Early methods for estimating divergence times from gene sequence data relied on the assumption of a molecular clock. More sophisticated methods were created to model rate variation and used auto-correlation of rates, local clocks, or the so called "uncorrelated relaxed clock" where substitution rates are assumed to be drawn from a parametric distribution. In the case of Bayesian inference methods the impact of the prior on branching times is not clearly understood, and if the amount of data is limited the posterior could be strongly influenced by the prior.
Yersinia pestis has caused at least three human plague pandemics. The second (Black Death, 14-17th centuries) and third (19-20th centuries) have been genetically characterised, but there is only a limited understanding of the first pandemic, the Plague of Justinian (6-8th centuries). To address this gap, we sequenced and analysed draft genomes of Y pestis obtained from two individuals who died in the first pandemic.
Human infection with avian influenza A(H9N2) virus was identified in Bangladesh in 2011. Surveillance for influenza viruses in apparently healthy poultry in live-bird markets in Bangladesh during 2008-2011 showed that subtype H9N2 viruses are isolated year-round, whereas highly pathogenic subtype H5N1 viruses are co-isolated with subtype H9N2 primarily during the winter months. Phylogenetic analysis of the subtype H9N2 viruses showed that they are reassortants possessing 3 gene segments related to subtype H7N3; the remaining gene segments were from the subtype H9N2 G1 clade. We detected no reassortment with subtype H5N1 viruses. Serologic analyses of subtype H9N2 viruses from chickens revealed antigenic conservation, whereas analyses of viruses from quail showed antigenic drift. Molecular analysis showed that multiple mammalian-specific mutations have become fixed in the subtype H9N2 viruses, including changes in the hemagglutinin, matrix, and polymerase proteins. Our results indicate that these viruses could mutate to be transmissible from birds to mammals, including humans.
Wild birds have been implicated in the emergence of human and livestock influenza. The successful prediction of viral spread and disease emergence, as well as formulation of preparedness plans have been hampered by a critical lack of knowledge of viral movements between different host populations. The patterns of viral spread and subsequent risk posed by wild bird viruses therefore remain unpredictable. Here we analyze genomic data, including 287 newly sequenced avian influenza A virus (AIV) samples isolated over a 34-year period of continuous systematic surveillance of North American migratory birds. We use a Bayesian statistical framework to test hypotheses of viral migration, population structure and patterns of genetic reassortment. Our results reveal that despite the high prevalence of Charadriiformes infected in Delaware Bay this host population does not appear to significantly contribute to the North American AIV diversity sampled in Anseriformes. In contrast, influenza viruses sampled from Anseriformes in Alberta are representative of the AIV diversity circulating in North American Anseriformes. While AIV may be restricted to specific migratory flyways over short time frames, our large-scale analysis showed that the long-term persistence of AIV was independent of bird flyways with migration between populations throughout North America. Analysis of long-term surveillance data provides vital insights to develop appropriately informed predictive models critical for pandemic preparedness and livestock protection.
Influenza A H10N7 virus with a hemagglutinin gene of North American origin was detected in Australian chickens and poultry abattoir workers in New South Wales, Australia, in 2010 and in chickens in Queensland, Australia, on a mixed chicken and domestic duck farm in 2012. We investigated their genomic origins by sequencing full and partial genomes of H10 viruses isolated from wild aquatic birds and poultry in Australia and analyzed them with all available avian influenza virus sequences from Oceania and representative viruses from North America and Eurasia. Our analysis showed that the H10N7 viruses isolated from poultry were similar to those that have been circulating since 2009 in Australian aquatic birds and that their initial transmission into Australia occurred during 2007 and 2008. The H10 viruses that appear to have developed endemicity in Australian wild aquatic birds were derived from several viruses circulating in waterfowl along various flyways. Their hemagglutinin gene was derived from aquatic birds in the western states of the United States, whereas the neuraminidase was closely related to that from viruses previously detected in waterfowl in Japan. The remaining genes were derived from Eurasian avian influenza virus lineages. Our analysis of virological data spanning 40 years in Oceania indicates that the long-term evolutionary dynamics of avian influenza viruses in Australia may be determined by climatic changes. The introduction and long-term persistence of avian influenza virus lineages were observed during periods with increased rainfall, whereas bottlenecks and extinction were observed during phases of widespread decreases in rainfall. These results extend our understanding of factors affecting the dynamics of avian influenza and provide important considerations for surveillance and disease control strategies.
