Functional similarity and molecular divergence of a novel reproductive transcriptome in two male-pregnant Syngnathus pipefish species.
ABSTRACT: Evolutionary studies have revealed that reproductive proteins in animals and plants often evolve more rapidly than the genome-wide average. The causes of this pattern, which may include relaxed purifying selection, sexual selection, sexual conflict, pathogen resistance, reinforcement, or gene duplication, remain elusive. Investigative expansions to additional taxa and reproductive tissues have the potential to shed new light on this unresolved problem. Here, we embark on such an expansion, in a comparison of the brood-pouch transcriptome between two male-pregnant species of the pipefish genus Syngnathus. Male brooding tissues in syngnathid fishes represent a novel, nonurogenital reproductive trait, heretofore mostly uncharacterized from a molecular perspective. We leveraged next-generation sequencing (Roche 454 pyrosequencing) to compare transcript abundance in the male brooding tissues of pregnant with nonpregnant samples from Gulf (S. scovelli) and dusky (S. floridae) pipefish. A core set of protein-coding genes, including multiple members of astacin metalloprotease and c-type lectin gene families, is consistent between species in both the direction and magnitude of expression bias. As predicted, coding DNA sequence analysis of these putative "male pregnancy proteins" suggests rapid evolution relative to nondifferentially expressed genes and reflects signatures of adaptation similar in magnitude to those reported from Drosophila male accessory gland proteins. Although the precise drivers of male pregnancy protein divergence remain unknown, we argue that the male pregnancy transcriptome in syngnathid fishes, a clade diverse with respect to brooding morphology and mating system, represents a unique and promising object of study for understanding the perplexing evolutionary nature of reproductive molecules.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Members of the family Syngnathidae share a unique reproductive mode termed male pregnancy. Males carry eggs in specialised brooding structures for several weeks and release free-swimming offspring. Here we describe a systematic investigation of pre-release development in syngnathid fishes, reviewing available data for 17 species distributed across the family. This work is complemented by in-depth examinations of the straight-nosed pipefish Nerophis ophidion, the black-striped pipefish Syngnathus abaster, and the potbellied seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis. RESULTS: We propose a standardised classification of early syngnathid development that extends from the activation of the egg to the release of newborn. The classification consists of four developmental periods - early embryogenesis, eye development, snout formation, and juvenile - which are further divided into 11 stages. Stages are characterised by morphological traits that are easily visible in live and preserved specimens using incident-light microscopy. CONCLUSIONS: Our classification is derived from examinations of species representing the full range of brooding-structure complexity found in the Syngnathidae, including tail-brooding as well as trunk-brooding species, which represent independent evolutionary lineages. We chose conspicuous common traits as diagnostic features of stages to allow for rapid and consistent staging of embryos and larvae across the entire family. In view of the growing interest in the biology of the Syngnathidae, we believe that the classification proposed here will prove useful for a wide range of studies on the unique reproductive biology of these male-brooding fish.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Evolutionary origins of derived morphologies ultimately stem from changes in protein structure, gene regulation, and gene content. A well-assembled, annotated reference genome is a central resource for pursuing these molecular phenomena underlying phenotypic evolution. We explored the genome of the Gulf pipefish (Syngnathus scovelli), which belongs to family Syngnathidae (pipefishes, seahorses, and seadragons). These fishes have dramatically derived bodies and a remarkable novelty among vertebrates, the male brood pouch. RESULTS:We produce a reference genome, condensed into chromosomes, for the Gulf pipefish. Gene losses and other changes have occurred in pipefish hox and dlx clusters and in the tbx and pitx gene families, candidate mechanisms for the evolution of syngnathid traits, including an elongated axis and the loss of ribs, pelvic fins, and teeth. We measure gene expression changes in pregnant versus non-pregnant brood pouch tissue and characterize the genomic organization of duplicated metalloprotease genes (patristacins) recruited into the function of this novel structure. Phylogenetic inference using ultraconserved sequences provides an alternative hypothesis for the relationship between orders Syngnathiformes and Scombriformes. Comparisons of chromosome structure among percomorphs show that chromosome number in a pipefish ancestor became reduced via chromosomal fusions. CONCLUSIONS:The collected findings from this first syngnathid reference genome open a window into the genomic underpinnings of highly derived morphologies, demonstrating that de novo production of high quality and useful reference genomes is within reach of even small research groups.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The evolution of male pregnancy is the most distinctive characteristic of syngnathids, and their specialized life history traits make syngnathid species excellent model species for many issues in biological evolution. However, the origin of syngnathids and the evolutionary divergence time of different syngnathid species remain poorly resolved. Comprehensive phylogenetic studies of the Syngnathidae will provide critical evidence to elucidate their origin, evolution, and dispersal patterns. RESULTS:We sequenced the mitochondrial genomes of eight syngnathid species in this study, and the estimated divergence times suggested that syngnathids diverged from other teleosts approximately 48.8 Mya during the Eocene period. Selection analysis showed that many mitochondrial genes of syngnathids exhibited significantly lower Ka/Ks values than those of other teleosts. The two most frequently used codons in syngnathid fishes were different from those in other teleosts, and a greater proportion of the mitochondrial simple sequence repeats (SSRs) were distributed in non-coding sequences in syngnathids compared with other teleosts. CONCLUSIONS:Our study indicated that syngnathid fishes experienced an adaptive radiation process during the early explosion of species. Syngnathid mitochondrial OXPHOS genes appear to exhibit depressed Ka/Ks ratios compared with those of other teleosts, and this may suggest that their mitogenomes have experienced strong selective constraints to eliminate deleterious mutations.
