 distinct divergent phenotypes that characterize major axes of venom variation in this species: a myotoxin-rich phenotype and a snake venom metalloprotease (SVMP)-rich phenotype. We find that dietary availability and temperature-related abiotic factors are correlated with geographic trends in venom composition.


    Our findings highlight the potential for snake venoms to vary extensively within species, for this variation to be driven by biotic and abiotic factors, and for the importance of integrating biotic and abiotic variation for understanding complex trait evolution. Links between venom variation and variation in biotic and abiotic factors indicate that venom variation likely results from substantial geographic variation in selection regimes that determine the efficacy of venom phenotypes across populations and snake species. Our results highlight the cascading influence of abiotic factors on biotic factors that ultimately shape venom phenotype, providing evidence for a central role of local selection as a key driver of venom variation.

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  3. Schaack, Sarah (Ed.)
    Abstract Sex chromosomes diverge after the establishment of recombination suppression, resulting in differential sex-linkage of genes involved in genetic sex determination and dimorphic traits. This process produces systems of male or female heterogamety wherein the Y and W chromosomes are only present in one sex and are often highly degenerated. Sex-limited Y and W chromosomes contain valuable information about the evolutionary transition from autosomes to sex chromosomes, yet detailed characterizations of the structure, composition, and gene content of sex-limited chromosomes are lacking for many species. In this study, we characterize the female-specific W chromosome of the prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and evaluate how recombination suppression and other processes have shaped sex chromosome evolution in ZW snakes. Our analyses indicate that the rattlesnake W chromosome is over 80% repetitive and that an abundance of GC-rich mdg4 elements has driven an overall high degree of GC-richness despite a lack of recombination. The W chromosome is also highly enriched for repeat sequences derived from endogenous retroviruses and likely acts as a “refugium” for these and other retroelements. We annotated 219 putatively functional W-linked genes across at least two evolutionary strata identified based on estimates of sequence divergence between Z and W gametologs. The youngest of these strata is relatively gene-rich, however gene expression across strata suggests retained gene function amidst a greater degree of degeneration following ancient recombination suppression. Functional annotation of W-linked genes indicates a specialization of the W chromosome for reproductive and developmental function since recombination suppression from the Z chromosome. 
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  4. Abstract

    Predators must contend with numerous challenges to successfully find and subjugate prey. Complex traits related to hunting are partially controlled by a large number of co‐evolved genes, which may be disrupted in hybrids. Accordingly, research on the feeding ecology of animals in hybrid zones has shown that hybrids sometimes exhibit transgressive or novel behaviors, yet for many taxa, empirical studies of predation and diet across hybrid zones are lacking. We undertook the first such field study for a hybrid zone between two snake species, the Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) and the prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). Specifically, we leveraged established field methods to quantify the hunting behaviors of animals, their prey communities, and the diet of individuals across the hybrid zone in southwestern New Mexico, USA. We found that, even though hybrids had significantly lower body condition indices than snakes from either parental group, hybrids were generally similar to non‐hybrids in hunting behavior, prey encounter rates, and predatory attack and success. We also found that, compared toC. scutulatus,C. viridiswas significantly more active while hunting at night and abandoned ambush sites earlier in the morning, and hybrids tended to be moreviridis‐like in this respect. Prey availability was similar across the study sites, including within the hybrid zone, with kangaroo rats (Dipodomysspp.) as the most common small mammal, both in habitat surveys and the frequency of encounters with hunting rattlesnakes. Analysis of prey remains in stomachs and feces also showed broad similarity in diets, with all snakes preying primarily on small mammals and secondarily on lizards. Taken together, our results suggest that the significantly lower body condition of hybrids does not appear to be driven by differences in their hunting behavior or diet and may instead relate to metabolic efficiency or other physiological traits we have not yet identified.

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  5. Abstract

    Hybridization facilitates recombination between divergent genetic lineages and can be shaped by both neutral and selective processes. Upon hybridization, loci with no net fitness effects introgress randomly from parental species into the genomes of hybrid individuals. Conversely, alleles from one parental species at some loci may provide a selective advantage to hybrids, resulting in patterns of introgression that do not conform to random expectations. We investigated genomic patterns of differential introgression in natural hybrids of two species of Caribbean anoles,Anolis pulchellusandA. krugiin Puerto Rico. Hybrids exhibitA. pulchellusphenotypes but possessA. krugimitochondrial DNA, originated from multiple, independent hybridization events, and appear to have replaced pureA. pulchellusacross a large area in western Puerto Rico. Combining genome‐wide SNP datasets with bioinformatic methods to identify signals of differential introgression in hybrids, we demonstrate that the genomes of hybrids are dominated bypulchellus‐derived alleles and show only 10%–20%A. krugiancestry. The majority ofA. krugiloci in hybrids exhibit a signal of non‐random differential introgression and include loci linked to genes involved in development and immune function. Three of these genes (delta like canonical notch ligand 1, jagged1 and notch receptor 1) affect cell differentiation and growth and interact with mitochondrial function. Our results suggest that differential non‐random introgression for a subset of loci may be driven by selection favouring the inheritance of compatible mitochondrial and nuclear‐encoded genes in hybrids.

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  6. Understanding how regulatory mechanisms evolve is critical for understanding the processes that give rise to novel phenotypes. Snake venom systems represent a valuable and tractable model for testing hypotheses related to the evolution of novel regulatory networks, yet the regulatory mechanisms underlying venom production remain poorly understood. Here, we use functional genomics approaches to investigate venom regulatory architecture in the prairie rattlesnake and identify cis -regulatory sequences (enhancers and promoters), trans -regulatory transcription factors, and integrated signaling cascades involved in the regulation of snake venom genes. We find evidence that two conserved vertebrate pathways, the extracellular signal-regulated kinase and unfolded protein response pathways, were co-opted to regulate snake venom. In one large venom gene family (snake venom serine proteases), this co-option was likely facilitated by the activity of transposable elements. Patterns of snake venom gene enhancer conservation, in some cases spanning 50 million yr of lineage divergence, highlight early origins and subsequent lineage-specific adaptations that have accompanied the evolution of venom regulatory architecture. We also identify features of chromatin structure involved in venom regulation, including topologically associated domains and CTCF loops that underscore the potential importance of novel chromatin structure to coevolve when duplicated genes evolve new regulatory control. Our findings provide a model for understanding how novel regulatory systems may evolve through a combination of genomic processes, including tandem duplication of genes and regulatory sequences, cis -regulatory sequence seeding by transposable elements, and diverse transcriptional regulatory proteins controlled by a co-opted regulatory cascade. 
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