Characterisation of major histocompatibility complex class I in the Australian cane toad, Rhinella marina.
ABSTRACT: The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class I is a highly variable gene family that encodes cell-surface receptors vital for recognition of intracellular pathogens and initiation of immune responses. The MHC class I has yet to be characterised in bufonid toads (Order: Anura; Suborder: Neobatrachia; Family: Bufonidae), a large and diverse family of anurans. Here we describe the characterisation of a classical MHC class I gene in the Australian cane toad, Rhinella marina. From 25 individuals sampled from the Australian population, we found only 3 alleles at this classical class I locus. We also found large number of class I alpha 1 alleles, implying an expansion of class I loci in this species. The low classical class I genetic diversity is likely the result of repeated bottleneck events, which arose as a result of the cane toad's complex history of introductions as a biocontrol agent and its subsequent invasion across Australia.
Project description:As is common in biological invasions, the rate at which cane toads (<i>Rhinella marina</i>) have spread across tropical Australia has accelerated through time. Individuals at the invasion front travel further than range-core conspecifics and exhibit distinctive morphologies that may facilitate rapid dispersal. However, the links between these morphological changes and locomotor performance have not been clearly documented. We used raceway trials and high-speed videography to document locomotor traits (e.g. hop distances, heights, velocities, and angles of take-off and landing) of toads from range-core and invasion-front populations. Locomotor performance varied geographically, and this variation in performance was linked to morphological features that have evolved during the toads' Australian invasion. Geographical variation in morphology and locomotor ability was evident not only in wild-caught animals, but also in individuals that had been raised under standardized conditions in captivity. Our data thus support the hypothesis that the cane toad's invasion across Australia has generated rapid evolutionary shifts in dispersal-relevant performance traits, and that these differences in performance are linked to concurrent shifts in morphological traits.
Project description:Background:The cane toad (Rhinella marina formerly Bufo marinus) is a species native to Central and South America that has spread across many regions of the globe. Cane toads are known for their rapid adaptation and deleterious impacts on native fauna in invaded regions. However, despite an iconic status, there are major gaps in our understanding of cane toad genetics. The availability of a genome would help to close these gaps and accelerate cane toad research. Findings:We report a draft genome assembly for R. marina, the first of its kind for the Bufonidae family. We used a combination of long-read Pacific Biosciences RS II and short-read Illumina HiSeq X sequencing to generate 359.5 Gb of raw sequence data. The final hybrid assembly of 31,392 scaffolds was 2.55 Gb in length with a scaffold N50 of 168 kb. BUSCO analysis revealed that the assembly included full length or partial fragments of 90.6% of tetrapod universal single-copy orthologs (n = 3950), illustrating that the gene-containing regions have been well assembled. Annotation predicted 25,846 protein coding genes with similarity to known proteins in Swiss-Prot. Repeat sequences were estimated to account for 63.9% of the assembly. Conclusions:The R. marina draft genome assembly will be an invaluable resource that can be used to further probe the biology of this invasive species. Future analysis of the genome will provide insights into cane toad evolution and enrich our understanding of their interplay with the ecosystem at large.
Project description:Cane toads are a notorious invasive species, inhabiting over 1.2 million km2 of Australia and threatening native biodiversity. The release of pathogenic cane toad viruses is one possible biocontrol strategy yet is currently hindered by the poorly described cane toad virome. Metatranscriptomic analysis of 16 cane toad livers revealed the presence of a novel and full-length picornavirus, Rhimavirus A (RhiV-A), a member of a reptile- and amphibian-specific cluster of the Picornaviridae basal to the Kobuvirus-like group. In the combined liver transcriptome, we also identified a complete genome sequence of a distinct epsilonretrovirus, Rhinella marina endogenous retrovirus (RMERV). The recently sequenced cane toad genome contains 8 complete RMERV proviruses as well as 21 additional truncated insertions. The oldest full-length RMERV provirus was estimated to have inserted 1.9 million years ago (MYA). To screen for these viral sequences in additional toads, we analyzed publicly available transcriptomes from six diverse Australian locations. RhiV-A transcripts were identified in toads sampled from three locations across 1,000 km of Australia, stretching to the current Western Australia (WA) invasion front, while RMERV transcripts were observed at all six sites. Finally, we scanned the cane toad genome for nonretroviral endogenous viral elements, finding three sequences related to small DNA viruses in the family Circoviridae This shows ancestral circoviral infection with subsequent genomic integration. The identification of these current and past viral infections enriches our knowledge of the cane toad virome, an understanding of which will facilitate future work on infection and disease in this important invasive species.IMPORTANCE Cane toads are poisonous amphibians that were introduced to Australia in 1935 for insect control. Since then, their population has increased dramatically, and they now threaten many native Australian species. One potential method to control the population is to release a cane toad virus with high mortality rates, yet few cane toad viruses have been characterized. This study samples cane toads from different Australian locations and uses an RNA sequencing and computational approach to find new viruses. We report novel complete picornavirus and retrovirus sequences that were genetically similar to viruses infecting frogs, reptiles, and fish. Using data generated in other studies, we show that these viral sequences are present in cane toads from distinct Australian locations. Three sequences related to circoviruses were also found in the toad genome. The identification of new viral sequences will aid future studies that investigate their prevalence and potential as agents for biocontrol.
