Reconstructing the origin and evolution of land plants and their algal relatives is a fundamental problem in plant phylogenetics, and is essential for understanding how critical adaptations arose, including the embryo, vascular tissue, seeds, and flowers. Despite advances in molecular systematics, some hypotheses of relationships remain weakly resolved. Inferring deep phylogenies with bouts of rapid diversification can be problematic; however, genome-scale data should significantly increase the number of informative characters for analyses. Recent phylogenomic reconstructions focused on the major divergences of plants have resulted in promising but inconsistent results. One limitation is sparse taxon sampling, likely resulting from the difficulty and cost of data generation. To address this limitation, transcriptome data for 92 streptophyte taxa were generated and analyzed along with 11 published plant genome sequences. Phylogenetic reconstructions were conducted using up to 852 nuclear genes and 1,701,170 aligned sites. Sixty-nine analyses were performed to test the robustness of phylogenetic inferences to permutations of the data matrix or to phylogenetic method, including supermatrix, supertree, and coalescent-based approaches, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods, partitioned and unpartitioned analyses, and amino acid versus DNA alignments. Among other results, we find robust support for a sister-group relationship between land plants and one group of streptophyte green algae, the Zygnematophyceae. Strong and robust support for a clade comprising liverworts and mosses is inconsistent with a widely accepted view of early land plant evolution, and suggests that phylogenetic hypotheses used to understand the evolution of fundamental plant traits should be reevaluated.
Unresolved questions about evolution of the large and diverse legume family include the timing of polyploidy (whole-genome duplication; WGDs) relative to the origin of the major lineages within the Fabaceae and to the origin of symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Previous work has established that a WGD affects most lineages in the Papilionoideae and occurred sometime after the divergence of the papilionoid and mimosoid clades, but the exact timing has been unknown. The history of WGD has also not been established for legume lineages outside the Papilionoideae. We investigated the presence and timing of WGDs in the legumes by querying thousands of phylogenetic trees constructed from transcriptome and genome data from 20 diverse legumes and 17 outgroup species. The timing of duplications in the gene trees indicates that the papilionoid WGD occurred in the common ancestor of all papilionoids. The earliest diverging lineages of the Papilionoideae include both nodulating taxa, such as the genistoids (e.g., lupin), dalbergioids (e.g., peanut), phaseoloids (e.g., beans), and galegoids (=Hologalegina, e.g., clovers), and clades with nonnodulating taxa including Xanthocercis and Cladrastis (evaluated in this study). We also found evidence for several independent WGDs near the base of other major legume lineages, including the Mimosoideae-Cassiinae-Caesalpinieae (MCC), Detarieae, and Cercideae clades. Nodulation is found in the MCC and papilionoid clades, both of which experienced ancestral WGDs. However, there are numerous nonnodulating lineages in both clades, making it unclear whether the phylogenetic distribution of nodulation is due to independent gains or a single origin followed by multiple losses.
Ferns are well known for their shade-dwelling habits. Their ability to thrive under low-light conditions has been linked to the evolution of a novel chimeric photoreceptor--neochrome--that fuses red-sensing phytochrome and blue-sensing phototropin modules into a single gene, thereby optimizing phototropic responses. Despite being implicated in facilitating the diversification of modern ferns, the origin of neochrome has remained a mystery. We present evidence for neochrome in hornworts (a bryophyte lineage) and demonstrate that ferns acquired neochrome from hornworts via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Fern neochromes are nested within hornwort neochromes in our large-scale phylogenetic reconstructions of phototropin and phytochrome gene families. Divergence date estimates further support the HGT hypothesis, with fern and hornwort neochromes diverging 179 Mya, long after the split between the two plant lineages (at least 400 Mya). By analyzing the draft genome of the hornwort Anthoceros punctatus, we also discovered a previously unidentified phototropin gene that likely represents the ancestral lineage of the neochrome phototropin module. Thus, a neochrome originating in hornworts was transferred horizontally to ferns, where it may have played a significant role in the diversification of modern ferns.
Optogenetic tools enable examination of how specific cell types contribute to brain circuit functions. A long-standing question is whether it is possible to independently activate two distinct neural populations in mammalian brain tissue. Such a capability would enable the study of how different synapses or pathways interact to encode information in the brain. Here we describe two channelrhodopsins, Chronos and Chrimson, discovered through sequencing and physiological characterization of opsins from over 100 species of alga. Chrimson's excitation spectrum is red shifted by 45 nm relative to previous channelrhodopsins and can enable experiments in which red light is preferred. We show minimal visual system-mediated behavioral interference when using Chrimson in neurobehavioral studies in Drosophila melanogaster. Chronos has faster kinetics than previous channelrhodopsins yet is effectively more light sensitive. Together these two reagents enable two-color activation of neural spiking and downstream synaptic transmission in independent neural populations without detectable cross-talk in mouse brain slice.
