Dramatic variation of the vomeronasal pheromone receptor gene repertoire among five orders of placental and marsupial mammals.
ABSTRACT: Pheromones are chemicals emitted and sensed by conspecifics to elicit social and sexual responses and are perceived in terrestrial vertebrates primarily by the vomeronasal organ (VNO). Pheromone receptors in the mammalian VNO are encoded by the V1R and V2R gene superfamilies. The V1R superfamily contains 187 and 102 putatively functional genes in the mouse and rat, respectively. To investigate whether this large repertoire size is typical among mammals with functional VNOs, we here describe the V1R repertoires of dog, cow, and opossum based on their draft genome sequences. The dog and cow have only 8 and 32 intact V1R genes, respectively. Thus, the intact V1R repertoire size varies by at least 23-fold among placental mammals with functional VNOs. To our knowledge, this size ratio represents the greatest among-species variation in gene family size of all mammalian gene families. Phylogenetic analysis of placental V1R genes suggests multiple losses of ancestral genes in carnivores and artiodactyls and gains of many new genes by gene duplication in rodents, manifesting massive gene births and deaths. We also identify 49 intact opossum V1R genes and discover independent expansions of the repertoire in placentals and marsupials. We further show a concordance between the V1R repertoire size and the complexity of VNO morphology, suggesting that the latter could indicate the sophistication of pheromone communications within species. In sum, our results demonstrate tremendous diversity and rapid evolution of mammalian V1R gene inventories and caution the generalization of VNO biology from rodents to all mammals.
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: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: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) processes chemosensory information, including pheromone signals that influence reproductive behaviors. The sensory neurons of the VNO express two types of chemosensory receptors, V1R and V2R. There are ~165 V1R genes in the mouse genome that have been classified into ~12 divergent subfamilies. Each sensory neuron of the apical compartment of the VNO transcribes only one of the repertoire of V1R genes. A model for mutually exclusive V1R transcription in these cells has been proposed in which each V1R gene might compete stochastically for a single transcriptional complex. This model predicts that the large repertoire of divergent V1R genes in the mouse genome contains common regulatory elements. In this study, we have characterized V1R promoter regions by comparative genomics and by mapping transcription start sites.We find that transcription is initiated from ~1 kb promoter regions that are well conserved within V1R subfamilies. While cross-subfamily homology is not evident by traditional methods, we developed a heuristic motif-searching tool, LogoAlign, and applied this tool to identify motifs shared within the promoters of all V1R genes. Our motif-searching tool exhibits rapid convergence to a relatively small number of non-redundant solutions (97% convergence). We also find that the best motifs contain significantly more information than those identified in controls, and that these motifs are more likely to be found in the immediate vicinity of transcription start sites than elsewhere in gene blocks. The best motifs occur near transcription start sites of ~90% of all V1R genes and across all of the divergent subfamilies. Therefore, these motifs are candidate binding sites for transcription factors involved in V1R co-regulation.Our analyses show that V1R subfamilies have broad and well conserved promoter regions from which transcription is initiated. Results from a new motif-finding algorithm, LogoAlign, designed for this context and more generally for searching large, hierarchical datasets, suggest the existence of common information-rich regulatory motifs that are shared across otherwise divergent V1R subfamilies.
Project description:Pheromones are water-soluble chemicals released and sensed by individuals of the same species to elicit social and reproductive behaviors or physiological changes; they are perceived primarily by the vomeronasal organ (VNO) in terrestrial vertebrates. Humans and some related primates possess only vestigial VNOs and have no or significantly reduced ability to detect pheromones, a phenomenon not well understood at the molecular level. Here we show that genes encoding the TRP2 ion channel and V1R pheromone receptors, two components of the vomeronasal pheromone signal transduction pathway, have been impaired and removed from functional constraints since shortly before the separation of hominoids and Old World monkeys approximately 23 million years ago, and that the random inactivation of pheromone receptor genes is an ongoing process even in present-day humans. The phylogenetic distribution of vomeronasal pheromone insensitivity is concordant with those of conspicuous female sexual swelling and male trichromatic color vision, suggesting that a vision-based signaling-sensory mechanism may have in part replaced the VNO-mediated chemical-based system in the social/reproductive activities of hominoids and Old World monkeys (catarrhines).