Project description:In animals with uniparental care, the quality of care provided by one sex can deeply impact the reproductive success of both sexes. Studying variation in parental care quality within a species and which factors may affect it can, therefore, shed important light on patterns of mate choice and other reproductive decisions observed in nature. Using Syngnathus typhle, a pipefish species with extensive uniparental male care, with embryos developing inside a brood pouch during a lengthy pregnancy, we assessed how egg size (which correlates positively with female size), male size, and water temperature affect brooding traits that relate to male care quality, all measured on day 18, approximately 1/3, of the brooding period. We found that larger males brooded eggs at lower densities, and their embryos were heavier than those of small males independent of initial egg size. However, large males had lower embryo survival relative to small males. We found no effect of egg size or of paternal size on within-pouch oxygen levels, but oxygen levels were significantly higher in the bottom than the middle section of the pouch. Males that brooded at higher temperatures had lower pouch oxygen levels presumably because of higher embryo developmental rates, as more developed embryos consume more oxygen. Together, our results suggest that small and large males follow distinct paternal strategies: large males positively affect embryo size whereas small males favor embryo survival. As females prefer large mates, offspring size at independence may be more important to female fitness than offspring survival during development.
Project description:A fundamental problem for the evolution of pregnancy, the most specialized form of parental investment among vertebrates, is the rejection of the nonself-embryo. Mammals achieve immunological tolerance by down-regulating both major histocompatibility complex pathways (MHC I and II). Although pregnancy has evolved multiple times independently among vertebrates, knowledge of associated immune system adjustments is restricted to mammals. All of them (except monotremata) display full internal pregnancy, making evolutionary reconstructions within the class mammalia meaningless. Here, we study the seahorse and pipefish family (syngnathids) that have evolved male pregnancy across a gradient from external oviparity to internal gestation. We assess how immunological tolerance is achieved by reconstruction of the immune gene repertoire in a comprehensive sample of 12 seahorse and pipefish genomes along the "male pregnancy" gradient together with expression patterns of key immune and pregnancy genes in reproductive tissues. We found that the evolution of pregnancy coincided with a modification of the adaptive immune system. Divergent genomic rearrangements of the MHC II pathway among fully pregnant species were identified in both genera of the syngnathids: The pipefishes (Syngnathus) displayed loss of several genes of the MHC II pathway while seahorses (Hippocampus) featured a highly divergent invariant chain (CD74). Our findings suggest that a trade-off between immunological tolerance and embryo rejection accompanied the evolution of unique male pregnancy. That pipefishes survive in an ocean of microbes without one arm of the adaptive immune defense suggests a high degree of immunological flexibility among vertebrates, which may advance our understanding of immune-deficiency diseases.
Project description:Chlamydia are obligate intracellular bacteria and important pathogens of humans and animals. Chlamydia-related bacteria are also major fish pathogens, infecting epithelial cells of the gills and skin to cause the disease epitheliocystis. Given the wide distribution, ancient origins and spectacular diversity of bony fishes, this group offers a rich resource for the identification and isolation of novel Chlamydia. The broad-nosed pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) is a widely distributed and genetically diverse temperate fish species, susceptible to epitheliocystis across much of its range. We describe here a new bacterial species, Candidatus Syngnamydia venezia; epitheliocystis agent of S. typhle and close relative to other chlamydial pathogens which are known to infect diverse hosts ranging from invertebrates to humans.
