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Narratives of human evolution have focused on cortical expansion and increases in brain size relative to body size, but considered that changes in life history, such as in age at sexual maturity and thus the extent of childhood and maternal dependence, or maximal longevity, are evolved features that appeared as consequences of selection for increased brain size, or increased cognitive abilities that decrease mortality rates, or due to selection for grandmotherly contribution to feeding the young. Here I build on my recent finding that slower life histories universally accompany increased numbers of cortical neurons across warm-blooded species to propose a simpler framework for human evolution: that slower development to sexual maturity and increased post-maturity longevity are features that do not require selection, but rather inevitably and immediately accompany evolutionary increases in numbers of cortical neurons, thus fostering human social interactions and cultural and technological evolution as generational overlap increases.
© 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Immunity genes have repeatedly experienced natural selection during mammalian evolution. Galectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that regulate diverse immune responses, including maternal-fetal immune tolerance in placental pregnancy. Seven human galectins, four conserved across vertebrates and three specific to primates, are involved in placental development. To comprehensively study the molecular evolution of these galectins, both across mammals and within humans, we conducted a series of between- and within-species evolutionary analyses. By examining patterns of sequence evolution between species, we found that primate-specific galectins showed uniformly high substitution rates, whereas two of the four other galectins experienced accelerated evolution in primates. By examining human population genomic variation, we found that galectin genes and variants, including variants previously linked to immune diseases, showed signatures of recent positive selection in specific human populations. By examining one nonsynonymous variant in Galectin-8 previously associated with autoimmune diseases, we further discovered that it is tightly linked to three other nonsynonymous variants; surprisingly, the global frequency of this four-variant haplotype is ∼50%. To begin understanding the impact of this major haplotype on Galectin-8 protein structure, we modeled its 3D protein structure and found that it differed substantially from the reference protein structure. These results suggest that placentally expressed galectins experienced both ancient and more recent selection in a lineage- and population-specific manner. Furthermore, our discovery that the major Galectin-8 haplotype is structurally distinct from and more commonly found than the reference haplotype illustrates the significance of understanding the evolutionary processes that sculpted variants associated with human genetic disease.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Novel regulatory elements that enabled expression of pre-existing immune genes in reproductive tissues and novel immune genes with pregnancy-specific roles in eutherians have shaped the evolution of mammalian pregnancy by facilitating the emergence of novel mechanisms for immune regulation over its course. Trade-offs arising from conflicting fitness effects on reproduction and host defenses have further influenced the patterns of genetic variation of these genes. These three mechanisms (novel regulatory elements, novel immune genes, and trade-offs) played a pivotal role in refining the regulation of maternal immune systems during pregnancy in eutherians, likely facilitating the establishment of prolonged direct maternal-fetal contact in eutherians without causing immunological rejection of the genetically distinct fetus.
© 2019 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.
BACKGROUND - Associations between traits are prevalent in nature, occurring across a diverse range of taxa and traits. Individual traits may co-evolve with one other, and these correlations can be driven by factors intrinsic or extrinsic to an organism. However, few studies, especially in microbes, have simultaneously investigated both across a broad taxonomic range. Here we quantify pairwise associations among 48 traits across 784 diverse yeast species of the ancient budding yeast subphylum Saccharomycotina, assessing the effects of phylogenetic history, genetics, and ecology.
RESULTS - We find extensive negative (traits that tend to not occur together) and positive (traits that tend to co-occur) pairwise associations among traits, as well as between traits and environments. These associations can largely be explained by the biological properties of the traits, such as overlapping biochemical pathways. The isolation environments of the yeasts explain a minor but significant component of the variance, while phylogeny (the retention of ancestral traits in descendant species) plays an even more limited role. Positive correlations are pervasive among carbon utilization traits and track with chemical structures (e.g., glucosides and sugar alcohols) and metabolic pathways, suggesting a molecular basis for the presence of suites of traits. In several cases, characterized genes from model organisms suggest that enzyme promiscuity and overlapping biochemical pathways are likely mechanisms to explain these macroevolutionary trends. Interestingly, fermentation traits are negatively correlated with the utilization of pentose sugars, which are major components of the plant biomass degraded by fungi and present major bottlenecks to the production of cellulosic biofuels. Finally, we show that mammalian pathogenic and commensal yeasts have a suite of traits that includes growth at high temperature and, surprisingly, the utilization of a narrowed panel of carbon sources.