Project description:Invasive species are an important issue worldwide but predicting invasiveness, and the underlying mechanisms that cause it, is difficult. There are several primary hypotheses to explain invasion success. Two main hypothesis based on niche spaces stand out as alternative, although not exclusive. The empty niche hypothesis states that invaders occupy a vacant niche space in the recipient community, and the niche competition hypothesis states that invaders overlap with native species in niche space. Studies on trait similarity/dissimilarity between the invader and native species can provide information on their niche overlap. Here, we use the highly invasive and well-studied cane toad (Rhinella marina) to test these two hypotheses in Australia, and assess its degree of overlap with native species in several niche dimensions. We compare extensive morphological and environmental data of this successful invader to 235 species (97%) of native Australian frogs. Our study is the first to document the significant morphological differences between the invasive cane toad and a continent-wide frog radiation: despite significant environmental overlap, cane toads were distinct in body size and shape from most Australian frog species, suggesting that in addition to their previously documented phenotypic plasticity and wide environmental and trophic niche breadth, their unique shape also may have contributed to their success as an invasive species in Australia. Thus, the invasive success of cane toads in Australia may be explained through them successfully colonizing an empty niche among Australian anurans. Our results support that the cane toad's distinct morphology may have played a unique role in the invasiveness of this species in Australia, which coupled with a broad environmental niche breadth, would have boosted their ability to expand their distribution across Australia. We also propose RLLR (Relative limb length ratio) as a potentially useful measure of identifying morphological niche uniqueness and a potential measure of invasiveness potential in anuran amphibians.
Project description:As a colonizing species expands its range, individuals at the invasion front experience different evolutionary pressures than do those at the range-core. For example, low densities at the edge of the range mean that males should rarely experience intense sperm competition from rivals; and investment into reproduction may trade-off with adaptations for more rapid dispersal. Both of these processes are predicted to favour a reduction in testis size at the invasion front. To explore effects of invasion stage in Australian cane toads (Rhinella marina), we collected and dissected 214 adult males from three regions: one in the species' range-core (northeastern Australia), and two from invasion fronts (one in northwestern Australia and one in southeastern Australia). Despite the brief duration of separation between toads in these areas (approx. 85 years), testis masses averaged greater than 30% higher (as a proportion of body mass) in range-core males than in conspecifics sampled from either vanguard of the invasion. Previous work has documented low reproductive frequencies in female cane toads at the invasion front also, consistent with the hypothesis that evolutionary and ecological pressures unleashed by an invasion can favour relatively low resource allocation to reproduction in both sexes.
Project description:Many invading species have brought devastating parasites and diseases to their new homes, thereby imperiling native taxa. Potentially, though, invaders might have the opposite effect. If they take up parasites that otherwise would infect native taxa, but those parasites fail to develop in the invader, the introduced species might reduce parasite burdens of the native fauna. Similarly, earlier exposure to the other taxon's parasites might 'prime' an anuran's immune system such that it is then able to reject subsequent infection by its own parasite species. Field surveys suggest that lungworm counts in native Australian frogs decrease after the arrival of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina), and laboratory studies confirm that native lungworm larvae enter, but do not survive in, the toads. In laboratory trials, we confirmed that the presence of anurans (either frogs or toads) in an experimental arena reduced uptake rates of lungworm larvae by anurans that were later added to the same arena. However, experimental exposure to lungworms from native frogs did not enhance a toad's ability to reject subsequent infection by its own lungworm species.
