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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. Using presence/absence data from over 10,000 Ves SINE insertions, we reconstructed a phylogeny for 11 Myotis species. With nearly one-third of individual Ves gene trees discordant with the overall species tree, phylogenetic conflict appears to be rampant in this genus. From the observed conflict, we infer that ILS is likely a major contributor to the discordance. Much of the discordance can be attributed to the hypothesized split between the Old World and New World Myotis clades and with the first radiation of Myotis within the New World. Quartet asymmetry tests reveal signs of introgression between Old and New World taxa that may have persisted until approximately 8 MYA. Our introgression tests also revealed evidence of both historic and more recent, perhaps even contemporary, gene flow among Myotis species of the New World. Our findings suggest that hybridization likely played an important role in the evolutionary history of Myotis and may still be happening in areas of sympatry. Despite limitations arising from extreme discordance, our SINE-based phylogeny better resolved deeper relationships (particularly the positioning of M. brandtii) and was able to identify potential introgression pathways among the Myotis species sampled.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. 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 analyses 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.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  4. null (Ed.)
    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-specific 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 tomore »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
  5. Cordaux, Richard (Ed.)
    Abstract Crocodilians are an economically, culturally, and biologically important group. To improve researchers’ ability to study genome structure, evolution, and gene regulation in the clade, we generated a high-quality de novo genome assembly of the saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, from Illumina short read data from genomic libraries and in vitro proximity-ligation libraries. The assembled genome is 2,123.5 Mb, with N50 scaffold size of 17.7 Mb and N90 scaffold size of 3.8 Mb. We then annotated this new assembly, increasing the number of annotated genes by 74%. In total, 96% of 23,242 annotated genes were associated with a functional protein domain. Furthermore, multiple noncoding functional regions and mappable genetic markers were identified. Upon analysis and overlapping the results of branch length estimation and site selection tests for detecting potential selection, we found 16 putative genes under positive selection in crocodilians, 10 in C. porosus and 6 in Alligator mississippiensis. The annotated C. porosus genome will serve as an important platform for osmoregulatory, physiological, and sex determination studies, as well as an important reference in investigating the phylogenetic relationships of crocodilians, birds, and other tetrapods.
  6. Abstract Transposable elements (TEs) play major roles in the evolution of genome structure and function. However, because of their repetitive nature, they are difficult to annotate and discovering the specific roles they may play in a lineage can be a daunting task. Heliconiine butterflies are models for the study of multiple evolutionary processes including phenotype evolution and hybridization. We attempted to determine how TEs may play a role in the diversification of genomes within this clade by performing a detailed examination of TE content and accumulation in 19 species whose genomes were recently sequenced. We found that TE content has diverged substantially and rapidly in the time since several subclades shared a common ancestor with each lineage harboring a unique TE repertoire. Several novel SINE lineages have been established that are restricted to a subset of species. Furthermore, the previously described SINE, Metulj, appears to have gone extinct in two subclades while expanding to significant numbers in others. This diversity in TE content and activity has the potential to impact how heliconiine butterflies continue to evolve and diverge.
  7. The Zoonomia Project is investigating the genomics of shared and specialized traits in eutherian mammals. Here we provide genome assemblies for 131 species, of which all but 9 are previously uncharacterized, and describe a whole-genome alignment of 240 species of considerable phylogenetic diversity, comprising representatives from more than 80% of mammalian families. We find that regions of reduced genetic diversity are more abundant in species at a high risk of extinction, discern signals of evolutionary selection at high resolution and provide insights from individual reference genomes. By prioritizing phylogenetic diversity and making data available quickly and without restriction, the Zoonomia Project aims to support biological discovery, medical research and the conservation of biodiversity.