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Creators/Authors contains: "Gopalan, Siddharth S."

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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. 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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