Population Genomic Analysis of a Pitviper Reveals Microevolutionary Forces Underlying Venom Chemistry.
ABSTRACT: Venoms are among the most biologically active secretions known, and are commonly believed to evolve under extreme positive selection. Many venom gene families, however, have undergone duplication, and are often deployed in doses vastly exceeding the LD50 for most prey species, which should reduce the strength of positive selection. Here, we contrast these selective regimes using snake venoms, which consist of rapidly evolving protein formulations. Though decades of extensive studies have found that snake venom proteins are subject to strong positive selection, the greater action of drift has been hypothesized, but never tested. Using a combination of de novo genome sequencing, population genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics, we compare the two modes of evolution in the pitviper, Protobothrops mucrosquamatus. By partitioning selective constraints and adaptive evolution in a McDonald-Kreitman-type framework, we find support for both hypotheses: venom proteins indeed experience both stronger positive selection, and lower selective constraint than other genes in the genome. Furthermore, the strength of selection may be modulated by expression level, with more abundant proteins experiencing weaker selective constraint, leading to the accumulation of more deleterious mutations. These findings show that snake venoms evolve by a combination of adaptive and neutral mechanisms, both of which explain their extraordinarily high rates of molecular evolution. In addition to positive selection, which optimizes efficacy of the venom in the short term, relaxed selective constraints for deleterious mutations can lead to more rapid turnover of individual proteins, and potentially to exploration of a larger venom phenotypic space.
Project description:While many studies have shown that extracellular proteins evolve rapidly, how selection acts on them remains poorly understood. We used snake venoms to understand the interaction between ecology, expression level, and evolutionary rate in secreted protein systems. Venomous snakes employ well-integrated systems of proteins and organic constituents to immobilize prey. Venoms are generally optimized to subdue preferred prey more effectively than non-prey, and many venom protein families manifest positive selection and rapid gene family diversification. Although previous studies have illuminated how individual venom protein families evolve, how selection acts on venoms as integrated systems, is unknown.Using next-generation transcriptome sequencing and mass spectrometry, we examined microevolution in two pitvipers, allopatrically separated for at least 1.6 million years, and their hybrids. Transcriptomes of parental species had generally similar compositions in regard to protein families, but for a given protein family, the homologs present and concentrations thereof sometimes differed dramatically. For instance, a phospholipase A2 transcript comprising 73.4 % of the Protobothrops elegans transcriptome, was barely present in the P. flavoviridis transcriptome (<0.05 %). Hybrids produced most proteins found in both parental venoms. Protein evolutionary rates were positively correlated with transcriptomic and proteomic abundances, and the most abundant proteins showed positive selection. This pattern holds with the addition of four other published crotaline transcriptomes, from two more genera, and also for the recently published king cobra genome, suggesting that rapid evolution of abundant proteins may be generally true for snake venoms. Looking more broadly at Protobothrops, we show that rapid evolution of the most abundant components is due to positive selection, suggesting an interplay between abundance and adaptation.Given log-scale differences in toxin abundance, which are likely correlated with biosynthetic costs, we hypothesize that as a result of natural selection, snakes optimize return on energetic investment by producing more of venom proteins that increase their fitness. Natural selection then acts on the additive genetic variance of these components, in proportion to their contributions to overall fitness. Adaptive evolution of venoms may occur most rapidly through changes in expression levels that alter fitness contributions, and thus the strength of selection acting on specific secretome components.
Project description:Snakes are limbless predators, and many species use venom to help overpower relatively large, agile prey. Snake venoms are complex protein mixtures encoded by several multilocus gene families that function synergistically to cause incapacitation. To examine venom evolution, we sequenced and interrogated the genome of a venomous snake, the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), and compared it, together with our unique transcriptome, microRNA, and proteome datasets from this species, with data from other vertebrates. In contrast to the platypus, the only other venomous vertebrate with a sequenced genome, we find that snake toxin genes evolve through several distinct co-option mechanisms and exhibit surprisingly variable levels of gene duplication and directional selection that correlate with their functional importance in prey capture. The enigmatic accessory venom gland shows a very different pattern of toxin gene expression from the main venom gland and seems to have recruited toxin-like lectin genes repeatedly for new nontoxic functions. In addition, tissue-specific microRNA analyses suggested the co-option of core genetic regulatory components of the venom secretory system from a pancreatic origin. Although the king cobra is limbless, we recovered coding sequences for all Hox genes involved in amniote limb development, with the exception of Hoxd12. Our results provide a unique view of the origin and evolution of snake venom and reveal multiple genome-level adaptive responses to natural selection in this complex biological weapon system. More generally, they provide insight into mechanisms of protein evolution under strong selection.