CONCLUSIONS - These results demonstrate how both intrinsic physiological factors and extrinsic ecological factors drive the distribution of traits present in diverse organisms across macroevolutionary timescales.
Methylation of histone H3 lysine 36 (H3K36me) by yeast Set2 is critical for the maintenance of chromatin structure and transcriptional fidelity. However, we do not know the full range of Set2/H3K36me functions or the scope of mechanisms that regulate Set2-dependent H3K36 methylation. Here, we show that the APC/CCDC20 complex regulates Set2 protein abundance during the cell cycle. Significantly, absence of Set2-mediated H3K36me causes a loss of cell cycle control and pronounced defects in the transcriptional fidelity of cell cycle regulatory genes, a class of genes that are generally long, hence highly dependent on Set2/H3K36me for their transcriptional fidelity. Because APC/C also controls human SETD2, and SETD2 likewise regulates cell cycle progression, our data imply an evolutionarily conserved cell cycle function for Set2/SETD2 that may explain why recurrent mutations of SETD2 contribute to human disease.
Filamentous fungi produce a diverse array of secondary metabolites (SMs) critical for defense, virulence, and communication. The metabolic pathways that produce SMs are found in contiguous gene clusters in fungal genomes, an atypical arrangement for metabolic pathways in other eukaryotes. Comparative studies of filamentous fungal species have shown that SM gene clusters are often either highly divergent or uniquely present in one or a handful of species, hampering efforts to determine the genetic basis and evolutionary drivers of SM gene cluster divergence. Here, we examined SM variation in 66 cosmopolitan strains of a single species, the opportunistic human pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Investigation of genome-wide within-species variation revealed 5 general types of variation in SM gene clusters: nonfunctional gene polymorphisms; gene gain and loss polymorphisms; whole cluster gain and loss polymorphisms; allelic polymorphisms, in which different alleles corresponded to distinct, nonhomologous clusters; and location polymorphisms, in which a cluster was found to differ in its genomic location across strains. These polymorphisms affect the function of representative A. fumigatus SM gene clusters, such as those involved in the production of gliotoxin, fumigaclavine, and helvolic acid as well as the function of clusters with undefined products. In addition to enabling the identification of polymorphisms, the detection of which requires extensive genome-wide synteny conservation (e.g., mobile gene clusters and nonhomologous cluster alleles), our approach also implicated multiple underlying genetic drivers, including point mutations, recombination, and genomic deletion and insertion events as well as horizontal gene transfer from distant fungi. Finally, most of the variants that we uncover within A. fumigatus have been previously hypothesized to contribute to SM gene cluster diversity across entire fungal classes and phyla. We suggest that the drivers of genetic diversity operating within a fungal species shown here are sufficient to explain SM cluster macroevolutionary patterns.
