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  1. Abstract Background

    Snake venoms are trophic adaptations that represent an ideal model to examine the evolutionary factors that shape polymorphic traits under strong natural selection. Venom compositional variation is substantial within and among venomous snake species. However, the forces shaping this phenotypic complexity, as well as the potential integrated roles of biotic and abiotic factors, have received little attention. Here, we investigate geographic variation in venom composition in a wide-ranging rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis) and contextualize this variation by investigating dietary, phylogenetic, and environmental variables that covary with venom.


    Using shotgun proteomics, venom biochemical profiling, and lethality assays, we identify 2 distinct divergent phenotypes that characterize major axes of venom variation in this species: a myotoxin-rich phenotype and a snake venom metalloprotease (SVMP)-rich phenotype. We find that dietary availability and temperature-related abiotic factors are correlated with geographic trends in venom composition.


    Our findings highlight the potential for snake venoms to vary extensively within species, for this variation to be driven by biotic and abiotic factors, and for the importance of integrating biotic and abiotic variation for understanding complex trait evolution. Links between venom variation and variation in biotic and abiotic factors indicate that venom variation likely results from substantial geographic variation in selection regimes that determine the efficacy of venom phenotypes across populations and snake species. Our results highlight the cascading influence of abiotic factors on biotic factors that ultimately shape venom phenotype, providing evidence for a central role of local selection as a key driver of venom variation.

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  2. Springer, Mark (Ed.)
    Abstract Despite the increasing feasibility of sequencing whole genomes from diverse taxa, a persistent problem in phylogenomics is the selection of appropriate genetic markers or loci for a given taxonomic group or research question. In this review, we aim to streamline the decision-making process when selecting specific markers to use in phylogenomic studies by introducing commonly used types of genomic markers, their evolutionary characteristics, and their associated uses in phylogenomics. Specifically, we review the utilities of ultraconserved elements (including flanking regions), anchored hybrid enrichment loci, conserved nonexonic elements, untranslated regions, introns, exons, mitochondrial DNA, single nucleotide polymorphisms, and anonymous regions (nonspecific regions that are evenly or randomly distributed across the genome). These various genomic elements and regions differ in their substitution rates, likelihood of neutrality or of being strongly linked to loci under selection, and mode of inheritance, each of which are important considerations in phylogenomic reconstruction. These features may give each type of marker important advantages and disadvantages depending on the biological question, number of taxa sampled, evolutionary timescale, cost effectiveness, and analytical methods used. We provide a concise outline as a resource to efficiently consider key aspects of each type of genetic marker. There are many factors to consider when designing phylogenomic studies, and this review may serve as a primer when weighing options between multiple potential phylogenomic markers. 
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  3. Schaack, Sarah (Ed.)
    Abstract Sex chromosomes diverge after the establishment of recombination suppression, resulting in differential sex-linkage of genes involved in genetic sex determination and dimorphic traits. This process produces systems of male or female heterogamety wherein the Y and W chromosomes are only present in one sex and are often highly degenerated. Sex-limited Y and W chromosomes contain valuable information about the evolutionary transition from autosomes to sex chromosomes, yet detailed characterizations of the structure, composition, and gene content of sex-limited chromosomes are lacking for many species. In this study, we characterize the female-specific W chromosome of the prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and evaluate how recombination suppression and other processes have shaped sex chromosome evolution in ZW snakes. Our analyses indicate that the rattlesnake W chromosome is over 80% repetitive and that an abundance of GC-rich mdg4 elements has driven an overall high degree of GC-richness despite a lack of recombination. The W chromosome is also highly enriched for repeat sequences derived from endogenous retroviruses and likely acts as a “refugium” for these and other retroelements. We annotated 219 putatively functional W-linked genes across at least two evolutionary strata identified based on estimates of sequence divergence between Z and W gametologs. The youngest of these strata is relatively gene-rich, however gene expression across strata suggests retained gene function amidst a greater degree of degeneration following ancient recombination suppression. Functional annotation of W-linked genes indicates a specialization of the W chromosome for reproductive and developmental function since recombination suppression from the Z chromosome. 
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  4. Abstract

    Hybridization facilitates recombination between divergent genetic lineages and can be shaped by both neutral and selective processes. Upon hybridization, loci with no net fitness effects introgress randomly from parental species into the genomes of hybrid individuals. Conversely, alleles from one parental species at some loci may provide a selective advantage to hybrids, resulting in patterns of introgression that do not conform to random expectations. We investigated genomic patterns of differential introgression in natural hybrids of two species of Caribbean anoles,Anolis pulchellusandA. krugiin Puerto Rico. Hybrids exhibitA. pulchellusphenotypes but possessA. krugimitochondrial DNA, originated from multiple, independent hybridization events, and appear to have replaced pureA. pulchellusacross a large area in western Puerto Rico. Combining genome‐wide SNP datasets with bioinformatic methods to identify signals of differential introgression in hybrids, we demonstrate that the genomes of hybrids are dominated bypulchellus‐derived alleles and show only 10%–20%A. krugiancestry. The majority ofA. krugiloci in hybrids exhibit a signal of non‐random differential introgression and include loci linked to genes involved in development and immune function. Three of these genes (delta like canonical notch ligand 1, jagged1 and notch receptor 1) affect cell differentiation and growth and interact with mitochondrial function. Our results suggest that differential non‐random introgression for a subset of loci may be driven by selection favouring the inheritance of compatible mitochondrial and nuclear‐encoded genes in hybrids.

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  5. 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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  6. 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.


    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.


    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.

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