Project description:Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genes are found in the genomes of all jawed vertebrates. The evolution of this gene family is closely tied to the evolution of the vertebrate genome. Family members are frequently found in four paralogous regions, which were formed in two rounds of genome duplication in the early vertebrates, but in some species class Is have been subject to additional duplication or translocation, creating additional clusters. The gene family is traditionally grouped into two subtypes: classical MHC class I genes that are usually MHC-linked, highly polymorphic, expressed in a broad range of tissues and present endogenously-derived peptides to cytotoxic T-cells; and non-classical MHC class I genes generally have lower polymorphism, may have tissue-specific expression and have evolved to perform immune-related or non-immune functions. As immune genes can evolve rapidly and are subject to different selection pressure, we hypothesised that there may be divergent, as yet unannotated or uncharacterised class I genes.Application of a novel method of sensitive genome searching of available vertebrate genome sequences revealed a new, extensive sub-family of divergent MHC class I genes, denoted as UT, which has not previously been characterized. These class I genes are found in both American and Australian marsupials, and in monotremes, at an evolutionary chromosomal breakpoint, but are not present in non-mammalian genomes and have been lost from the eutherian lineage. We show that UT family members are expressed in the thymus of the gray short-tailed opossum and in other immune tissues of several Australian marsupials. Structural homology modelling shows that the proteins encoded by this family are predicted to have an open, though short, antigen-binding groove.We have identified a novel sub-family of putatively non-classical MHC class I genes that are specific to marsupials and monotremes. This family was present in the ancestral mammal and is found in extant marsupials and monotremes, but has been lost from the eutherian lineage. The function of this family is as yet unknown, however, their predicted structure may be consistent with presentation of antigens to T-cells.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Bats are an extremely successful group of mammals and possess a variety of unique characteristics, including their ability to co-exist with a diverse range of pathogens. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is the most gene dense and polymorphic region of the genome and MHC class II (MHC-II) molecules play a vital role in the presentation of antigens derived from extracellular pathogens and activation of the adaptive immune response. Characterisation of the MHC-II region of bats is crucial for understanding the evolution of the MHC and of the role of pathogens in shaping the immune system. RESULTS:Here we describe the relatively contracted MHC-II region of the Australian black flying-fox (Pteropus alecto), providing the first detailed insight into the MHC-II region of any species of bat. Twelve MHC-II genes, including one locus (DRB2) located outside the class II region, were identified on a single scaffold in the bat genome. The presence of a class II locus outside the MHC-II region is atypical and provides evidence for an ancient class II duplication block. Two non-classical loci, DO and DM and two classical, DQ and DR loci, were identified in P. alecto. A putative classical, DPB pseudogene was also identified. The bat's antigen processing cluster, though contracted, remains highly conserved, thus supporting its importance in antigen presentation and disease resistance. CONCLUSIONS:This detailed characterisation of the bat MHC-II region helps to fill a phylogenetic gap in the evolution of the mammalian class II region and is a stepping stone towards better understanding of the immune responses in bats to viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.
Project description:Understanding rapid adaptation to novel environments is essential as we face increasing climatic change. Invasive species are an ideal system for studying adaptation as they are typically introduced to novel environments where they must adapt if they are to persist. We used the invasive cane toad, Rhinella marina, to investigate the contribution of plasticity and evolution to rapid adaptation in a novel environment. Rhinella marina is a neotropical toad that has invaded areas with climates outside of its native environmental niche. The goal of this research was to understand how cane toads persist in northern Florida, the coldest region of their combined natural and invasive range, and originally thought to be beyond their thermal breadth. We measured Critical thermal minima in cane toads from the original, warm introduction location (Miami), and their northern range edge (Tampa) to determine whether northern toads were more cold-tolerant, and to examine the contribution of adaptive plasticity and evolution to any changes in tolerance. Our results show that following acclimation to cold temperatures, southern toads are less tolerant of cold than northern toads. This persistent population difference implies selection for cold-tolerance in northern populations. Differences in individual responses indicate that plasticity is also involved in this response. Our findings have implications for conservation because predatory cane toad invasions threaten local faunas, especially native amphibians. Characterizing specific adaptive mechanisms that allow R. marina to expand its range will identify evolutionary processes that shape a highly successful invasive species.