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  1. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Cytonuclear coordination between biparental-nuclear genomes and uniparental-cytoplasmic organellar genomes in plants is often resolved by genetic and transcriptional cytonuclear responses. Whether this mechanism also acts in allopolyploid members of other kingdoms is not clear. Additionally, cytonuclear coordination of interleaved allopolyploid cells/individuals within the same population is underexplored. The yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus provides the opportunity to explore cytonuclear coevolution during different growth stages and from novel dimensions. Using S. pastorianus cells from multiple growth stages in the same environment, we show that nuclear mitochondria-targeted genes have undergone both asymmetric gene conversion and growth stage-specific biased expression favoring genes from the mitochondrial genome donor (Saccharomyces eubayanus). Our results suggest that cytonuclear coordination in allopolyploid lager yeast species entails an orchestrated and compensatory genetic and transcriptional evolutionary regulatory shift. The common as well as unique properties of cytonuclear coordination underlying allopolyploidy between unicellular yeasts and higher plants offers novel insights into mechanisms of cytonuclear evolution associated with allopolyploid speciation.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  2. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Chromatin configuration is highly dynamic during embryonic development in animals, exerting an important point of control in transcriptional regulation. Yet there exists remarkably little information about the role of evolutionary changes in chromatin configuration to the evolution of gene expression and organismal traits. Genome-wide assays of chromatin configuration, coupled with whole-genome alignments, can help address this gap in knowledge in several ways. In this study we present a comparative analysis of regulatory element sequences and accessibility throughout embryogenesis in three sea urchin species with divergent life histories: a lecithotroph Heliocidaris erythrogramma, a closely related planktotroph H. tuberculata, and a distantly related planktotroph Lytechinus variegatus. We identified distinct epigenetic and mutational signatures of evolutionary modifications to the function of putative cis-regulatory elements in H. erythrogramma that have accumulated nonuniformly throughout the genome, suggesting selection, rather than drift, underlies many modifications associated with the derived life history. Specifically, regulatory elements composing the sea urchin developmental gene regulatory network are enriched for signatures of positive selection and accessibility changes which may function to alter binding affinity and access of developmental transcription factors to these sites. Furthermore, regulatory element changes often correlate with divergent expression patterns of genes involved in cell type specification,more »morphogenesis, and development of other derived traits, suggesting these evolutionary modifications have been consequential for phenotypic evolution in H. erythrogramma. Collectively, our results demonstrate that selective pressures imposed by changes in developmental life history rapidly reshape the cis-regulatory landscape of core developmental genes to generate novel traits and embryonic programs.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  3. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Whole-genome duplications (WGDs) have occurred in many eukaryotic lineages. However, the underlying evolutionary forces and molecular mechanisms responsible for the long-term retention of gene duplicates created by WGDs are not well understood. We employ a population-genomic approach to understand the selective forces acting on paralogs and investigate ongoing duplicate-gene loss in multiple species of Paramecium that share an ancient WGD. We show that mutations that abolish protein function are more likely to be segregating in retained WGD paralogs than in single-copy genes, most likely because of ongoing nonfunctionalization post-WGD. This relaxation of purifying selection occurs in only one WGD paralog, accompanied by the gradual fixation of nonsynonymous mutations and reduction in levels of expression, and occurs over a long period of evolutionary time, “marking” one locus for future loss. Concordantly, the fitness effects of new nonsynonymous mutations and frameshift-causing indels are significantly more deleterious in the highly expressed copy compared with their paralogs with lower expression. Our results provide a novel mechanistic model of gene duplicate loss following WGDs, wherein selection acts on the sum of functional activity of both duplicate genes, allowing the two to wander in expression and functional space, until one duplicate locus eventually degenerates enoughmore »in functional efficiency or expression that its contribution to total activity is too insignificant to be retained by purifying selection. Retention of duplicates by such mechanisms predicts long times to duplicate-gene loss, which should not be falsely attributed to retention due to gain/change in function.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  4. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Genes involved in spermatogenesis tend to evolve rapidly, but we lack a clear understanding of how protein sequences and patterns of gene expression evolve across this complex developmental process. We used fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to generate expression data for early (meiotic) and late (postmeiotic) cell types across 13 inbred strains of mice (Mus) spanning ∼7 My of evolution. We used these comparative developmental data to investigate the evolution of lineage-specific expression, protein-coding sequences, and expression levels. We found increased lineage specificity and more rapid protein-coding and expression divergence during late spermatogenesis, suggesting that signatures of rapid testis molecular evolution are punctuated across sperm development. Despite strong overall developmental parallels in these components of molecular evolution, protein and expression divergences were only weakly correlated across genes. We detected more rapid protein evolution on the X chromosome relative to the autosomes, whereas X-linked gene expression tended to be relatively more conserved likely reflecting chromosome-specific regulatory constraints. Using allele-specific FACS expression data from crosses between four strains, we found that the relative contributions of different regulatory mechanisms also differed between cell types. Genes showing cis-regulatory changes were more common late in spermatogenesis, and tended to be associated with larger differences inmore »expression levels and greater expression divergence between species. In contrast, genes with trans-acting changes were more common early and tended to be more conserved across species. Our findings advance understanding of gene evolution across spermatogenesis and underscore the fundamental importance of developmental context in molecular evolutionary studies.« less
  5. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Recent pangenome studies have revealed a large fraction of the gene content within a species exhibits presence-absence variation (PAV). However, coding regions alone provide an incomplete assessment of functional genomic sequence variation at the species level. Little to no attention has been paid to noncoding regulatory regions in pangenome studies, though these sequences directly modulate gene expression and phenotype. To uncover regulatory genetic variation, we generated chromosome-scale genome assemblies for thirty Arabidopsis thaliana accessions from multiple distinct habitats and characterized species level variation in Conserved Noncoding Sequences (CNS). Our analyses uncovered not only PAV and positional variation (PosV) but that diversity in CNS is non-random, with variants shared across different accessions. Using evolutionary analyses and chromatin accessibility data, we provide further evidence supporting roles for conserved and variable CNS in gene regulation. Additionally, our data suggests transposable elements contribute to CNS variation. Characterizing species-level diversity in all functional genomic sequences may later uncover previously unknown mechanistic links between genotype and phenotype.
  6. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Investigating closely related species that rapidly evolved divergent feeding morphology is a powerful approach to identify genetic variation underlying variation in complex traits. This can also lead to the discovery of novel candidate genes influencing natural and clinical variation in human craniofacial phenotypes. We combined whole-genome resequencing of 258 individuals with 50 transcriptomes to identify candidate cis-acting genetic variation underlying rapidly evolving craniofacial phenotypes within an adaptive radiation of Cyprinodon pupfishes. This radiation consists of a dietary generalist species and two derived trophic niche specialists—a molluscivore and a scale-eating species. Despite extensive morphological divergence, these species only diverged 10 kya and produce fertile hybrids in the laboratory. Out of 9.3 million genome-wide SNPs and 80,012 structural variants, we found very few alleles fixed between species—only 157 SNPs and 87 deletions. Comparing gene expression across 38 purebred F1 offspring sampled at three early developmental stages, we identified 17 fixed variants within 10 kb of 12 genes that were highly differentially expressed between species. By measuring allele-specific expression in F1 hybrids from multiple crosses, we found that the majority of expression divergence between species was explained by trans-regulatory mechanisms. We also found strong evidence for two cis-regulatory alleles affecting expression divergencemore »of two genes with putative effects on skeletal development (dync2li1 and pycr3). These results suggest that SNPs and structural variants contribute to the evolution of novel traits and highlight the utility of the San Salvador Island pupfish system as an evolutionary model for craniofacial development.« less
  7. Wittkopp, Patricia (Ed.)
    Abstract Telomerase RNA (TR) is a noncoding RNA essential for the function of telomerase ribonucleoprotein. TRs from vertebrates, fungi, ciliates, and plants exhibit extreme diversity in size, sequence, secondary structure, and biogenesis pathway. However, the evolutionary pathways leading to such unusual diversity among eukaryotic kingdoms remain elusive. Within the metazoan kingdom, the study of TR has been limited to vertebrates and echinoderms. To understand the origin and evolution of TR across the animal kingdom, we employed a phylogeny-guided, structure-based bioinformatics approach to identify 82 novel TRs from eight previously unexplored metazoan phyla, including the basal-branching sponges. Synthetic TRs from two representative species, a hemichordate and a mollusk, reconstitute active telomerase in vitro with their corresponding telomerase reverse transcriptase components, confirming that they are authentic TRs. Comparative analysis shows that three functional domains, template-pseudoknot (T-PK), CR4/5, and box H/ACA, are conserved between vertebrate and the basal metazoan lineages, indicating a monophyletic origin of the animal TRs with a snoRNA-related biogenesis mechanism. Nonetheless, TRs along separate animal lineages evolved with divergent structural elements in the T-PK and CR4/5 domains. For example, TRs from echinoderms and protostomes lack the canonical CR4/5 and have independently evolved functionally equivalent domains with different secondary structures. Inmore »the T-PK domain, a P1.1 stem common in most metazoan clades defines the template boundary, which is replaced by a P1-defined boundary in vertebrates. This study provides unprecedented insight into the divergent evolution of detailed TR secondary structures across broad metazoan lineages, revealing ancestral and later-diversified elements.« less