Syncytins are fusogenic envelope (env) genes of retroviral origin that have been captured for a function in placentation. Syncytins have been identified in Euarchontoglires (primates, rodents, Leporidae) and Laurasiatheria (Carnivora, ruminants) placental mammals. Here, we searched for similar genes in species that retained characteristic features of primitive mammals, namely the Malagasy and mainland African Tenrecidae. They belong to the superorder Afrotheria, an early lineage that diverged from Euarchotonglires and Laurasiatheria 100 Mya, during the Cretaceous terrestrial revolution. An in silico search for env genes with full coding capacity within a Tenrecidae genome identified several candidates, with one displaying placenta-specific expression as revealed by RT-PCR analysis of a large panel of Setifer setosus tissues. Cloning of this endogenous retroviral env gene demonstrated fusogenicity in an ex vivo cell-cell fusion assay on a panel of mammalian cells. Refined analysis of placental architecture and ultrastructure combined with in situ hybridization demonstrated specific expression of the gene in multinucleate cellular masses and layers at the materno-fetal interface, consistent with a role in syncytium formation. This gene, which we named "syncytin-Ten1," is conserved among Tenrecidae, with evidence of purifying selection and conservation of fusogenic activity. To our knowledge, it is the first syncytin identified to date within the ancestrally diverged Afrotheria superorder.
The African pygmy mice (Mus, subgenus Nannomys) are a group of small-sized rodents that occur widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Chromosomal diversity within this group is extensive and numerous studies have shown the karyotype to be a useful taxonomic marker. This is pertinent to Mus minutoides populations in South Africa where two different cytotypes (2n?=?34, 2n?=?18) and a modification of the sex determination system (due to the presence of a Y chromosome in some females) have been recorded. This chromosomal diversity is mirrored by mitochondrial DNA sequences that unambiguously discriminate among the various pygmy mouse species and, importantly, the different M. minutoides cytotypes. However, the geographic delimitation and taxonomy of pygmy mice populations in South Africa is poorly understood. To address this, tissue samples of M. minutoides were taken and analysed from specimens housed in six South African museum collections. Partial cytochrome b sequences (400 pb) were successfully amplified from 44% of the 154 samples processed. Two species were identified: M. indutus and M. minutoides. The sequences of the M. indutus samples provided two unexpected features: i) nuclear copies of the cytochrome b gene were detected in many specimens, and ii) the range of this species was found to extend considerably further south than is presently understood. The phylogenetic analysis of the M. minutoides samples revealed two well-supported clades: a Southern clade which included the two chromosomal groups previously identified in South Africa, and an Eastern clade that extended from Eastern Africa into South Africa. Congruent molecular phylogenetic and chromosomal datasets permitted the tentative chromosomal assignments of museum specimens within the different clades as well as the correction of misidentified museum specimens.
Five families are traditionally recognized within higher ruminants (Pecora): Bovidae, Moschidae, Cervidae, Giraffidae and Antilocapridae. The phylogenetic relationships of Antilocapridae and Giraffidae within Pecora are, however, uncertain. While numerous fusions (mostly Robertsonian) have accumulated in the giraffes karyotype (Giraffa camelopardalis, Giraffidae, 2n = 30), that of the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana, Antilocapridae, 2n = 58) is very similar to the hypothesised pecoran ancestral state (2n = 58). We examined the chromosomal rearrangements of two species, the giraffe and pronghorn, using a combination of fluorescence in situ hybridization painting probes and BAC clones derived from cattle (Bos taurus, Bovidae). Our data place Moschus (Moschidae) closer to Bovidae than Cervidae. Although the alternative (i.e., Moschidae?+?Cervidae as sister groups) could not be discounted in recent sequence-based analyses, cytogenetics bolsters conclusions that the former is more likely. Additionally, DNA sequences were isolated from the centromeric regions of both species and compared. Analysis of cenDNA show that unlike the pronghorn, the centromeres of the giraffe are probably organized in a more complex fashion comprising different repetitive sequences specific to single chromosomal pairs or groups of chromosomes. The distribution of nucleolar organiser region (NOR) sites, often an effective phylogenetic marker, were also examined in the two species. In the giraffe, the position of NORs seems to be autapomorphic since similar localizations have not been found in other species within Pecora.
