Sequence diversity and genomic organization of vomeronasal receptor genes in the mouse.
ABSTRACT: The vomeronasal system of mice is thought to be specialized in the detection of pheromones. Two multigene families have been identified that encode proteins with seven putative transmembrane domains and that are expressed selectively in subsets of neurons of the vomeronasal organ. The products of these vomeronasal receptor (Vr) genes are regarded as candidate pheromone receptors. Little is known about their genomic organization and sequence diversity, and only five sequences of mouse V1r coding regions are publicly available. Here, we have begun to characterize systematically the V1r repertoire in the mouse. We isolated 107 bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) containing V1r genes from a 129 mouse library. Hybridization experiments indicate that at least 107 V1r-like sequences reside on these BACs. We assembled most of the BACs into six contigs, of which one major contig and one minor contig were characterized in detail. The major contig is 630-860 kb long, encompasses a cluster of 21-48 V1r genes, and contains marker D6Mit227. Sequencing of the coding regions was facilitated by the absence of introns. We determined the sequence of the coding region of 25 possibly functional V1r genes and seven pseudogenes. The functional V1rs can be arranged into three groups; V1rs of one group are novel and substantially divergent from the other V1rs. The genomic and sequence information described here should be useful in defining the biological function of these receptors.
Project description:BACKGROUND: In mammals, pheromones play an important role in social and innate reproductive behavior within species. In rodents, vomeronasal receptor type 1 (V1R), which is specifically expressed in the vomeronasal organ, is thought to detect pheromones. The V1R gene repertoire differs dramatically between mammalian species, and the presence of species-specific V1R subfamilies in mouse and rat suggests that V1R plays a profound role in species-specific recognition of pheromones. In ruminants, however, the molecular mechanism(s) for pheromone perception is not well understood. Interestingly, goat male pheromone, which can induce out-of-season ovulation in anestrous females, causes the same pheromone response in sheep, and vice versa, suggesting that there may be mechanisms for detecting "inter-species" pheromones among ruminant species. RESULTS: We isolated 23 goat and 21 sheep intact V1R genes based on sequence similarity with 32 cow V1R genes in the cow genome database. We found that all of the goat and sheep V1R genes have orthologs in their cross-species counterparts among these three ruminant species and that the sequence identity of V1R orthologous pairs among these ruminants is much higher than that of mouse-rat V1R orthologous pairs. Furthermore, all goat V1Rs examined thus far are expressed not only in the vomeronasal organ but also in the main olfactory epithelium. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that, compared with rodents, the repertoire of orthologous V1R genes is remarkably conserved among the ruminants cow, sheep and goat. We predict that these orthologous V1Rs can detect the same or closely related chemical compound(s) within each orthologous set/pair. Furthermore, all identified goat V1Rs are expressed in the vomeronasal organ and the main olfactory epithelium, suggesting that V1R-mediated ligand information can be detected and processed by both the main and accessory olfactory systems. The fact that ruminant and rodent V1Rs have distinct features suggests that ruminant and rodent V1Rs have evolved distinct functions.
Project description:Vomeronasal sensitivity is important for detecting intraspecific pheromonal cues as well as environmental odorants and is involved in mating, social interaction, and other daily activities of many vertebrates. Two large families of seven-transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptors, V1rs and V2rs, bind to various ligands to initiate vomeronasal signal transduction. Although the macroevolution of V1r and V2r genes has been well characterized throughout vertebrates, especially mammals, little is known about their microevolutionary patterns, which hampers a clear understanding of the evolutionary forces behind the rapid evolutionary turnover of V1r and V2r genes and the great diversity in receptor repertoire across species. Furthermore, the role of divergent vomeronasal perception in enhancing premating isolation and maintaining species identity has not been evaluated. Here we sequenced 44 V1r genes and 25 presumably neutral noncoding regions in 14 wild-caught mice belonging to Mus musculus and M. domesticus, two closely related species with strong yet incomplete reproductive isolation. We found that nucleotide changes in V1rs are generally under weak purifying selection and that only ?5% of V1rs may have been subject to positive selection that promotes nonsynonymous substitutions. Consistent with the low functional constraints on V1rs, 18 of the 44 V1rs have null alleles segregating in one or both species. Together, our results demonstrate that, despite occasional actions of positive selection, the evolution of V1rs is in a large part shaped by purifying selection and random drift. These findings have broad implications for understanding the driving forces of rapid gene turnovers that are often observed in the evolution of large gene families.
