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  1. 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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  2. Abstract

    Invasive species provide powerful in situ experimental systems for studying evolution in response to selective pressures in novel habitats. While research has shown that phenotypic evolution can occur rapidly in nature, few examples exist of genomewide adaptation on short “ecological” timescales. Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) have become a successful and impactful invasive species in Florida over the last 30 years despite major freeze events that caused high python mortality. We sampled Florida Burmese pythons before and after a major freeze event in 2010 and found evidence for directional selection in genomic regions enriched for genes associated with thermosensation, behaviour and physiology. Several of these genes are linked to regenerative organ growth, an adaptive response that modulates organ size and function with feeding and fasting in pythons. Independent histological and functional genomic data sets provide additional layers of support for a contemporary shift in invasive Burmese python physiology. In the Florida population, a shift towards maintaining an active digestive system may be driven by the fitness benefits of maintaining higher metabolic rates and body temperature during freeze events. Our results suggest that a synergistic interaction between ecological and climatic selection pressures has driven adaptation in Florida Burmese pythons, demonstrating the often‐overlooked potential of rapid adaptation to influence the success of invasive species.

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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. 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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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Despite the extensive body of research on snake venom, many facets of snake venom systems, such as the physiology and regulation of the venom gland itself, remain virtually unstudied. Here, we use time series gene expression analyses of the rattlesnake venom gland in comparison with several non-venom tissues to characterize physiological and cellular processes associated with venom production and to highlight key distinctions of venom gland cellular and physiological function. We find consistent evidence for activation of stress response pathways in the venom gland, suggesting that mitigation of cellular stress is a crucial component of venom production. Additionally, we demonstrate evidence for an unappreciated degree of cellular and secretory activity in the steady state venom gland relative to other secretory tissues and identify vacuolar ATPases as the likely mechanisms driving acidification of the venom gland lumen during venom production and storage. 
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  6. Arkhipova, Irina (Ed.)
    Abstract Microchromosomes are common yet poorly understood components of many vertebrate genomes. Recent studies have revealed that microchromosomes contain a high density of genes and possess other distinct characteristics compared with macrochromosomes. Whether distinctive characteristics of microchromosomes extend to features of genome structure and organization, however, remains an open question. Here, we analyze Hi-C sequencing data from multiple vertebrate lineages and show that microchromosomes exhibit consistently high degrees of interchromosomal interaction (particularly with other microchromosomes), appear to be colocalized to a common central nuclear territory, and are comprised of a higher proportion of open chromatin than macrochromosomes. These findings highlight an unappreciated level of diversity in vertebrate genome structure and function, and raise important questions regarding the evolutionary origins and ramifications of microchromosomes and the genes that they house. 
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  7. Leitner, Thomas (Ed.)
    Abstract Due to the scope and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic there exists a strong desire to understand where the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from and how it jumped species boundaries to humans. Molecular evolutionary analyses can trace viral origins by establishing relatedness and divergence times of viruses and identifying past selective pressures. However, we must uphold rigorous standards of inference and interpretation on this topic because of the ramifications of being wrong. Here, we dispute the conclusions of Xia (2020. Extreme genomic CpG deficiency in SARS-CoV-2 and evasion of host antiviral defense. Mol Biol Evol. doi:10.1093/molbev/masa095) that dogs are a likely intermediate host of a SARS-CoV-2 ancestor. We highlight major flaws in Xia’s inference process and his analysis of CpG deficiencies, and conclude that there is no direct evidence for the role of dogs as intermediate hosts. Bats and pangolins currently have the greatest support as ancestral hosts of SARS-CoV-2, with the strong caveat that sampling of wildlife species for coronaviruses has been limited. 
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