The genetic changes underlying the initial steps of animal domestication are still poorly understood. We generated a high-quality reference genome for the rabbit and compared it to resequencing data from populations of wild and domestic rabbits. We identified more than 100 selective sweeps specific to domestic rabbits but only a relatively small number of fixed (or nearly fixed) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for derived alleles. SNPs with marked allele frequency differences between wild and domestic rabbits were enriched for conserved noncoding sites. Enrichment analyses suggest that genes affecting brain and neuronal development have often been targeted during domestication. We propose that because of a truly complex genetic background, tame behavior in rabbits and other domestic animals evolved by shifts in allele frequencies at many loci, rather than by critical changes at only a few domestication loci.
The analysis of introgression of genomic regions between divergent populations provides an excellent opportunity to determine the genetic basis of reproductive isolation during the early stages of speciation. However, hybridization and subsequent gene flow must be relatively common in order to localize individual loci that resist introgression. In this study, we used next-generation sequencing to study genome-wide patterns of genetic differentiation between two hybridizing subspecies of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus algirus and O. c. cuniculus) that are known to undergo high rates of gene exchange. Our primary objective was to identify specific genes or genomic regions that have resisted introgression and are likely to confer reproductive barriers in natural conditions. On the basis of 326,000 polymorphisms, we found low to moderate overall levels of differentiation between subspecies, and fewer than 200 genomic regions dispersed throughout the genome showing high differentiation consistent with a signature of reduced gene flow. Most differentiated regions were smaller than 200 Kb and contained very few genes. Remarkably, 30 regions were each found to contain a single gene, facilitating the identification of candidate genes underlying reproductive isolation. This gene-level resolution yielded several insights into the genetic basis and architecture of reproductive isolation in rabbits. Regions of high differentiation were enriched on the X-chromosome and near centromeres. Genes lying within differentiated regions were often associated with transcription and epigenetic activities, including chromatin organization, regulation of transcription, and DNA binding. Overall, our results from a naturally hybridizing system share important commonalities with hybrid incompatibility genes identified using laboratory crosses in mice and flies, highlighting general mechanisms underlying the maintenance of reproductive barriers.
We present the DNA sequence of 17,367 protein-coding genes in two Neandertals from Spain and Croatia and analyze them together with the genome sequence recently determined from a Neandertal from southern Siberia. Comparisons with present-day humans from Africa, Europe, and Asia reveal that genetic diversity among Neandertals was remarkably low, and that they carried a higher proportion of amino acid-changing (nonsynonymous) alleles inferred to alter protein structure or function than present-day humans. Thus, Neandertals across Eurasia had a smaller long-term effective population than present-day humans. We also identify amino acid substitutions in Neandertals and present-day humans that may underlie phenotypic differences between the two groups. We find that genes involved in skeletal morphology have changed more in the lineage leading to Neandertals than in the ancestral lineage common to archaic and modern humans, whereas genes involved in behavior and pigmentation have changed more on the modern human lineage.
Hominins with morphology similar to present-day humans appear in the fossil record across Eurasia between 40,000 and 50,000 y ago. The genetic relationships between these early modern humans and present-day human populations have not been established. We have extracted DNA from a 40,000-y-old anatomically modern human from Tianyuan Cave outside Beijing, China. Using a highly scalable hybridization enrichment strategy, we determined the DNA sequences of the mitochondrial genome, the entire nonrepetitive portion of chromosome 21 (?30 Mbp), and over 3,000 polymorphic sites across the nuclear genome of this individual. The nuclear DNA sequences determined from this early modern human reveal that the Tianyuan individual derived from a population that was ancestral to many present-day Asians and Native Americans but postdated the divergence of Asians from Europeans. They also show that this individual carried proportions of DNA variants derived from archaic humans similar to present-day people in mainland Asia.
The rapid molecular evolution of reproductive genes is nearly ubiquitous across animals, yet the selective forces and functional targets underlying this divergence remain poorly understood. Humans and closely related species of great apes show strongly divergent mating systems, providing a powerful system to investigate the influence of sperm competition on the evolution of reproductive genes. This is complemented by detailed information on male reproductive biology and unparalleled genomic resources in humans. Here, we have used custom microarrays to capture and sequence 285 genes encoding proteins present in the ejaculate as well as 101 randomly selected control genes in 21 gorillas, 20 chimpanzees, 20 bonobos, and 20 humans. In total, we have generated >25× average genomic coverage per individual for over 1 million target base pairs. Our analyses indicate high levels of evolutionary constraint across much of the ejaculate combined with more rapid evolution of genes involved in immune defense and proteolysis. We do not find evidence for appreciably more positive selection along the lineage leading to bonobos and chimpanzees, although this would be predicted given more intense sperm competition in these species. Rather, the extent of positive and negative selection depended more on the effective population sizes of the species. Thus, general patterns of male reproductive protein evolution among apes and humans depend strongly on gene function but not on inferred differences in the intensity of sperm competition among extant species.
