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  1. Transposable elements (TEs) are genomic parasites that can propagate throughout host genomes. Mammalian genomes are typically dominated by LINE retrotransposons and their associated SINEs, and germline mobilization is a challenge to genome integrity. There are defenses against TE proliferation and the PIWI/piRNA defense is among the most well understood. However, the PIWI/piRNA system has been investigated largely in animals with actively mobilizing TEs and it is unclear how the PIWI/piRNA system functions in the absence of mobilizing TEs. The 13-lined ground squirrel provides the opportunity to examine PIWI/piRNA and TE dynamics within the context of minimal, and possibly nonexistent, TE accumulation. To do so, we compared the PIWI/piRNA dynamics in squirrels to observations from the rabbit and mouse. Despite a lack of young insertions in squirrels, TEs were still actively transcribed at higher levels compared to mouse and rabbit. All three Piwi genes were not expressed, prior to P8 in squirrel testis, and there was little TE expression change with the onset of Piwi expression. We also demonstrated there was not a major expression change in the young squirrel LINE families in the transition from juvenile to adult testis in contrast to young mouse and rabbit LINE families. These observationsmore »lead us to conclude that PIWI suppression, was weaker for squirrel LINEs and SINEs and did not strongly reduce their transcription. We speculate that, although the PIWI/piRNA system is adaptable to novel TE threats, transcripts from TEs that are no longer threatening receive less attention from PIWI proteins.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 16, 2023
  2. Dive capacities of air-breathing vertebrates are dictated by onboard O 2 stores, suggesting that physiologic specialization of diving birds such as penguins may have involved adaptive changes in convective O 2 transport. It has been hypothesized that increased hemoglobin (Hb)-O 2 affinity improves pulmonary O 2 extraction and enhances the capacity for breath-hold diving. To investigate evolved changes in Hb function associated with the aquatic specialization of penguins, we integrated comparative measurements of whole-blood and purified native Hb with protein engineering experiments based on site-directed mutagenesis. We reconstructed and resurrected ancestral Hb representing the common ancestor of penguins and the more ancient ancestor shared by penguins and their closest nondiving relatives (order Procellariiformes, which includes albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, and storm petrels). These two ancestors bracket the phylogenetic interval in which penguin-specific changes in Hb function would have evolved. The experiments revealed that penguins evolved a derived increase in Hb-O 2 affinity and a greatly augmented Bohr effect (i.e., reduced Hb-O 2 affinity at low pH). Although an increased Hb-O 2 affinity reduces the gradient for O 2 diffusion from systemic capillaries to metabolizing cells, this can be compensated by a concomitant enhancement of the Bohr effect, thereby promoting O 2more »unloading in acidified tissues. We suggest that the evolved increase in Hb-O 2 affinity in combination with the augmented Bohr effect maximizes both O 2 extraction from the lungs and O 2 unloading from the blood, allowing penguins to fully utilize their onboard O 2 stores and maximize underwater foraging time.« less
  3. Hemoglobins (Hbs) of crocodilians are reportedly characterized by unique mechanisms of allosteric regulatory control, but there are conflicting reports regarding the importance of different effectors, such as chloride ions, organic phosphates, and CO 2 . Progress in understanding the unusual properties of crocodilian Hbs has also been hindered by a dearth of structural information. Here, we present the first comparative analysis of blood properties and Hb structure and function in a phylogenetically diverse set of crocodilian species. We examine mechanisms of allosteric regulation in the Hbs of 13 crocodilian species belonging to the families Crocodylidae and Alligatoridae. We also report new amino acid sequences for the α- and β-globins of these taxa, which, in combination with structural analyses, provide insights into molecular mechanisms of allosteric regulation. All crocodilian Hbs exhibited a remarkably strong sensitivity to CO 2 , which would permit effective O 2 unloading to tissues in response to an increase in metabolism during intense activity and diving. Although the Hbs of all crocodilians exhibit similar intrinsic O 2 -affinities, there is considerable variation in sensitivity to Cl − ions and ATP, which appears to be at least partly attributable to variation in the extent of NH 2 -terminalmore »acetylation. Whereas chloride appears to be a potent allosteric effector of all crocodile Hbs, ATP has a strong, chloride-independent effect on Hb-O 2 affinity only in caimans. Modeling suggests that allosteric ATP binding has a somewhat different structural basis in crocodilian and mammalian Hbs.« less
  4. The genes that encode the α- and β-chain subunits of vertebrate hemoglobin have served as a model system for elucidating general principles of gene family evolution, but little is known about patterns of evolution in amniotes other than mammals and birds. Here, we report a comparative genomic analysis of the α- and β-globin gene clusters in sauropsids (archosaurs and nonavian reptiles). The objectives were to characterize changes in the size and membership composition of the α- and β-globin gene families within and among the major sauropsid lineages, to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the sauropsid α- and β-globin genes, to resolve orthologous relationships, and to reconstruct evolutionary changes in the developmental regulation of gene expression. Our comparisons revealed contrasting patterns of evolution in the unlinked α- and β-globin gene clusters. In the α-globin gene cluster, which has remained in the ancestral chromosomal location, evolutionary changes in gene content are attributable to the differential retention of paralogous gene copies that were present in the common ancestor of tetrapods. In the β-globin gene cluster, which was translocated to a new chromosomal location, evolutionary changes in gene content are attributable to differential gene gains (via lineage-specific duplication events) and gene losses (via lineage-specificmore »deletions and inactivations). Consequently, all major groups of amniotes possess unique repertoires of embryonic and postnatally expressed β-type globin genes that diversified independently in each lineage. These independently derived β-type globins descend from a pair of tandemly linked paralogs in the most recent common ancestor of sauropsids.« less