We conducted an unbiased metagenomics survey using plasma from patients with chronic hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis C, autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and patients without liver disease (control). RNA and DNA libraries were sequenced from plasma filtrates enriched in viral particles to catalog virus populations. Hepatitis viruses were readily detected at high coverage in patients with chronic viral hepatitis B and C, but only a limited number of sequences resembling other viruses were found. The exception was a library from a patient diagnosed with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection that contained multiple sequences matching GB virus C (GBV-C). Abundant GBV-C reads were also found in plasma from patients with AIH, whereas Torque teno virus (TTV) was found at high frequency in samples from patients with AIH and NASH. After taxonomic classification of sequences by BLASTn, a substantial fraction in each library, ranging from 35% to 76%, remained unclassified. These unknown sequences were assembled into scaffolds along with virus, phage and endogenous retrovirus sequences and then analyzed by BLASTx against the non-redundant protein database. Nearly the full genome of a heretofore-unknown circovirus was assembled and many scaffolds that encoded proteins with similarity to plant, insect and mammalian viruses. The presence of this novel circovirus was confirmed by PCR. BLASTx also identified many polypeptides resembling nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDV) proteins. We re-evaluated these alignments with a profile hidden Markov method, HHblits, and observed inconsistencies in the target proteins reported by the different algorithms. This suggests that sequence alignments are insufficient to identify NCLDV proteins, especially when these alignments are only to small portions of the target protein. Nevertheless, we have now established a reliable protocol for the identification of viruses in plasma that can also be adapted to other patient samples such as urine, bile, saliva and other body fluids.
It has been suggested that microtubules and other cytoskeletal filaments may act as electrical transmission lines. An electrical circuit model of the microtubule is constructed incorporating features of its cylindrical structure with nanopores in its walls. This model is used to study how ionic conductance along the lumen is affected by flux through the nanopores, both with and without an external potential applied across its two ends. Based on the results of Brownian dynamics simulations, the nanopores were found to have asymmetric inner and outer conductances, manifested as nonlinear IV curves. Our simulations indicate that a combination of this asymmetry and an internal voltage source arising from the motion of the C-terminal tails causes cations to be pumped across the microtubule wall and propagate in both directions down the microtubule through the lumen, returning to the bulk solution through its open ends. This effect is demonstrated to add directly to the longitudinal current through the lumen resulting from an external voltage source applied across the two ends of the microtubule. The predicted persistent currents directed through the microtubule wall and along the lumen could be significant in directing the dissipation of weak, endogenous potential gradients toward one end of the microtubule within the cellular environment.
Next-generation sequencing plays a central role in the characterization and quantification of transcriptomes. Although numerous metrics are purported to quantify the quality of RNA, there have been no large-scale empirical evaluations of the major determinants of sequencing success. We used a combination of existing and newly developed methods to isolate total RNA from 1115 samples from 695 plant species in 324 families, which represents >900 million years of phylogenetic diversity from green algae through flowering plants, including many plants of economic importance. We then sequenced 629 of these samples on Illumina GAIIx and HiSeq platforms and performed a large comparative analysis to identify predictors of RNA quality and the diversity of putative genes (scaffolds) expressed within samples. Tissue types (e.g., leaf vs. flower) varied in RNA quality, sequencing depth and the number of scaffolds. Tissue age also influenced RNA quality but not the number of scaffolds ? 1000 bp. Overall, 36% of the variation in the number of scaffolds was explained by metrics of RNA integrity (RIN score), RNA purity (OD 260/230), sequencing platform (GAIIx vs HiSeq) and the amount of total RNA used for sequencing. However, our results show that the most commonly used measures of RNA quality (e.g., RIN) are weak predictors of the number of scaffolds because Illumina sequencing is robust to variation in RNA quality. These results provide novel insight into the methods that are most important in isolating high quality RNA for sequencing and assembling plant transcriptomes. The methods and recommendations provided here could increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of RNA sequencing for individual labs and genome centers.
The elderly are at an increased risk for being diagnosed with diabetes. While previous studies have examined technique errors when a patient used his or her current blood glucometer or a single novel glucometer, no study has measured errors as a patient transferred to using a second, novel experimental glucometer. Results support findings that older adults perform more slowly and less accurately than younger adults when transferring between pieces of equipment. Implications for future blood glucometer design and training are discussed.
Although it is agreed that a major polyploidy event, gamma, occurred within the eudicots, the phylogenetic placement of the event remains unclear.
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