Recombination allows faithful chromosomal segregation during meiosis and contributes to the production of new heritable allelic variants that are essential for the maintenance of genetic diversity. Therefore, an appreciation of how this variation is created and maintained is of critical importance to our understanding of biodiversity and evolutionary change. Here, we analysed the recombination features from species representing the major eutherian taxonomic groups Afrotheria, Rodentia, Primates and Carnivora to better understand the dynamics of mammalian recombination. Our results suggest a phylogenetic component in recombination rates (RRs), which appears to be directional, strongly punctuated and subject to selection. Species that diversified earlier in the evolutionary tree have lower RRs than those from more derived phylogenetic branches. Furthermore, chromosome-specific recombination maps in distantly related taxa show that crossover interference is especially weak in the species with highest RRs detected thus far, the tiger. This is the first example of a mammalian species exhibiting such low levels of crossover interference, highlighting the uniqueness of this species and its relevance for the study of the mechanisms controlling crossover formation, distribution and resolution.
Previous analyses of relations, divergence times, and diversification patterns among extant mammalian families have relied on supertree methods and local molecular clocks. We constructed a molecular supermatrix for mammalian families and analyzed these data with likelihood-based methods and relaxed molecular clocks. Phylogenetic analyses resulted in a robust phylogeny with better resolution than phylogenies from supertree methods. Relaxed clock analyses support the long-fuse model of diversification and highlight the importance of including multiple fossil calibrations that are spread across the tree. Molecular time trees and diversification analyses suggest important roles for the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution and Cretaceous-Paleogene (KPg) mass extinction in opening up ecospace that promoted interordinal and intraordinal diversification, respectively. By contrast, diversification analyses provide no support for the hypothesis concerning the delayed rise of present-day mammals during the Eocene Period.
We have previously demonstrated that the Y-specific ampliconic fertility genes DAZ (deleted in azoospermia) and CDY (chromodomain protein Y) varied with respect to copy number and position among chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In comparison, seven Y-chromosomal lineages of the bonobo (Pan paniscus), the chimpanzees closest living relative, showed no variation. We extend our earlier comparative investigation to include an analysis of the intraspecific variation of these genes in gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), and examine the resulting patterns in the light of the species markedly different social and mating behaviors.
Sex chromosome dosage compensation in both eutherian and marsupial mammals is achieved by X chromosome inactivation (XCI)--transcriptional repression that silences one of the two X chromosomes in the somatic cells of females. We recently used RNA fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) to show, in individual nuclei, that marsupial X inactivation (in the absence of XIST) occurs on a gene-by-gene basis, and that escape from inactivation is stochastic and independent of gene location. In the absence of similar data from fibroblast cell lines of eutherian representatives, a meaningful comparison is lacking. We therefore used RNA-FISH to examine XCI in fibroblast cell lines obtained from three distantly related eutherian model species: African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana), mouse (Mus musculus) and human (Homo sapiens). We show that, unlike the orthologous marsupial X, inactivation of the X conserved region (XCR) in eutherians generally is complete. Two-colour RNA-FISH on female human, mouse and elephant interphase nuclei showed that XCR loci have monoallelic expression in almost all nuclei. However, we found that many loci located in the evolutionarily distinct recently added region (XAR) displayed reproducible locus-specific frequencies of nuclei with either one or two active X alleles. We propose that marsupial XCI retains features of an ancient incomplete silencing mechanism that was augmented by the evolution of the XIST gene that progressively stabilized the eutherian XCR. In contrast, the recently added region of the eutherian X displays an incomplete inactivation profile similar to that observed on the evolutionarily distinct marsupial X and the independently evolved monotreme X chromosomes.
The Rattini (Muridae, Murinae) includes the biologically important model species Rattus norvegicus (RNO) and represents a group of rodents that are of clinical, agricultural and epidemiological importance. We present a comparative molecular cytogenetic investigation of ten Rattini species representative of the genera Maxomys, Leopoldamys, Niviventer, Berylmys, Bandicota and Rattus using chromosome banding, cross-species painting (Zoo-fluorescent in situ hybridization or FISH) and BAC-FISH mapping. Our results show that these taxa are characterised by slow to moderate rates of chromosome evolution that contrasts with the extensive chromosome restructuring identified in most other murid rodents, particularly the mouse lineage. This extends to genomic features such as NOR location (for example, NORs on RNO 3 are present on the corresponding chromosomes in all species except Bandicota savilei and Niviventer fulvescens, and the NORs on RNO 10 are conserved in all Rattini with the exception of Rattus). The satellite I DNA family detected and characterised herein appears to be taxon (Rattus) specific, and of recent origin (consistent with a feedback model of satellite evolution). BAC-mapping using clones that span regions responsible for the morphological variability exhibited by RNO 1, 12 and 13 (acrocentric/submetacentric) and their orthologues in Rattus species, demonstrated that the differences are most likely due to pericentric inversions as exemplified by data on Rattus tanezumi. Chromosomal characters detected using R. norvegicus and Maxomys surifer whole chromosome painting probes were mapped to a consensus sequence-based phylogenetic tree thus allowing an objective assessment of ancestral states for the reconstruction of the putative Rattini ancestral karyotype. This is thought to have comprised 46 chromosomes that, with the exception of a single pair of metacentric autosomes, were acrocentric in morphology.