Project description:In mammals, odorants and pheromones are detected by hundreds of odorant receptors (ORs) and vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs and V2Rs) expressed by sensory neurons that are respectively located in the main olfactory epithelium and in the vomeronasal organ. Even though these two olfactory systems are functionally and anatomically separate, their sensory neurons show a common mechanism of receptor gene regulation: each neuron expresses a single receptor gene from a single allele. The mechanisms underlying OR and VR gene expression remain unclear. Here we investigated if OR and V1R genes share common sequences in their promoter regions.We conducted a comparative analysis of promoter regions of 39 mouse V1R genes and found motifs that are common to a large number of promoters. We then searched mouse OR promoter regions for motifs that resemble the ones found in the V1R promoters. We identified motifs that are present in both the V1R and OR promoter regions. Some of these motifs correspond to the known O/E like binding sites while others resemble binding sites for transcriptional repressors. We show that one of these motifs specifically interacts with proteins extracted from both nuclei from olfactory and vomeronasal neurons. Our study is the first to identify motifs that resemble binding sites for repressors in the promoters of OR and V1R genes. Analysis of these motifs and of the proteins that bind to these motifs should reveal important aspects of the mechanisms of OR/V1R gene regulation.
Project description:In mammals, social and reproductive behaviors are mediated by chemical cues encoded by hyperdiverse families of receptors expressed in the vomeronasal organ. Between species, the number of intact receptors can vary by orders of magnitude. However, the evolutionary processes behind variation in receptor number, and its link to fitness-related behaviors are not well understood. From vomeronasal transcriptomes, we discovered the first evidence of intact vomeronasal type-1 receptor (V1r) genes in bats, and we tested whether putatively functional bat receptors were orthologous to those of related taxa, or whether bats have evolved novel receptors. Instead of lineage-specific duplications, we found that bat V1rs show high levels of orthology to those of their relatives, and receptors are under comparative levels of purifying selection as non-bats. Despite widespread vomeronasal organ loss in bats, V1r copies have been retained for >65 million years. The highly conserved nature of bat V1rs challenges our current understanding of mammalian V1r function and suggests roles other than conspecific recognition or mating initiation in social behavior.
Project description:We report an evolutionary analysis of the V1R gene family across 37 mammalian genomes. V1Rs comprise one of three chemosensory receptor families expressed in the vomeronasal organ, and contribute to pheromone detection. We first demonstrate that Trace Archive data can be used effectively to determine V1R family sizes and to obtain sequences of most V1R family members. Analyses of V1R sequences from trace data and genome assemblies show that species-specific expansions previously observed in only eight species were prevalent throughout mammalian evolution, resulting in "semi-private" V1R repertoires for most mammals. The largest families are found in mouse and platypus, whose V1R repertoires have been published previously, followed by mouse lemur and rabbit (approximately 215 and approximately 160 intact V1Rs, respectively). In contrast, two bat species and dolphin possess no functional V1Rs, only pseudogenes, and suffered inactivating mutations in the vomeronasal signal transduction gene Trpc2. We show that primate V1R decline happened prior to acquisition of trichromatic vision, earlier during evolution than was previously thought. We also show that it is extremely unlikely that decline of the dog V1R repertoire occurred in response to selective pressures imposed by humans during domestication. Functional repertoire sizes in each species correlate roughly with anatomical observations of vomeronasal organ size and quality; however, no single ecological correlate explains the very diverse fates of this gene family in different mammalian genomes. V1Rs provide one of the most extreme examples observed to date of massive gene duplication in some genomes, with loss of all functional genes in other species.
Project description:The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is an olfactory structure that detects pheromones and environmental cues. It consists of sensory neurons that express evolutionary unrelated groups of transmembrane chemoreceptors. The predominant V1R and V2R receptor repertoires are believed to detect airborne and water-soluble molecules, respectively. It has been suggested that the shift in habitat of early tetrapods from water to land is reflected by an increase in the ratio of V1R/V2R genes. Snakes, which have a very large VNO associated with a sophisticated tongue delivery system, are missing from this analysis. Here, we use RNA-seq and RNA in situ hybridization to study the diversity, evolution, and expression pattern of the corn snake vomeronasal receptor repertoires. Our analyses indicate that snakes and lizards retain an extremely limited number of V1R genes but exhibit a large number of V2R genes, including multiple lineages of reptile-specific and snake-specific expansions. We finally show that the peculiar bigenic pattern of V2R vomeronasal receptor gene transcription observed in mammals is conserved in squamate reptiles, hinting at an important but unknown functional role played by this expression strategy. Our results do not support the hypothesis that the shift to a vomeronasal receptor repertoire dominated by V1Rs in mammals reflects the evolutionary transition of early tetrapods from water to land. This study sheds light on the evolutionary dynamics of the vomeronasal receptor families in vertebrates and reveals how mammals and squamates differentially adapted the same ancestral vomeronasal repertoire to succeed in a terrestrial environment.
