Rates of nucleotide substitution in sexual and anciently asexual rotifers.
ABSTRACT: The class Bdelloidea of the phylum Rotifera is the largest well studied eukaryotic taxon in which males and meiosis are unknown, and the only one for which these indications of ancient asexuality are supported by cytological and molecular genetic evidence. We estimated the rates of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions in the hsp82 heat shock gene in bdelloids and in facultatively sexual rotifers of the class Monogononta, employing distance based and maximum likelihood methods. Relative-rate tests, using acanthocephalan rotifers as an outgroup, showed slightly higher rates of nonsynonymous substitution and slightly lower rates of synonymous substitution in bdelloids as compared with monogononts. The opposite trend, however, was seen in intraclass pairwise comparisons. If, as it seems, bdelloids have evolved asexually, an equality of bdelloid and monogonont substitution rates would suggest that the maintenance of sexual reproduction in monogononts is not attributable to an effect of sexual reproduction in limiting the load of deleterious nucleotide substitutions.
Project description:Molecular and morphological data regarding the relationships among the three classes of Rotifera (Bdelloidea, Seisonidea, and Monogononta) and the phylum Acanthocephala are inconclusive. In particular, Bdelloidea lacks molecular-based phylogenetic appraisal. I obtained coding sequences from the mitochondrial genomes of twelve bdelloids and two monogononts to explore the molecular phylogeny of Bdelloidea and provide insight into the relationships among lineages of Syndermata (Rotifera + Acanthocephala). With additional sequences taken from previously published mitochondrial genomes, the total dataset included nine species of bdelloids, three species of monogononts, and two species of acanthocephalans. A supermatrix of these 10-12 mitochondrial proteins consistently recovered a bdelloid phylogeny that questions the validity of a generally accepted classification scheme despite different methods of inference and various parameter adjustments. Specifically, results showed that neither the family Philodinidae nor the order Philodinida are monophyletic as currently defined. The application of a similar analytical strategy to assess syndermate relationships recovered either a tree with Bdelloidea and Monogononta as sister taxa (Eurotatoria) or Bdelloidea and Acanthocephala as sister taxa (Lemniscea). Both outgroup choice and method of inference affected the topological outcome emphasizing the need for sequences from more closely related outgroups and more sophisticated methods of analysis that can account for the complexity of the data.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The metazoan taxon Syndermata comprising Rotifera (in the classical sense of Monogononta+Bdelloidea+Seisonidea) and Acanthocephala has raised several hypotheses connected to the phylogeny of these animal groups and the included subtaxa. While the monophyletic origin of Syndermata and Acanthocephala is well established based on morphological and molecular data, the phylogenetic position of Syndermata within Spiralia, the monophyletic origin of Monogononta, Bdelloidea, and Seisonidea and the acanthocephalan sister group are still a matter of debate. The comparison of the alternative hypotheses suggests that testing the phylogenetic validity of Eurotatoria (Monogononta+Bdelloidea) is the key to unravel the phylogenetic relations within Syndermata. The syndermatan phylogeny in turn is a prerequisite for reconstructing the evolution of the acanthocephalan endoparasitism. RESULTS: Here we present our results from a phylogenomic approach studying i) the phylogenetic position of Syndermata within Spiralia, ii) the monophyletic origin of monogononts and bdelloids and iii) the phylogenetic relations of the latter two taxa to acanthocephalans. For this analysis we have generated EST libraries of Pomphorhynchus laevis, Echinorhynchus truttae (Acanthocephala) and Brachionus plicatilis (Monogononta). By extending these data with database entries of B. plicatilis, Philodina roseola (Bdelloidea) and 25 additional metazoan species, we conducted phylogenetic reconstructions based on 79 ribosomal proteins using maximum likelihood and bayesian approaches. Our findings suggest that the phylogenetic position of Syndermata within Spiralia is close to Platyhelminthes, that Eurotatoria are not monophyletic and that bdelloids are more closely related to acanthocephalans than monogononts. CONCLUSION: Mapping morphological character evolution onto molecular phylogeny suggests the (partial or complete) reduction of the corona and the emergence of a retractable anterior end (rostrum, proboscis) before the separation of Acanthocephala. In particular, the evolution of a rostrum might have been a key event leading to the later evolution of the acanthocephalan endoparasitism, given the enormous relevance of the proboscis for anchoring of the adults to the definitive hosts' intestinal wall.