Phytophthora infestans, the cause of potato late blight, is infamous for having triggered the Irish Great Famine in the 1840s. Until the late 1970s, P. infestans diversity outside of its Mexican center of origin was low, and one scenario held that a single strain, US-1, had dominated the global population for 150 years; this was later challenged based on DNA analysis of historical herbarium specimens. We have compared the genomes of 11 herbarium and 15 modern strains. We conclude that the 19th century epidemic was caused by a unique genotype, HERB-1, that persisted for over 50 years. HERB-1 is distinct from all examined modern strains, but it is a close relative of US-1, which replaced it outside of Mexico in the 20th century. We propose that HERB-1 and US-1 emerged from a metapopulation that was established in the early 1800s outside of the species center of diversity. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00731.001.
Technological advances in DNA recovery and sequencing have drastically expanded the scope of genetic analyses of ancient specimens to the extent that full genomic investigations are now feasible and are quickly becoming standard. This trend has important implications for infectious disease research because genomic data from ancient microbes may help to elucidate mechanisms of pathogen evolution and adaptation for emerging and re-emerging infections. Here we report a reconstructed ancient genome of Yersinia pestis at 30-fold average coverage from Black Death victims securely dated to episodes of pestilence-associated mortality in London, England, 1348-1350. Genetic architecture and phylogenetic analysis indicate that the ancient organism is ancestral to most extant strains and sits very close to the ancestral node of all Y. pestis commonly associated with human infection. Temporal estimates suggest that the Black Death of 1347-1351 was the main historical event responsible for the introduction and widespread dissemination of the ancestor to all currently circulating Y. pestis strains pathogenic to humans, and further indicates that contemporary Y. pestis epidemics have their origins in the medieval era. Comparisons against modern genomes reveal no unique derived positions in the medieval organism, indicating that the perceived increased virulence of the disease during the Black Death may not have been due to bacterial phenotype. These findings support the notion that factors other than microbial genetics, such as environment, vector dynamics and host susceptibility, should be at the forefront of epidemiological discussions regarding emerging Y. pestis infections.
It is now possible to perform whole-genome shotgun sequencing as well as capture of specific genomic regions for extinct organisms. However, targeted resequencing of large parts of nuclear genomes has yet to be demonstrated for ancient DNA. Here we show that hybridization capture on microarrays can successfully recover more than a megabase of target regions from Neandertal DNA even in the presence of approximately 99.8% microbial DNA. Using this approach, we have sequenced approximately 14,000 protein-coding positions inferred to have changed on the human lineage since the last common ancestor shared with chimpanzees. By generating the sequence of one Neandertal and 50 present-day humans at these positions, we have identified 88 amino acid substitutions that have become fixed in humans since our divergence from the Neandertals.
Neandertals, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans, lived in large parts of Europe and western Asia before disappearing 30,000 years ago. We present a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of more than 4 billion nucleotides from three individuals. Comparisons of the Neandertal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.
Recent advances in high-thoughput DNA sequencing have made genome-scale analyses of genomes of extinct organisms possible. With these new opportunities come new difficulties in assessing the authenticity of the DNA sequences retrieved. We discuss how these difficulties can be addressed, particularly with regard to analyses of the Neandertal genome. We argue that only direct assays of DNA sequence positions in which Neandertals differ from all contemporary humans can serve as a reliable means to estimate human contamination. Indirect measures, such as the extent of DNA fragmentation, nucleotide misincorporations, or comparison of derived allele frequencies in different fragment size classes, are unreliable. Fortunately, interim approaches based on mtDNA differences between Neandertals and current humans, detection of male contamination through Y chromosomal sequences, and repeated sequencing from the same fossil to detect autosomal contamination allow initial large-scale sequencing of Neandertal genomes. This will result in the discovery of fixed differences in the nuclear genome between Neandertals and current humans that can serve as future direct assays for contamination. For analyses of other fossil hominins, which may become possible in the future, we suggest a similar boot-strap approach in which interim approaches are applied until sufficient data for more definitive direct assays are acquired.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are produced from double-stranded precursors, from which a short duplex is excised. The strand of the duplex that remains more abundant is usually the active form, the miRNA, while steady-state levels of the other strand, the miRNA*, are generally lower. The executive engines of miRNA-directed gene silencing are RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs). During RISC maturation, the miRNA/miRNA* duplex associates with the catalytic subunit, an ARGONAUTE (AGO) protein. Subsequently, the guide strand, which directs gene silencing, is retained, while the passenger strand is degraded. Under certain circumstances, the miRNA*s can be retained as guide strands. miR170 and miR171 are prototypical miRNAs in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) with well-defined targets. We found that the corresponding star molecules, the sequence-identical miR170* and miR171a*, have several features of active miRNAs, such as sequence conservation and AGO1 association. We confirmed that active AGO1-miR171a* complexes are common in Arabidopsis and that they trigger silencing of SU(VAR)3-9 HOMOLOG8, a new miR171a* target that was acquired very recently in the Arabidopsis lineage. Our study demonstrates that each miR171a strand can be loaded onto RISC with separate regulatory outcomes.