Rate heterogeneity among lineages is a common feature of molecular evolution, and it has long impeded our ability to accurately estimate the age of evolutionary divergence events. The development of relaxed molecular clocks, which model variable substitution rates among lineages, was intended to rectify this problem. Major subtypes of pandemic HIV-1 group M are thought to exemplify closely related lineages with different substitution rates. Here, we report that inferring the time of most recent common ancestor of all these subtypes in a single phylogeny under a single (relaxed) molecular clock produces significantly different dates for many of the subtypes than does analysis of each subtype on its own. We explore various methods to ameliorate this problem. We conclude that current molecular dating methods are inadequate for dealing with this type of substitution rate variation in HIV-1. Through simulation, we show that heterotachy causes root ages to be overestimated.
Adaptive evolution frequently occurs in episodic bursts, localized to a few sites in a gene, and to a small number of lineages in a phylogenetic tree. A popular class of "branch-site" evolutionary models provides a statistical framework to search for evidence of such episodic selection. For computational tractability, current branch-site models unrealistically assume that all branches in the tree can be partitioned a priori into two rigid classes--"foreground" branches that are allowed to undergo diversifying selective bursts and "background" branches that are negatively selected or neutral. We demonstrate that this assumption leads to unacceptably high rates of false positives or false negatives when the evolutionary process along background branches strongly deviates from modeling assumptions. To address this problem, we extend Felsensteins pruning algorithm to allow efficient likelihood computations for models in which variation over branches (and not just sites) is described in the random effects likelihood framework. This enables us to model the process at every branch-site combination as a mixture of three Markov substitution models--our model treats the selective class of every branch at a particular site as an unobserved state that is chosen independently of that at any other branch. When benchmarked on a previously published set of simulated sequences, our method consistently matched or outperformed existing branch-site tests in terms of power and error rates. Using three empirical data sets, previously analyzed for episodic selection, we discuss how modeling assumptions can influence inference in practical situations.
We investigated two mitochondrial genes (cytb and cox1), one plastid gene (tufA), and one nuclear gene (ldh) in blood samples from 12 chimpanzees and two gorillas from Cameroon and one lemur from Madagascar. One gorilla sample is related to Plasmodium falciparum, thus confirming the recently reported presence in gorillas of this parasite. The second gorilla sample is more similar to the recently defined Plasmodium gaboni than to the P. falciparum-Plasmodium reichenowi clade, but distinct from both. Two chimpanzee samples are P. falciparum. A third sample is P. reichenowi and two others are P. gaboni. The other chimpanzee samples are different from those in the ape clade: two are Plasmodium ovale, and one is Plasmodium malariae. That is, we have found three human Plasmodium parasites in chimpanzees. Four chimpanzee samples were mixed: one species was P. reichenowi; the other species was P. gaboni in three samples and P. ovale in the fourth sample. The lemur sample, provisionally named Plasmodium malagasi, is a sister lineage to the large cluster of primate parasites that does not include P. falciparum or ape parasites, suggesting that the falciparum + ape parasite cluster (Laverania clade) may have evolved from a parasite present in hosts not ancestral to the primates. If malignant malaria were eradicated from human populations, chimpanzees, in addition to gorillas, might serve as a reservoir for P. falciparum.