Project description:Sexual reproduction is a widely studied biological process because it is critically important to the genetics, evolution, and ecology of eukaryotes. Despite decades of study on this topic, no comprehensive explanation has been accepted that explains the evolutionary forces underlying its prevalence and persistence in nature. Monogonont rotifers offer a useful system for experimental studies relating to the evolution of sexual reproduction due to their rapid reproductive rate and close relationship to the putatively ancient asexual bdelloid rotifers. However, little is known about the molecular underpinnings of sex in any rotifer species.We generated mRNA-seq libraries for obligate parthenogenetic (OP) and cyclical parthenogenetic (CP) strains of the monogonont rotifer, Brachionus calyciflorus, to identify genes specific to both modes of reproduction. Our differential expression analysis identified receptors with putative roles in signaling pathways responsible for the transition from asexual to sexual reproduction. Differential expression of a specific copy of the duplicated cell cycle regulatory gene CDC20 and specific copies of histone H2A suggest that such duplications may underlie the phenotypic plasticity required for reproductive mode switch in monogononts. We further identified differential expression of genes involved in the formation of resting eggs, a process linked exclusively to sex in this species. Finally, we identified transcripts from the bdelloid rotifer Adineta ricciae that have significant sequence similarity to genes with higher expression in CP strains of B. calyciflorus.Our analysis of global gene expression differences between facultatively sexual and exclusively asexual populations of B. calyciflorus provides insights into the molecular nature of sexual reproduction in rotifers. Furthermore, our results offer insight into the evolution of obligate asexuality in bdelloid rotifers and provide indicators important for the use of monogononts as a model system for investigating the evolution of sexual reproduction.
Project description:Rotifers of Class Bdelloidea are common freshwater invertebrates of ancient origin whose apparent asexuality has posed a challenge to the view that sexual reproduction is essential for long-term evolutionary success in eukaryotes and to hypotheses for the advantage of sex. The possibility nevertheless exists that bdelloids reproduce sexually under unknown or inadequately investigated conditions. Although certain methods of population genetics offer definitive means for detecting infrequent or atypical sex, they have not previously been applied to bdelloid rotifers. We conducted such a test with bdelloids belonging to a mitochondrial clade of Macrotrachela quadricornifera. This revealed a striking pattern of allele sharing consistent with sexual reproduction and with meiosis of an atypical sort, in which segregation occurs without requiring homologous chromosome pairs.
Project description:Why organisms diversify into discrete species instead of showing a continuum of genotypic and phenotypic forms is an important yet rarely studied question in speciation biology. Does species discreteness come from adaptation to fill discrete niches or from interspecific gaps generated by reproductive isolation? We investigate the importance of reproductive isolation by comparing genetic discreteness, in terms of intra- and interspecific variation, between facultatively sexual monogonont rotifers and obligately asexual bdelloid rotifers. We calculated the age (phylogenetic distance) and average pairwise genetic distance (raw distance) within and among evolutionarily significant units of diversity in six bdelloid clades and seven monogonont clades sampled for 4211 individuals in total. We find that monogonont species are more discrete than bdelloid species with respect to divergence between species but exhibit similar levels of intraspecific variation (species cohesiveness). This pattern arises because bdelloids have diversified into discrete genetic clusters at a faster net rate than monogononts. Although sampling biases or differences in ecology that are independent of sexuality might also affect these patterns, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that bdelloids diversified at a faster rate into less discrete species because their diversification does not depend on the evolution of reproductive isolation.
Project description:The taxon Syndermata comprises the biologically interesting wheel animals ("Rotifera": Bdelloidea + Monogononta + Seisonidea) and thorny-headed worms (Acanthocephala), and is central for testing superordinate phylogenetic hypotheses (Platyzoa, Gnathifera) in the metazoan tree of life. Recent analyses of syndermatan phylogeny suggested paraphyly of Eurotatoria (free-living bdelloids and monogononts) with respect to endoparasitic acanthocephalans. Data of epizoic seisonids, however, were absent, which may have affected the branching order within the syndermatan clade. Moreover, the position of Seisonidea within Syndermata should help in understanding the evolution of acanthocephalan endoparasitism. Here, we report the first phylogenomic analysis that includes all four higher-ranked groups of Syndermata. The analyzed data sets comprise new transcriptome data for Seison spec. (Seisonidea), Brachionus manjavacas (Monogononta), Adineta vaga (Bdelloidea), and Paratenuisentis ambiguus (Acanthocephala). Maximum likelihood and Bayesian trees for a total of 19 metazoan species were reconstructed from up to 410 functionally diverse proteins. The results unanimously place Monogononta basally within Syndermata, and Bdelloidea appear as the sister group to a clade comprising epizoic Seisonidea and endoparasitic Acanthocephala. Our results support monophyly of Syndermata, Hemirotifera (Bdelloidea + Seisonidea + Acanthocephala), and Pararotatoria (Seisonidea + Acanthocephala), rejecting monophyly of traditional Rotifera and Eurotatoria. This serves as an indication that early acanthocephalans lived epizoically or as ectoparasites on arthropods, before their complex lifecycle with arthropod intermediate and vertebrate definite hosts evolved.
Project description:Sexual reproduction allows deleterious transposable elements to proliferate in populations, whereas the loss of sex, by preventing their spread, has been predicted eventually to result in a population free of such elements [Hickey, D. A. (1982) Genetics 101, 519-531]. We tested this expectation by screening representatives of a majority of animal phyla for LINE-like and gypsy-like reverse transcriptases and mariner/Tc1-like transposases. All species tested positive for reverse transcriptases except rotifers of the class Bdelloidea, the largest eukaryotic taxon in which males, hermaphrodites, and meiosis are unknown and for which ancient asexuality is supported by molecular genetic evidence. Mariner-like transposases are distributed sporadically among species and are present in bdelloid rotifers. The remarkable lack of LINE-like and gypsy-like retrotransposons in bdelloids and their ubiquitous presence in other taxa support the view that eukaryotic retrotransposons are sexually transmitted nuclear parasites and that bdelloid rotifers evolved asexually.