The origin of animals, one of the major transitions in evolution, remains mysterious. Many key aspects of animal evolution can be reconstructed by comparing living species within a robust phylogenetic framework. However, uncertainty remains regarding the evolutionary relationships between two ancient animal lineages - sponges and ctenophores - and the remaining animal phyla. Comparative morphology and some phylogenomic analyses support the view that sponges represent the sister lineage to the rest of the animals, while other phylogenomic analyses support ctenophores, a phylum of carnivorous, gelatinous marine organisms, as the sister lineage. Here, we explore why different studies yield different answers and discuss the implications of the two alternative hypotheses for understanding the origin of animals. Reconstruction of ancient evolutionary radiations is devilishly difficult and will likely require broader sampling of sponge and ctenophore genomes, improved analytical strategies and critical analyses of the phylogenetic distribution and molecular mechanisms underlying apparently conserved traits. Rather than staking out positions in favor of the ctenophores-sister or the sponges-sister hypothesis, we submit that research programs aimed at understanding the biology of the first animals should instead embrace the uncertainty surrounding early animal evolution in their experimental designs.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Transposable element (TE)-derived sequences make up approximately half of most mammalian genomes, and many TEs have been co-opted into gene regulatory elements. However, we lack a comprehensive tissue- and genome-wide understanding of how and when TEs gain regulatory activity in their hosts. We evaluated the prevalence of TE-derived DNA in enhancers and promoters across hundreds of human and mouse cell lines and primary tissues. Promoters are significantly depleted of TEs in all tissues compared with their overall prevalence in the genome (P < 0.001); enhancers are also depleted of TEs, though not as strongly as promoters. The degree of enhancer depletion also varies across contexts (1.5-3×), with reproductive and immune cells showing the highest levels of TE regulatory activity in humans. Overall, in spite of the regulatory potential of many TE sequences, they are significantly less active in gene regulation than expected from their prevalence. TE age is predictive of the likelihood of enhancer activity; TEs originating before the divergence of amniotes are 9.2 times more likely to have enhancer activity than TEs that integrated in great apes. Context-specific enhancers are more likely to be TE-derived than enhancers active in multiple tissues, and young TEs are more likely to overlap context-specific enhancers than old TEs (86% vs. 47%). Once TEs obtain enhancer activity in the host, they have similar functional dynamics to one another and non-TE-derived enhancers, likely driven by pleiotropic constraints. However, a few TE families, most notably endogenous retroviruses, have greater regulatory potential. Our observations suggest a model of regulatory co-option in which TE-derived sequences are initially repressed, after which a small fraction obtains context-specific enhancer activity, with further gains subject to pleiotropic constraints.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.
The evolutionary origins of the hypoxia-sensitive cells that trigger amniote respiratory reflexes - carotid body glomus cells, and 'pulmonary neuroendocrine cells' (PNECs) - are obscure. Homology has been proposed between glomus cells, which are neural crest-derived, and the hypoxia-sensitive 'neuroepithelial cells' (NECs) of fish gills, whose embryonic origin is unknown. NECs have also been likened to PNECs, which differentiate in situ within lung airway epithelia. Using genetic lineage-tracing and neural crest-deficient mutants in zebrafish, and physical fate-mapping in frog and lamprey, we find that NECs are not neural crest-derived, but endoderm-derived, like PNECs, whose endodermal origin we confirm. We discover neural crest-derived catecholaminergic cells associated with zebrafish pharyngeal arch blood vessels, and propose a new model for amniote hypoxia-sensitive cell evolution: endoderm-derived NECs were retained as PNECs, while the carotid body evolved via the aggregation of neural crest-derived catecholaminergic (chromaffin) cells already associated with blood vessels in anamniote pharyngeal arches.
Near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, populations of the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) were distributed across parts of three continents, from western Europe and northern Asia through Beringia to the Atlantic seaboard of North America. Nonetheless, questions about the connectivity and temporal continuity of mammoth populations and species remain unanswered. We use a combination of targeted enrichment and high-throughput sequencing to assemble and interpret a data set of 143 mammoth mitochondrial genomes, sampled from fossils recovered from across their Holarctic range. Our dataset includes 54 previously unpublished mitochondrial genomes and significantly increases the coverage of the Eurasian range of the species. The resulting global phylogeny confirms that the Late Pleistocene mammoth population comprised three distinct mitochondrial lineages that began to diverge ~1.0-2.0 million years ago (Ma). We also find that mammoth mitochondrial lineages were strongly geographically partitioned throughout the Pleistocene. In combination, our genetic results and the pattern of morphological variation in time and space suggest that male-mediated gene flow, rather than large-scale dispersals, was important in the Pleistocene evolutionary history of mammoths.