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  1. Relationships among laurasiatherian clades represent one of the most highly disputed topics in mammalian phylogeny. In this study, we attempt to disentangle laurasiatherian interordinal relationships using two independent genome-level approaches: (1) quantifying retrotransposon presence/absence patterns, and (2) comparisons of exon datasets at the levels of nucleotides and amino acids. The two approaches revealed contradictory phylogenetic signals, possibly due to a high level of ancestral incomplete lineage sorting. The positions of Eulipotyphla and Chiroptera as the first and second earliest divergences were consistent across the approaches. However, the phylogenetic relationships of Perissodactyla, Cetartiodactyla, and Ferae, were contradictory. While retrotransposon insertion analysesmore »suggest a clade with Cetartiodactyla and Ferae, the exon dataset favoured Cetartiodactyla and Perissodactyla. Future analyses of hitherto unsampled laurasiatherian lineages and synergistic analyses of retrotransposon insertions, exon and conserved intron/intergenic sequences might unravel the conflicting patterns of relationships in this major mammalian clade.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 30, 2022
  3. Comprising more than 1,400 species, bats possess adaptations unique among mammals including powered flight, unexpected longevity, and extraordinary immunity. Some of the molecular mechanisms underlying these unique adaptations includes DNA repair, metabolism and immunity. However, analyses have been limited to a few divergent lineages, reducing the scope of inferences on gene family evolution across the Order Chiroptera. We conducted an exhaustive comparative genomic study of 37 bat species, one generated in this study, encompassing a large number of lineages, with a particular emphasis on multi-gene family evolution across immune and metabolic genes. In agreement with previous analyses, we found lineage-specificmore »expansions of the APOBEC3 and MHC-I gene families, and loss of the proinflammatory PYHIN gene family. We inferred more than 1,000 gene losses unique to bats, including genes involved in the regulation of inflammasome pathways such as epithelial defense receptors, the natural killer gene complex and the interferon-gamma induced pathway. Gene set enrichment analyses revealed genes lost in bats are involved in defense response against pathogen-associated molecular patterns and damage-associated molecular patterns. Gene family evolution and selection analyses indicate bats have evolved fundamental functional differences compared to other mammals in both innate and adaptive immune system, with the potential to enhance anti-viral immune response while dampening inflammatory signaling. In addition, metabolic genes have experienced repeated expansions related to convergent shifts to plant-based diets. Our analyses support the hypothesis that, in tandem with flight, ancestral bats had evolved a unique set of immune adaptations whose functional implications remain to be explored.« less
  4. The novel coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of COVID-19. The main receptor of SARS-CoV-2, angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), is now undergoing extensive scrutiny to understand the routes of transmission and sensitivity in different species. Here, we utilized a unique dataset of ACE2 sequences from 410 vertebrate species, including 252 mammals, to study the conservation of ACE2 and its potential to be used as a receptor by SARS-CoV-2. We designed a five-category binding score based on the conservation properties of 25 amino acids important for the binding between ACE2 and the SARS-CoV-2 spikemore »protein. Only mammals fell into the medium to very high categories and only catarrhine primates into the very high category, suggesting that they are at high risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection. We employed a protein structural analysis to qualitatively assess whether amino acid changes at variable residues would be likely to disrupt ACE2/SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binding and found the number of predicted unfavorable changes significantly correlated with the binding score. Extending this analysis to human population data, we found only rare (frequency <0.001) variants in 10/25 binding sites. In addition, we found significant signals of selection and accelerated evolution in the ACE2 coding sequence across all mammals, and specific to the bat lineage. Our results, if confirmed by additional experimental data, may lead to the identification of intermediate host species for SARS-CoV-2, guide the selection of animal models of COVID-19, and assist the conservation of animals both in native habitats and in human care.« less
  5. Regulatory networks often converge on very similar cis sequences to drive transcriptional programs due to constraints on what transcription factors are present. To determine the role of constraint loss on cis element evolution, we examined the recent appearance of a thiamine starvation regulated promoter in Candida glabrata . This species lacks the ancestral transcription factor Thi2, but still has the transcription factor Pdc2, which regulates thiamine starvation genes, allowing us to determine the effect of constraint change on a new promoter. We identified two different cis elements in C. glabrata - one present in the evolutionarily recent gene called CgPMU3more », and the other element present in the other thiamine (THI) regulated genes. Reciprocal swaps of the cis elements and incorporation of the S. cerevisiae Thi2 transcription factor-binding site into these promoters demonstrate that the two elements are functionally different from one another. Thus, this loss of an imposed constraint on promoter function has generated a novel cis sequence, suggesting that loss of trans constraints can generate a non-convergent pathway with the same output.« less