Project description:Bdelloid rotifers are microscopic animals that have apparently survived without sex for millions of years and are able to survive desiccation at all life stages through a process called anhydrobiosis. Both of these characteristics are believed to have played a role in shaping several unusual features of bdelloid genomes discovered in recent years. Studies into the impact of asexuality and anhydrobiosis on bdelloid genomes have focused on understanding gene copy number. Here we investigate copy number and sequence divergence in alpha tubulin. Alpha tubulin is conserved and normally present in low copy numbers in animals, but multiplication of alpha tubulin copies has occurred in animals adapted to extreme environments, such as cold-adapted Antarctic fish. Using cloning and sequencing we compared alpha tubulin copy variation in four species of bdelloid rotifers and four species of monogonont rotifers, which are facultatively sexual and cannot survive desiccation as adults. Results were verified using transcriptome data from one bdelloid species, Adineta ricciae.In common with the typical pattern for animals, monogonont rotifers contain either one or two copies of alpha tubulin, but bdelloid species contain between 11 and 13 different copies, distributed across five classes. Approximately half of the copies form a highly conserved group that vary by only 1.1% amino acid pairwise divergence with each other and with the monogonont copies. The other copies have divergent amino acid sequences that evolved significantly faster between classes than within them, relative to synonymous changes, and vary in predicted biochemical properties. Copies of each class were expressed under the laboratory conditions used to construct the transcriptome.Our findings are consistent with recent evidence that bdelloids are degenerate tetraploids and that functional divergence of ancestral copies of genes has occurred, but show how further duplication events in the ancestor of bdelloids led to proliferation in both conserved and functionally divergent copies of this gene.
Project description:A long-standing question in evolutionary biology is how sexual reproduction has persisted in eukaryotic lineages. As cyclical parthenogens, monogonont rotifers are a powerful model for examining this question, yet the molecular nature of sexual reproduction in this lineage is currently understudied. To examine genes involved in meiosis, we generated partial genome assemblies for 2 distantly related monogonont species, Brachionus calyciflorus and B. manjavacas. Here we present an inventory of 89 meiotic genes, of which 80 homologs were identified and annotated from these assemblies. Using phylogenetic analysis, we show that several meiotic genes have undergone relatively recent duplication events that appear to be specific to the monogonont lineage. Further, we compare the expression of "meiosis-specific" genes involved in recombination and all annotated copies of the cell cycle regulatory gene CDC20 between obligate parthenogenetic (OP) and cyclical parthenogenetic (CP) strains of B. calyciflorus. We show that "meiosis-specific" genes are expressed in both CP and OP strains, whereas the expression of one of the CDC20 genes is specific to cyclical parthenogenesis. The data presented here provide insights into mechanisms of cyclical parthenogenesis and establish expectations for studies of obligate asexual relatives of monogononts, the bdelloid rotifer lineage.
Project description:Bdelloid rotifers are microinvertebrates with unique characteristics: they have survived tens of millions of years without sexual reproduction; they withstand extreme desiccation by undergoing anhydrobiosis; and they tolerate very high levels of ionizing radiation. Recent evidence suggests that subtelomeric regions of the bdelloid genome contain sequences originating from other organisms by horizontal gene transfer (HGT), of which some are known to be transcribed. However, the extent to which foreign gene expression plays a role in bdelloid physiology is unknown. We address this in the first large scale analysis of the transcriptome of the bdelloid Adineta ricciae: cDNA libraries from hydrated and desiccated bdelloids were subjected to massively parallel sequencing and assembled transcripts compared against the UniProtKB database by blastx to identify their putative products. Of ~29,000 matched transcripts, ~10% were inferred from blastx matches to be horizontally acquired, mainly from eubacteria but also from fungi, protists, and algae. After allowing for possible sources of error, the rate of HGT is at least 8%-9%, a level significantly higher than other invertebrates. We verified their foreign nature by phylogenetic analysis and by demonstrating linkage of foreign genes with metazoan genes in the bdelloid genome. Approximately 80% of horizontally acquired genes expressed in bdelloids code for enzymes, and these represent 39% of enzymes in identified pathways. Many enzymes encoded by foreign genes enhance biochemistry in bdelloids compared to other metazoans, for example, by potentiating toxin degradation or generation of antioxidants and key metabolites. They also supplement, and occasionally potentially replace, existing metazoan functions. Bdelloid rotifers therefore express horizontally acquired genes on a scale unprecedented in animals, and foreign genes make a profound contribution to their metabolism. This represents a potential mechanism for ancient asexuals to adapt rapidly to changing environments and thereby persist over long evolutionary time periods in the absence of sex.