Project description:Syngnathid fish (pipefish and seahorses) are unique among teleost fish in that their ovary consists of a rolled sheet with germinal ridge(s) on the dorsal side running along the entire length of the sheet. A distinct difference is seen in the ovarian structure between polygamous Syngnathus pipefish and monogamous seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), the former having one germinal ridge and the latter with two ridges. This study examined the ovarian structure and the mode of egg production in a monogamous pipefish Corythoichthys haematopterus. The ovary of C. haematopterus had two germinal ridges like that observed in monogamous seahorses. There were two distinct groups of follicles in the ovary, one being a cohort of extremely small follicles and the other a cohort of follicles developing and increasing in size with the passage of time. We suggest that the ovarian structure and the mode of egg production in this pipefish are adaptations to monogamy.
Project description:The major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-mediated adaptive immune system is the hallmark of gnathostome immune defence. Recent work suggests that cod-like fishes (Gadidae) lack important components of the MHC class II mediated immunity. Here, we report a putative independent loss of functionality of this pathway in another species, the pipefish Syngnathus typhle, that belongs to a distantly related fish family (Syngnathidae). In a deep transcriptome sequencing approach comprising several independent normalized and non-normalized expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries with approximately 7.5 × 10(8) reads, sequenced with two next generation platforms (454 and Illumina), we were unable to identify MHC class II?/? genes as well as genes encoding associated receptors. Along with the recent findings in cod, our results suggest that immune systems of the Euteleosts may be more variable than previously assumed.
Project description:Trade-offs between brood size and offspring size, offspring survival, parental condition or parental survival are classic assumptions in life history biology. A reduction in brood size may lessen these costs of care, but offspring mortality can also result in an energetic gain, if parents are able to utilize the nutrients from the demised young. Males of the broad-nosed pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) care for the offspring by brooding embryos in a brood pouch. Brooding males can absorb nutrients that emanate from embryos, and there is often a reduction in offspring number over the brooding period. In this study, using two experimentally determined brood sizes (partially and fully filled brood pouches), we found that full broods resulted in larger number of developing offspring, despite significantly higher absolute and relative embryo mortality, compared to partial broods. Male survival was also affected by brood size, with males caring for full broods having poorer survival, an effect that together with the reduced embryo survival was found to negate the benefit of large broods. We found that embryo mortality was lower when the brooding males were in good initial condition, that embryos in broods with low embryo mortality weighed more, and surprisingly, that males in higher initial condition had embryos of lower weight. Brood size, however, did not affect embryo weight. Male final condition, but not initial condition, correlated with higher male survival. Taken together, our results show costs and benefits of caring for large brood sizes, where the numerical benefits come with costs in terms of both embryo survival and survival of the brooding father, effects that are often mediated via male condition.
Project description:The transfer of acquired and specific immunity against previously encountered bacteria from mothers to offspring boosts the immune response of the next generation and supports the development of a successful pathogen defense. While most studies claim that the transfer of immunity is a maternal trait, in the sex-role-reversed pipefish Syngnathus typhle, fathers nurse the embryos over a placenta-like structure, which opens the door for additional paternal immune priming. We examined the potential and persistence of bacteria-type-specific parental immune priming in the pipefish S. typhle over maturation time using a fully reciprocal design with two different bacteria species (Vibrio spp. and Tenacibaculum maritimum). Our results suggest that S. typhle is able to specifically prime the next generation against prevalent local bacteria and to a limited extent even also against newly introduced bacteria species. Long-term protection was thereby maintained only against prevailing Vibrio bacteria. Maternal and paternal transgenerational immune priming can complement each other, as they affect different pathways of the offspring immune system and come with distinct degree of specificity. The differential regulation of DNA-methylation genes upon parental bacteria exposure in premature pipefish offspring indicates that epigenetic regulation processes are involved in transferring immune-related information across generations. The identified trade-offs between immune priming and reproduction determine TGIP as a costly trait, which might constrain the evolution of long-lasting TGIP, if parental and offspring generations do not share the same parasite assembly.