Robertsonian chromosomal fusions predominate in shaping the genomes of many species of Bovidae. These and other cytogenetic data (from 52 taxa representing 51 species and 9 tribes of Bovidae) were (i) examined for usefulness in defining phylogenetic relationships and (ii) subsequently mapped to a consensus tree based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA gene sequences with divergence dates of the corresponding species calculated from cytochrome b sequences. This permitted persistence time estimates for the various rearrangements. The chromosomal data resulted in an unsupported higher-level topology, but with recognition of the monophyly of some genera and tribes within Bovidae. The distribution and temporal spread of character states on the species tree is suggestive of a restricted role for hemiplasy (the retention of an ancestral chromosomal polymorphism through multiple speciation events) and for introgression (resulting from secondary contact among taxa), processes that can potentially lead to phylogenetic discordance. We conclude that the most probable interpretation for these data is that genuine karyotypic homoplasy predominates, but that hemiplasy (and/or introgression) is a realistic hypothesis for the observed patterns of several shared characters in Bovidae.
X chromosome inactivation (XCI) is the transcriptional silencing of one X in female mammals, balancing expression of X genes between females (XX) and males (XY). In placental mammals non-coding XIST RNA triggers silencing of one X (Xi) and recruits a characteristic suite of epigenetic modifications, including the histone mark H3K27me3. In marsupials, where XIST is missing, H3K27me3 association seems to have different degrees of stability, depending on cell-types and species. However, the complete suite of histone marks associated with the Xi and their stability throughout cell cycle remain a mystery, as does the evolution of an ancient mammal XCI system. Our extensive immunofluorescence analysis (using antibodies against specific histone modifications) in nuclei of mammals distantly related to human and mouse, revealed a general absence from the mammalian Xi territory of transcription machinery and histone modifications associated with active chromatin. Specific repressive modifications associated with XCI in human and mouse were also observed in elephant (a distantly related placental mammal), as was accumulation of XIST RNA. However, in two marsupial species the Xi either lacked these modifications (H4K20me1), or they were restricted to specific windows of the cell cycle (H3K27me3, H3K9me2). Surprisingly, the marsupial Xi was stably enriched for modifications associated with constitutive heterochromatin in all eukaryotes (H4K20me3, H3K9me3). We propose that marsupial XCI is comparable to a system that evolved in the common therian (marsupial and placental) ancestor. Silent chromatin of the early inactive X was exapted from neighbouring constitutive heterochromatin and, in early placental evolution, was augmented by the rise of XIST and the stable recruitment of specific histone modifications now classically associated with XCI.
Monobrachial homology resulting from Robertsonian (Rb) fusions is thought to contribute to chromosomal speciation through underdominance. Given the karyotypic diversity characterizing wild house mouse populations [Mus musculus domesticus, (MMU)], variation that results almost exclusively from Rb fusions (diploid numbers range from 22 to 40) and possibly whole arm reciprocal translocations (WARTs), this organism represents an excellent model for testing hypotheses of chromosomal evolution. Previous studies of chromosome size and recombination rates have failed to explain the bias for certain chromosomes to be involved more frequently than others in these rearrangements. Here, we show that the pericentromeric region of one such chromosome, MMU19, which is infrequently encountered as a fusion partner in wild populations, is significantly enriched for housekeeping genes when compared to other chromosomes in the genome. These data suggest that there is selection against breakpoints in the pericentromeric region and provide new insights into factors that constrain chromosomal reorganizations in house mice. Given the anticipated increase in vertebrate whole genome sequences, the examination of gene content and expression profiles of the pericentromeric regions of other mammalian lineages characterized by Rb fusions (i.e., other rodents, bats, and bovids, among others) is both achievable and crucial to developing broadly applicable models of chromosome evolution.