Influenza A virus infects a wide range of hosts including birds, humans, pigs, horses, and other mammals. Because hosts differ in immune system structure and demography, it is therefore expected that host populations leave different imprints on the viral genome. In this study, we investigated the evolutionary trajectory of the main lineages of N1 type neuraminidase (NA) gene sequences of influenza A viruses by estimating their evolutionary rates and the selection pressures exerted upon them. We also estimated the time of emergence of these lineages. The Eurasian (avian-like) and North American (classical) swine lineages, the human (seasonal) and avian H5N1 lineages, and a long persisting avian lineage were studied and compared. Nucleotide substitution rates ranged from 1.9x10(-3) to 4.3x10(-3) substitutions per site per year, with the H5N1 lineage estimated to have the greatest rate. The evolutionary rates of the H1N1 human lineage appeared to be slightly greater after it re-emerged in 1977 than before it disappeared in the 1950s. Comparing across the lineages, substitution rates appeared to correlate with the number of positively selected sites and with the degree of asymmetry of the phylogenetic trees. Some lineages had strongly asymmetric trees, implying repeated genotype replacement and narrow genetic diversity. Positively selected sites were identified in all lineages, with the H5N1 lineage having the largest number. A great number of isolates of the H5N1 lineage were sequenced in a short time period and the phylogeny of the lineage was more symmetric. We speculate that the rate and selection estimations made for this lineage could have been influenced by sampling and may not represent the long-term trends.
The analysis of A/H1N1 and A/H3N2 influenza viruses collected between 2005 and 2008 in Cambodia detected strains resistant to oseltamivir and confirmed widespread resistance to adamantanes. Phylogenetic analyses revealed intrasubtype reassortment, probable reemergence of A/H3N2 viruses in two consecutive seasons, and cocirculation of different lineages in each subtype.
To determine the origin of influenza A virus (H5N1) epizootics in Cambodia, we used maximum-likelihood and Bayesian methods to analyze the genetic sequences of subtype H5N1 strains from Cambodia and neighboring areas. Poultry movements, rather than repeated reintroduction of subtype H5N1 viruses by wild birds, appear to explain virus circulation and perpetuation.
Since the 1970s, the diversity of Plasmodium parasites in African great apes has been neglected. Surprisingly, P. reichenowi, a chimpanzee parasite, is the only such parasite to have been molecularly characterized. This parasite is closely phylogenetically related to P. falciparum, the principal cause of the greatest malaria burden in humans. Studies of malaria parasites from anthropoid primates may provide relevant phylogenetic information, improving our understanding of the origin and evolutionary history of human malaria species. In this study, we screened 130 DNA samples from chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) from Cameroon for Plasmodium infection, using cytochrome b molecular tools. Two chimpanzees from the subspecies Pan t. troglodytes presented single infections with Plasmodium strains molecularly related to the human malaria parasite P. ovale. These chimpanzee parasites and 13 human strains of P. ovale originated from a various sites in Africa and Asia were characterized using cytochrome b and cytochrome c oxidase 1 mitochondrial partial genes and nuclear ldh partial gene. Consistent with previous findings, two genetically distinct types of P. ovale, classical and variant, were observed in the human population from a variety of geographical locations. One chimpanzee Plasmodium strain was genetically identical, on all three markers tested, to variant P. ovale type. The other chimpanzee Plasmodium strain was different from P. ovale strains isolated from humans. This study provides the first evidence of possibility of natural cross-species exchange of P. ovale between humans and chimpanzees of the subspecies Pan t. troglodytes.
Each year, influenza viruses cause epidemics by evading pre-existing humoral immunity through mutations in the major glycoproteins: the haemagglutinin (HA) and the neuraminidase (NA). In 2004, the antigenic evolution of HA of human influenza A (H3N2) viruses was mapped (Smith et al., Science 305, 371-376, 2004) from its introduction in humans in 1968 until 2003. The current study focused on the genetic evolution of NA and compared it with HA using the dataset of Smith and colleagues, updated to the epidemic of the 2009/2010 season. Phylogenetic trees and genetic maps were constructed to visualize the genetic evolution of NA and HA. The results revealed multiple reassortment events over the years. Overall rates of evolutionary change were lower for NA than for HA1 at the nucleotide level. Selection pressures were estimated, revealing an abundance of negatively selected sites and sparse positively selected sites. The differences found between the evolution of NA and HA1 warrant further analysis of the evolution of NA at the phenotypic level, as has been done previously for HA.
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