The FOXP2 gene is required for normal development of speech and language. By isolating and sequencing FOXP2 genomic DNA fragments from a 49,000-year-old Iberian Neandertal and 50 present-day humans, we have identified substitutions in the gene shared by all or nearly all present-day humans but absent or polymorphic in Neandertals. One such substitution is localized in intron 8 and affects a binding site for the transcription factor POU3F2, which is highly conserved among vertebrates. We find that the derived allele of this site is less efficient than the ancestral allele in activating transcription from a reporter construct. The derived allele also binds less POU3F2 dimers than POU3F2 monomers compared with the ancestral allele. Because the substitution in the POU3F2 binding site is likely to alter the regulation of FOXP2 expression, and because it is localized in a region of the gene associated with a previously described signal of positive selection, it is a plausible candidate for having caused a recent selective sweep in the FOXP2 gene.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNA molecules involved in the regulation of mammalian gene expression. Together with other transcription regulators, miRNAs modulate the expression of genes and thereby potentially contribute to tissue and species diversity. To identify miRNAs that are differentially expressed between tissues and/or species, and the genes regulated by these, we have quantified expression of miRNAs and messenger RNAs in five tissues from multiple human, chimpanzee, and rhesus macaque individuals using high-throughput sequencing. The breadth of this tissue and species data allows us to show that downregulation of target genes by miRNAs is more pronounced between tissues than between species and that downregulation is more pronounced for genes with fewer binding sites for expressed miRNAs. Intriguingly, we find that tissue- and species-specific miRNAs target transcription factor genes (TFs) significantly more often than expected. Through their regulatory effect on transcription factors, miRNAs may therefore exert an indirect influence on a larger proportion of genes than previously thought.
In addition to genome sequencing, accurate functional annotation of genomes is required in order to carry out comparative and evolutionary analyses between species. Among primates, the human genome is the most extensively annotated. Human miRNA gene annotation is based on multiple lines of evidence including evidence for expression as well as prediction of the characteristic hairpin structure. In contrast, most miRNA genes in non-human primates are annotated based on homology without any expression evidence. We have sequenced small-RNA libraries from chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan and rhesus macaque from multiple individuals and tissues. Using patterns of miRNA expression in conjunction with a model of miRNA biogenesis we used these high-throughput sequencing data to identify novel miRNAs in non-human primates.
Several previous comparisons of the human genome with other primate and vertebrate genomes identified genomic regions that are highly conserved in vertebrate evolution but fast-evolving on the human lineage. These human accelerated regions (HARs) may be regions of past adaptive evolution in humans. Alternatively, they may be the result of non-adaptive processes, such as biased gene conversion. We captured and sequenced DNA from a collection of previously published HARs using DNA from an Iberian Neandertal. Combining these new data with shotgun sequence from the Neandertal and Denisova draft genomes, we determine at least one archaic hominin allele for 84% of all positions within HARs. We find that 8% of HAR substitutions are not observed in the archaic hominins and are thus recent in the sense that the derived allele had not come to fixation in the common ancestor of modern humans and archaic hominins. Further, we find that recent substitutions in HARs tend to have come to fixation faster than substitutions elsewhere in the genome and that substitutions in HARs tend to cluster in time, consistent with an episodic rather than a clock-like process underlying HAR evolution. Our catalog of sequence changes in HARs will help prioritize them for functional studies of genomic elements potentially responsible for modern human adaptations.
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