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  1. Abstract Facultative parthenogenesis (FP) is widespread in the animal kingdom. In vertebrates it was first described in poultry nearly 70 years ago, and since then reports involving other taxa have increased considerably. In the last two decades, numerous reports of FP have emerged in elasmobranch fishes and squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes), including documentation in wild populations of both clades. When considered in concert with recent evidence of reproductive competence, the accumulating data suggest that the significance of FP in vertebrate evolution has been largely underestimated. Several fundamental questions regarding developmental mechanisms, nonetheless, remain unanswered. Specifically, what is the type of automixis that underlies the production of progeny and how does this impact the genomic diversity of the resulting parthenogens? Here, we addressed these questions through the application of next-generation sequencing to investigate a suspected case of parthenogenesis in a king cobra ( Ophiophagus hannah ). Our results provide the first evidence of FP in this species, and provide novel evidence that rejects gametic duplication and supports terminal fusion as a mechanism underlying parthenogenesis in snakes. Moreover, we precisely estimated heterozygosity in parthenogenetic offspring and found appreciable retained genetic diversity that suggests that FP in vertebrates has underappreciated evolutionary significance.
  2. Abstract Background

    Snakes exhibit extreme intestinal regeneration following months-long fasts that involves unparalleled increases in metabolism, function, and tissue growth, but the specific molecular control of this process is unknown. Understanding the mechanisms that coordinate these regenerative phenotypes provides valuable opportunities to understand critical pathways that may control vertebrate regeneration and novel perspectives on vertebrate regenerative capacities.

    Results

    Here, we integrate a comprehensive set of phenotypic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and phosphoproteomic data from boa constrictors to identify the mechanisms that orchestrate shifts in metabolism, nutrient uptake, and cellular stress to direct phases of the regenerative response. We identify specific temporal patterns of metabolic, stress response, and growth pathway activation that direct regeneration and provide evidence for multiple key central regulatory molecules kinases that integrate these signals, including major conserved pathways like mTOR signaling and the unfolded protein response.

    Conclusion

    Collectively, our results identify a novel switch-like role of stress responses in intestinal regeneration that forms a primary regulatory hub facilitating organ regeneration and could point to potential pathways to understand regenerative capacity in vertebrates.

  3. Ponty, Yann (Ed.)
    Abstract Summary Here, we present PhyloWGA, an open source R package for conducting phylogenetic analysis and investigation of whole genome data. Availabilityand implementation Available at Github (https://github.com/radamsRHA/PhyloWGA). Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
  4. Abstract Male-biased mutation rates occur in a diverse array of organisms. The ratio of male-to-female mutation rate may have major ramifications for evolution across the genome, and for sex-linked genes in particular. In ZW species, the Z chromosome is carried by males two-thirds of the time, leading to the prediction that male-biased mutation rates will have a disproportionate effect on the evolution of Z-linked genes relative to autosomes and the W chromosome. Colubroid snakes (including colubrids, elapids, and viperids) have ZW sex determination, yet male-biased mutation rates have not been well studied in this group. Here we analyze a population genomic dataset from rattlesnakes to quantify genetic variation within and genetic divergence between species. We use a new method for unbiased estimation of population genetic summary statistics to compare variation between the Z chromosome and autosomes and to calculate net nucleotide differentiation between species. We find evidence for a 2.03-fold greater mutation rate in male rattlesnakes relative to females, corresponding to an average μZ/μA ratio of 1.1. Our results from snakes are quantitatively similar to birds, suggesting that male-biased mutation rates may be a common feature across vertebrate lineages with ZW sex determination.
  5. Abstract Despite the extensive body of research on snake venom, many facets of snake venom systems, such as the physiology and regulation of the venom gland itself, remain virtually unstudied. Here, we use time series gene expression analyses of the rattlesnake venom gland in comparison with several non-venom tissues to characterize physiological and cellular processes associated with venom production and to highlight key distinctions of venom gland cellular and physiological function. We find consistent evidence for activation of stress response pathways in the venom gland, suggesting that mitigation of cellular stress is a crucial component of venom production. Additionally, we demonstrate evidence for an unappreciated degree of cellular and secretory activity in the steady state venom gland relative to other secretory tissues and identify vacuolar ATPases as the likely mechanisms driving acidification of the venom gland lumen during venom production and storage.
  6. Arkhipova, Irina (Ed.)
    Abstract Microchromosomes are common yet poorly understood components of many vertebrate genomes. Recent studies have revealed that microchromosomes contain a high density of genes and possess other distinct characteristics compared with macrochromosomes. Whether distinctive characteristics of microchromosomes extend to features of genome structure and organization, however, remains an open question. Here, we analyze Hi-C sequencing data from multiple vertebrate lineages and show that microchromosomes exhibit consistently high degrees of interchromosomal interaction (particularly with other microchromosomes), appear to be colocalized to a common central nuclear territory, and are comprised of a higher proportion of open chromatin than macrochromosomes. These findings highlight an unappreciated level of diversity in vertebrate genome structure and function, and raise important questions regarding the evolutionary origins and ramifications of microchromosomes and the genes that they house.
  7. Pritham, Ellen (Ed.)
    Abstract Transposable elements (TEs) comprise a major fraction of vertebrate genomes, yet little is known about their expression and regulation across tissues, and how this varies across major vertebrate lineages. We present the first comparative analysis integrating TE expression and TE regulatory pathway activity in somatic and gametic tissues for a diverse set of 12 vertebrates. We conduct simultaneous gene and TE expression analyses to characterize patterns of TE expression and TE regulation across vertebrates and examine relationships between these features. We find remarkable variation in the expression of genes involved in TE negative regulation across tissues and species, yet consistently high expression in germline tissues, particularly in testes. Most vertebrates show comparably high levels of TE regulatory pathway activity across gonadal tissues except for mammals, where reduced activity of TE regulatory pathways in ovarian tissues may be the result of lower relative germ cell densities. We also find that all vertebrate lineages examined exhibit remarkably high levels of TE-derived transcripts in somatic and gametic tissues, with recently active TE families showing higher expression in gametic tissues. Although most TE-derived transcripts originate from inactive ancient TE families (and are likely incapable of transposition), such high levels of TE-derived RNA inmore »the cytoplasm may have secondary, unappreciated biological relevance.« less
  8. Abstract Background