Project description:The vomeronasal organ (VNO) or Jacobson's organ is responsible in terrestrial vertebrates for the sensory perception of pheromones, chemicals that elicit stereotyped behaviors among individuals of the same species. Pheromone-induced behaviors and a functional VNO have been described in a number of mammals, but the existence of this sensory system in human is still debated. Recently, two nonhomologous gene families, V1R and V2R, encoding pheromone receptors have been identified in rat. These receptors belong to the seven-transmembrane domain G-protein-coupled receptor superfamily. We sought to characterize V1R-like genes in the human genome. We have identified seven different human sequences by PCR and library screening with rodent sequences. These human sequences exhibit characteristic features of V1R receptors and show 52%-59% of amino acid sequence identity with the rat sequences. Using PCR on a monochromosomal somatic cell hybrid panel and/or FISH, we demonstrate that these V1R-like sequences are distributed on chromosomes 7, 16, 20, 13, 14, 15, 21, and 22 and possibly on additional chromosomes. One sequence hybridizes to pericentromeric locations on all the acrocentric chromosomes (13, 14, 15, 21, and 22). All of the seven V1R-like sequences analyzed show interrupted reading frames, indicating that they represent nonfunctional pseudogenes. The preponderence of pseudogenes among human V1R sequences and the striking anatomical differences between rodent and human VNO raise the possibility that humans may have lost the V1R/VNO-mediated sensory functions of rodents.
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:Two classes of vomeronasal receptor genes, V1R and V2R, occur in vertebrates. Whereas, V1R loci are found in a wide variety of mammals, including primates, intact V2R genes have thus far only been described in rodents and marsupials. In primates, the V2R repertoire has been considered degenerate. Here, we identify for the first time two intact V2R loci in a strepsirrhine primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), and demonstrate their expression in the vomeronasal organ. Putatively functional orthologues are present in two other strepsirrhines, whereas, both loci are pseudogenes in a range of anthropoid species. The functional significance of the loci is unknown, but positive selection on one of them is consistent with an adaptive role in pheromone detection. Finally, conservation of V2R loci in strepsirrhines is notable, given their high diversity and role in MUP and MHC detection in rodents.
Project description:We applied a comprehensive data-mining strategy to examine the repertoires of rat and mouse odorant receptors (ORs) and type 1 pheromone receptors (V1Rs) using the mm5 (mouse) and rn3 (rat) genomes. We identified 1576 rat OR genes, including 292 pseudogenes. The rat V1R repertoire is composed of 115 intact genes and 72 pseudogenes. The mouse OR and V1R databases were updated using the new assembly mm5, from which 1375 mouse ORs and 308 V1Rs were identified, with more than 100 putative pseudogenes from mm2 now identified as intact because of the higher sequence quality. With these new data we have conducted a series of genomic analyses of the OR and V1R genes from mouse and rat. Orthologous OR clusters were identified in mouse and rat and comparison analysis was performed at three incremental levels: families, coding sequences, and motifs. At the family level, we found that V1R genes have more species-specific families than OR genes. About 20% of intact V1R genes have no orthologous counterpart in the same family, whereas less than 1% of intact ORs are similarly isolated. At the coding sequence level, OR genes are more conserved between mouse and rat than V1R genes. OR genes share greater similarity with their orthologous counterparts than with their closest neighbor, whereas V1R genes show the opposite tendency. Motifs were identified to obtain biological insights. Motifs specific for species or families were found in OR and V1R genes, which may result in the differential pheromone-dependent behaviors and perception of odors between mouse and rat.
Project description:The vomeronasal organ (VNO) has a key role in mediating the social and defensive responses of many terrestrial vertebrates to species- and sex-specific chemosignals. More than 250 putative pheromone receptors have been identified in the mouse VNO, but the nature of the signals detected by individual VNO receptors has not yet been elucidated. To gain insight into the molecular logic of VNO detection leading to mating, aggression or defensive responses, we sought to uncover the response profiles of individual vomeronasal receptors to a wide range of animal cues. Here we describe the repertoire of behaviourally and physiologically relevant stimuli detected by a large number of individual vomeronasal receptors in mice, and define a global map of vomeronasal signal detection. We demonstrate that the two classes (V1R and V2R) of vomeronasal receptors use fundamentally different strategies to encode chemosensory information, and that distinct receptor subfamilies have evolved towards the specific recognition of certain animal groups or chemical structures. The association of large subsets of vomeronasal receptors with cognate, ethologically and physiologically relevant stimuli establishes the molecular foundation of vomeronasal information coding, and opens new avenues for further investigating the neural mechanisms underlying behaviour specificity.