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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. Fugmann, Sebastian D. (Ed.)
    Behavioral genetics in non-model organisms is currently gated by technological limitations. However, with the growing availability of genome editing and functional genomic tools, complex behavioral traits such as social behavior can now be explored in diverse organisms. Here we present a minimally invasive neurosurgical procedure for a classic behavioral, ecological and evolutionary system: threespine stickleback ( Gasterosteus aculeatus ). Direct brain injection enables viral-mediated transgenesis and pharmaceutical delivery which bypasses the blood-brain barrier. This method is flexible, fast, and amenable to statistically powerful within-subject experimental designs, making it well-suited for use in genetically diverse animals such as those collected from natural populations. Developing this minimally invasive neurosurgical protocol required 1) refining the anesthesia process, 2) building a custom surgical rig, and 3) determining the normal recovery pattern allowing us to clearly identify warning signs of failure to thrive. Our custom-built surgical rig (publicly available) and optimized anesthetization methods resulted in high (90%) survival rates and quick behavioral recovery. Using this method, we detected changes in aggression from the overexpression of either of two different genes, arginine vasopressin ( AVP ) and monoamine oxidase ( MAOA ), in outbred animals in less than one month. We successfully used multiple promoters tomore »drive expression, allowing for tailored expression profiles through time. In addition, we demonstrate that widely available mammalian plasmids work with this method, lowering the barrier of entry to the technique. By using repeated measures of behavior on the same fish before and after transfection, we were able to drastically reduce the necessary sample size needed to detect significant changes in behavior, making this a viable approach for examining genetic mechanisms underlying complex social behaviors.« less
  3. Macqueen, D (Ed.)
    Abstract While the cost and time for assembling a genome has drastically decreased, it still remains a challenge to assemble a highly contiguous genome. These challenges are rapidly being overcome by the integration of long-read sequencing technologies. Here, we use long-read sequencing to improve the contiguity of the threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) genome, a prominent genetic model species. Using Pacific Biosciences sequencing, we assembled a highly contiguous genome of a freshwater fish from Paxton Lake. Using contigs from this genome, we were able to fill over 76.7% of the gaps in the existing reference genome assembly, improving contiguity over fivefold. Our gap filling approach was highly accurate, validated by 10X Genomics long-distance linked-reads. In addition to closing a majority of gaps, we were able to assemble segments of telomeres and centromeres throughout the genome. This highlights the power of using long sequencing reads to assemble highly repetitive and difficult to assemble regions of genomes. This latest genome build has been released through a newly designed community genome browser that aims to consolidate the growing number of genomics datasets available for the threespine stickleback fish.
  4. Rawls, John F. ; McFall-Ngai, Margaret J. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Commensal microbial communities have immense effects on their vertebrate hosts, contributing to a number of physiological functions, as well as host fitness. In particular, host immunity is strongly linked to microbiota composition through poorly understood bi-directional links. Gene expression may be a potential mediator of these links between microbial communities and host function. However, few studies have investigated connections between microbiota composition and expression of host immune genes in complex systems. Here, we leverage a large study of laboratory-raised fish from the species Gasterosteus aculeatus (three-spined stickleback) to document correlations between gene expression and microbiome composition. First, we examined correlations between microbiome alpha diversity and gene expression. Our results demonstrate robust positive associations between microbial alpha diversity and expression of host immune genes. Next, we examined correlations between host gene expression and abundance of microbial taxa. We identified 15 microbial families that were highly correlated with host gene expression. These families were all tightly correlated with host expression of immune genes and processes, falling into one of three categories—those positively correlated, negatively correlated, and neutrally related to immune processes. Furthermore, we highlight several important immune processes that are commonly associated with the abundance of these taxa, including both macrophagemore »and B cell functions. Further functional characterization of microbial taxa will help disentangle the mechanisms of the correlations described here. In sum, our study supports prevailing hypotheses of intimate links between host immunity and gut microbiome composition. IMPORTANCE Here, we document associations between host gene expression and gut microbiome composition in a nonmammalian vertebrate species. We highlight associations between expression of immune genes and both microbiome diversity and abundance of specific microbial taxa. These findings support other findings from model systems which have suggested that gut microbiome composition and host immunity are intimately linked. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these correlations are truly systemic; the gene expression detailed here was collected from an important fish immune organ (the head kidney) that is anatomically distant from the gut. This emphasizes the systemic impact of connections between gut microbiota and host immune function. Our work is a significant advancement in the understanding of immune-microbiome links in nonmodel, natural systems.« less