The African pygmy mouse, Mus minutoides, displays extensive Robertsonian (Rb) diversity. The two extremes of the karyotypic range are found in South Africa, with populations carrying 2n = 34 and 2n = 18. In order to reconstruct the scenario of chromosomal evolution of M. minutoides and test the performance of Rb fusions in resolving fine-scale phylogenetic relationships, we first describe new karyotypes, and then perform phylogenetic analyses by two independent methods, using respectively mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences and chromosomal rearrangements as markers. The molecular and chromosomal phylogenies were in perfect congruence, providing strong confidence both for the tree topology and the chronology of chromosomal rearrangements. The analysis supports a division of South African specimens into two clades showing opposite trends of chromosomal evolution, one containing all specimens with 34 chromosomes (karyotypic stasis) and the other grouping all mice with 18 chromosomes that have further diversified by the fixation of different Rb fusions (extensive karyotypic reshuffling). The results confirm that Rb fusions are by far the predominant rearrangement in M. minutoides but strongly suggest that recurrent whole-arm reciprocal translocations have also shaped this genome.
The four-horned antelope, Tetracerus quadricornis, is a karyotypic novelty in Bovidae since chromosomal evolution in this species is driven by tandem fusions in contradiction to the overwhelming influence of Robertsonian fusions in other species within the family. Using a combination of differential staining and molecular cytogenetic techniques, we provide the first description of the species karyotype, draw phylogenetic inferences from the cytogenetic data and discuss possible mechanisms underlying the formation of the tandem fusions in this species. We show (a) that pairs 1-6 of Tetracerus correspond to a combination of Bos taurus orthologous chromosomes that are tandemly fused head to tail, (b) the presence of interstitial centromeric satellite DNA at the junctions of orthologous blocks defined by the cross-species painting data and (c) that in some instances, residual telomeric sequences persist at these sites. We conclude that the attendant result of each fusion is an enlarged acrocentric fusion element comprising a single functional centromere and two terminal telomeres that, collectively, led to a reduction of the 2n = 58 bovid ancestral acrocentric chromosomal complement to the 2n = 38 detected in the four-horned antelope.
Therian mammals have an extremely conserved XX/XY sex determination system. A limited number of mammal species have, however, evolved to escape convention and present aberrant sex chromosome complements. In this study, we identified a new case of atypical sex determination in the African pygmy mouse Mus minutoides, a close evolutionary relative of the house mouse. The pygmy mouse is characterized by a very high proportion of XY females (74%, n = 27) from geographically widespread Southern and Eastern African populations. Sequencing of the high mobility group domain of the mammalian sex determining gene Sry, and karyological analyses using fluorescence in situ hybridization and G-banding data, suggest that the sex reversal is most probably not owing to a mutation of Sry, but rather to a chromosomal rearrangement on the X chromosome. In effect, two morphologically different X chromosomes were identified, one of which, designated X*, is invariably associated with sex-reversed females. The asterisk designates the still unknown mutation converting X*Y individuals into females. Although relatively still unexplored, such an atypical sex chromosome system offers a unique opportunity to unravel new genetic interactions involved in the initiation of sex determination in mammals.
The agouti locus encodes the agouti signalling protein (ASIP) which is involved in determining the switch from eumelanin to pheomelanin synthesis in melanocytes. In the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) early studies indicated three alleles at this locus: A, light-bellied agouti (wild type); a(t), black and tan; a, black nonagouti. We characterized the rabbit ASIP gene and identified the causative mutation (an insertion in exon 2) of the black nonagouti allele whose frequency was evaluated in 31 breeds. Phylogenetic analysis of ASIP sequences from Oryctolagus and 9 other species of the family Leporidae placed Oryctolagus as sister species to Pentalagus and Bunolagus. Transcription analysis in wild type agouti rabbits revealed the presence of two major transcripts with different 5-untranslated regions having ventral or dorsal skin specific expression. ASIP gene transcripts were also detected in all examined rabbit tissues distinguishing the rabbit expression pattern from what was observed in wild type mice.