    The increasing number of chromosome-level genome assemblies has advanced our knowledge and understanding of macroevolutionary processes. Here, we introduce the genome of the desert horned lizard, Phrynosoma platyrhinos, an iguanid lizard occupying extreme desert conditions of the American southwest. We conduct analysis of the chromosomal structure and composition of this species and compare these features across genomes of 12 other reptiles (5 species of lizards, 3 snakes, 3 turtles, and 1 bird).

    Findings

    The desert horned lizard genome was sequenced using Illumina paired-end reads and assembled and scaffolded using Dovetail Genomics Hi-C and Chicago long-range contact data. The resulting genome assembly has a total length of 1,901.85 Mb, scaffold N50 length of 273.213 Mb, and includes 5,294 scaffolds. The chromosome-level assembly is composed of 6 macrochromosomes and 11 microchromosomes. A total of 20,764 genes were annotated in the assembly. GC content and gene density are higher for microchromosomes than macrochromosomes, while repeat element distributions show the opposite trend. Pathway analyses provide preliminary evidence that microchromosome and macrochromosome gene content are functionally distinct. Synteny analysis indicates that large microchromosome blocks are conserved among closely related species, whereas macrochromosomes show evidence of frequent fusion and fission events among reptiles, even between closelymore »related species.

    Conclusions

    Our results demonstrate dynamic karyotypic evolution across Reptilia, with frequent inferred splits, fusions, and rearrangements that have resulted in shuffling of chromosomal blocks between macrochromosomes and microchromosomes. Our analyses also provide new evidence for distinct gene content and chromosomal structure between microchromosomes and macrochromosomes within reptiles.

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  9. Abstract Despite the ubiquitous use of statistical models for phylogenomic and population genomic inferences, this model-based rigor is rarely applied to post hoc comparison of trees. In a recent study, Garba et al. derived new methods for measuring the distance between two gene trees computed as the difference in their site pattern probability distributions. Unlike traditional metrics that compare trees solely in terms of geometry, these measures consider gene trees and associated parameters as probabilistic models that can be compared using standard information theoretic approaches. Consequently, probabilistic measures of phylogenetic tree distance can be far more informative than simply comparisons of topology and/or branch lengths alone. However, in their current form, these distance measures are not suitable for the comparison of species tree models in the presence of gene tree heterogeneity. Here, we demonstrate an approach for how the theory of Garba et al. (2018), which is based on gene tree distances, can be extended naturally to the comparison of species tree models. Multispecies coalescent (MSC) models parameterize the discrete probability distribution of gene trees conditioned upon a species tree with a particular topology and set of divergence times (in coalescent units), and thus provide a framework for measuring distancesmore »between species tree models in terms of their corresponding gene tree topology probabilities. We describe the computation of probabilistic species tree distances in the context of standard MSC models, which assume complete genetic isolation postspeciation, as well as recent theoretical extensions to the MSC in the form of network-based MSC models that relax this assumption and permit hybridization among taxa. We demonstrate these metrics using simulations and empirical species tree estimates and discuss both the benefits and limitations of these approaches. We make our species tree distance approach available as an R package called pSTDistanceR, for open use by the community.« less