Project description:The mouse vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a chemosensory structure that detects both hetero- and conspecific social cues. Based on largely monogenic expression of either type 1 or 2 vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs/V2Rs) or members of the formyl peptide receptor (FPR) family, the vomeronasal sensory epithelium harbors at least three neuronal subpopulations. While various neurophysiological properties of both V1R- and V2R-expressing neurons have been described using genetically engineered mouse models, the basic biophysical characteristics of the more recently identified FPR-expressing vomeronasal neurons have not been studied. Here, we employ a transgenic mouse strain that coexpresses an enhanced variant of yellow fluorescent protein together with FPR-rs3 allowing to identify and analyze FPR-rs3-expressing neurons in acute VNO tissue slices. Single neuron electrophysiological recordings allow comparative characterization of the biophysical properties inherent to a prototypical member of the FPR-expressing subpopulation of VNO neurons. In this study, we provide an in-depth analysis of both passive and active membrane properties, including detailed characterization of several types of voltage-activated conductances and action potential discharge patterns, in fluorescently labeled vs. unmarked vomeronasal neurons. Our results reveal striking similarities in the basic (electro) physiological architecture of both transgene-expressing and non-expressing neurons, confirming the suitability of this genetically engineered mouse model for future studies addressing more specialized issues in vomeronasal FPR neurobiology.
Project description:The V1R gene family comprises one of two types of putative pheromone receptors expressed in the mammalian vomeronasal organ (VNO). We searched the most recent mouse, rat, dog, chimpanzee, and human genome sequence assemblies to compile a near-complete repertoire of V1R genes for each species. Dog, human, and chimpanzee have very few intact V1Rs (8, 2, and 0, respectively) compared to more than a hundred intact V1Rs in each of the rat (106) and mouse (165) genomes. We also provide the first description of the diversity of V1R pseudogenes in these species. We identify at least 165 pseudogenes in mouse, 110 in rat, 102 in chimpanzee, 115 in human, and 54 in dog. Primate and dog pseudogenes are distributed among almost all V1R subfamilies seen in rodents, indicating that the common ancestor of these species had a diverse V1R repertoire. We find that V1R genes were subject to strikingly different fates in different species and in different subfamilies. In rodents, some subfamilies remained relatively stable or underwent roughly equivalent expansion in mouse and rat; other subfamilies expanded in one species but not the other. The small number of intact V1Rs in the dog genome is unexpected given the presumption that dogs, like rodents, have a functional VNO, and a complex system of pheromone-based behaviors. We identify an intact transient receptor potential channel 2beta in the dog genome, consistent with a functional VNO in dogs. The diminished V1R repertoire in dogs raises questions about the relative contributions of V1Rs versus other candidate pheromone receptor genes in the establishment of complex pheromone systems in mammals.
Project description:There are three major multigene superfamilies of olfactory receptors (OR, V1R, and V2R) in mammals. The ORs are expressed in the main olfactory organ, whereas the V1Rs and V2Rs are located in the vomeronasal organ. Fish only possess one olfactory organ in each nasal cavity, the olfactory rosette; therefore, it has been proposed that their V2R-like genes be classified as olfactory C family G protein-coupled receptors (OlfC). There are large variations in the sizes of OR gene repertoires. Previous studies have shown that fish have between 12 and 46 functional V2R-like genes, whereas humans have lost all functional V2Rs, and frog sp. have more than 240. Pseudogenization of V2R genes is a prevalent event across species. In the mouse and frog genomes, there are approximately double the number of pseudogenes compared with functional genes. An oligonucleotide probe was designed from a conserved sequence from four Atlantic salmon OlfC genes and used to screen the Atlantic salmon bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library. Hybridization-positive BACs were matched to fingerprint contigs, and representative BACs were shotgun cloned and sequenced. We identified 55 OlfC genes. Twenty-nine of the OlfC genes are classified as putatively functional genes and 26 as pseudogenes. The OlfC genes are found in two genomic clusters on chromosomes 9 and 20. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the OlfC genes could be divided into 10 subfamilies, with nine of these subfamilies corresponding to subfamilies found in other teleosts and one being salmon specific. There is also a large expansion in the number of OlfC genes in one subfamily in Atlantic salmon. Subfamily gene expansions have been identified in other teleosts, and these differences in gene number reflect species-specific evolutionary requirements for olfaction. Total RNA was isolated from the olfactory epithelium and other tissues from a presmolt to examine the expression of the odorant genes. Several of the putative OlfC genes that we identified are expressed only in the olfactory epithelium, consistent with these genes encoding odorant receptors.
Project description:We have analyzed the organization and sequence of 73 V1R genes encoding putative pheromone receptors to identify regulatory features and characterize the evolutionary history of the V1R family. The 73 V1Rs arose from seven ancestral genes around the time of mouse-rat speciation through large local duplications, and this expansion may contribute to speciation events. Orthologous V1R genes appear to have been lost during primate evolution. Exceptional noncoding homology is observed across four V1R subfamilies at one cluster and thus may be important for locus-specific transcriptional regulation.