All therian mammals (eutherians and marsupials) have an XX female/XY male sex chromosome system or some variant of it. The X and Y evolved from a homologous pair of autosomes over the 166 million years since therian mammals diverged from monotremes. Comparing the sex chromosomes of eutherians and marsupials defined an ancient X conserved region that is shared between species of these mammalian clades. However, the eutherian X (and the Y) was augmented by a recent addition (XAR) that is autosomal in marsupials. XAR is part of the X in primates, rodents, and artiodactyls (which belong to the eutherian clade Boreoeutheria), but it is uncertain whether XAR is part of the X chromosome in more distantly related eutherian mammals. Here we report on the gene content and order on the X of the elephant (Loxodonta africana)-a representative of Afrotheria, a basal endemic clade of African mammals-and compare these findings to those of other documented eutherian species. A total of 17 genes were mapped to the elephant X chromosome. Our results support the hypothesis that the eutherian X and Y chromosomes were augmented by the addition of autosomal material prior to eutherian radiation. Not only does the elephant X bear the same suite of genes as other eutherian X chromosomes, but gene order appears to have been maintained across 105 million years of evolution, perhaps reflecting strong constraints posed by the eutherian X inactivation system.
Using a dataset of karyotypic changes reported for bovids and the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) together with information from the cattle (Bos taurus) and mouse genomes, we examined two principal variables that have been proposed to predict chromosomal positioning in the nucleus, chromosome size and GC content. These were expected to influence the distribution of Robertsonian (Rb) fusions, the predominant mode of chromosomal change in both taxa. We found the largest chromosomes to be most frequently involved in fusions in bovids, and confirm earlier reports that chromosomes of intermediate size were the most frequent fusers in mice. We then tested whether chromosomal positioning can explain Rb fusion frequencies. We classified chromosomes into groups by size and considered the frequency of interactions between specific groups. Among the interactions, mouse chromosomes showed a slight tendency to fuse with neighbouring chromosomes, in line with expectations of chromosomal positioning, but also resembling predictions from meiotic spindle-induced bias. Bovids, on the other hand, showed no trend in interactions, with small chromosomes being the least frequent partner for all size classes. We discuss the results in terms of nuclear organization at various cell cycle stages and the proposed mechanisms of Rb fusion formation, and note that the difference can be explained by (i) considering bovid species generally to be characterized by a greater intermingling of chromosomal size classes than the house mouse, or (ii) by the vastly different timescales underpinning their evolutionary histories.
Scrub typhus is an acute febrile zoonotic disease and worldwide more than a billion people may be at risk for infection. Orientia tsutsugamushi, the causative agent of scrub typhus, is an obligate intracellular bacterium. Rodents are reported to be the primary reservoir hosts of the disease and according to the most recent surveys, all species within the Rattus sensu lato complex of the tribe Rattini are carriers of scrub typhus. There is no evidence that any of mouse (Mus) species serves as the primary reservoir of the bacterium even when occurring in sympatry with wild infected rats. This contrast in the host/syndecan-4 interactions between Rattini and Asian Murini may be due to intrinsic (i.e., genetic) differences. Herein we compare the sequence and expression levels of syndecan-4 (the putative cell receptor of O. tsutsugamushi) between Rattini species that are known to be natural reservoirs for the typhus agents, and Murini species that are not. Although it was not possible to conclusively link the structural variations detected in syndecan-4 with carrier status in either Rattini and Murini, our findings indicate the absence of a strong Orientia-mediated selective regime acting on gene structure. In contrast, variable spleen-specific syndecan-4 expression levels show a strong correlation between under-expression of syndecan-4 in Murini and seropositive Rattini, compared to seronegative Rattini rodents. We postulate that two divergent responses may be at work in Murini and Rattini, both linked with differential expression of syndecan-4: (i) reduced syndecan-4 transcription in Murini decreases the likelihood that the host cells will become infected by the Orientia bacterium, while (ii) reduced syndecan-4 expression in seropositive Rattini limits the pathogenicity of Orientia and consequently improves the longevity of the rat hosts. These patterns may underpin the poor carrier status of wild mice on the one hand, and the effective role of wild rats as reservoir hosts on the other.
Related JoVE Video
Journal of Visualized Experiments
What is Visualize?
JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.
How does it work?
We use abstracts found on PubMed and match them to JoVE videos to create a list of 10 to 30 related methods videos.
Video X seems to be unrelated to Abstract Y...
In developing our video relationships, we compare around 5 million PubMed articles to our library of over 4,500 methods videos. In some cases the language used in the PubMed abstracts makes matching that content to a JoVE video difficult. In other cases, there happens not to be any content in our video library that is relevant to the topic of a given abstract. In these cases, our algorithms are trying their best to display videos with relevant content, which can sometimes result in matched videos with only a slight relation.