Project description:Gene expression changes contribute to complex trait variations in both individuals and populations. However, the evolution of gene expression underlying complex traits over macroevolutionary timescales remains poorly understood. Snake venoms are proteinaceous cocktails where the expression of each toxin can be quantified and mapped to a distinct genomic locus and traced for millions of years. Using a phylogenetic generalized linear mixed model, we analyzed expression data of toxin genes from 52 snake species spanning the 3 venomous snake families and estimated phylogenetic covariance, which acts as a measure of evolutionary constraint. We find that evolution of toxin combinations is not constrained. However, although all combinations are in principle possible, the actual dimensionality of phylomorphic space is low, with envenomation strategies focused around only four major toxin families: metalloproteases, three-finger toxins, serine proteases, and phospholipases A2. Although most extant snakes prioritize either a single or a combination of major toxin families, they are repeatedly recruited and lost. We find that over macroevolutionary timescales, the venom phenotypes were not shaped by phylogenetic constraints, which include important microevolutionary constraints such as epistasis and pleiotropy, but more likely by ecological filtering that permits a small number of optimal solutions. As a result, phenotypic optima were repeatedly attained by distantly related species. These results indicate that venoms evolve by selection on biochemistry of prey envenomation, which permit diversity through parallelism, and impose strong limits, since only a few of the theoretically possible strategies seem to work well and are observed in extant snakes.
Project description:Gene duplication followed by functional divergence has long been hypothesized to be the main source of molecular novelty. Convincing examples of neofunctionalization, however, remain rare. Snake venom phospholipase A2 genes are members of large multigene families with many diverse functions, thus they are excellent models to study the emergence of novel functions after gene duplications.Here, I show that positive Darwinian selection and neofunctionalization is common in snake venom phospholipase A2 genes. The pattern of gene duplication and positive selection indicates that adaptive molecular evolution occurs immediately after duplication events as novel functions emerge and continues as gene families diversify and are refined. Surprisingly, adaptive evolution of group-I phospholipases in elapids is also associated with speciation events, suggesting adaptation of the phospholipase arsenal to novel prey species after niche shifts. Mapping the location of sites under positive selection onto the crystal structure of phospholipase A2 identified regions evolving under diversifying selection are located on the molecular surface and are likely protein-protein interactions sites essential for toxin functions.These data show that increases in genomic complexity (through gene duplications) can lead to phenotypic complexity (venom composition) and that positive Darwinian selection is a common evolutionary force in snake venoms. Finally, regions identified under selection on the surface of phospholipase A2 enzymes are potential candidate sites for structure based antivenin design.
Project description:Animal venoms are theorized to evolve under the significant influence of positive Darwinian selection in a chemical arms race scenario, where the evolution of venom resistance in prey and the invention of potent venom in the secreting animal exert reciprocal selection pressures. Venom research to date has mainly focused on evolutionarily younger lineages, such as snakes and cone snails, while mostly neglecting ancient clades (e.g., cnidarians, coleoids, spiders and centipedes). By examining genome, venom-gland transcriptome and sequences from the public repositories, we report the molecular evolutionary regimes of several centipede and spider toxin families, which surprisingly accumulated low-levels of sequence variations, despite their long evolutionary histories. Molecular evolutionary assessment of over 3500 nucleotide sequences from 85 toxin families spanning the breadth of the animal kingdom has unraveled a contrasting evolutionary strategy employed by ancient and evolutionarily young clades. We show that the venoms of ancient lineages remarkably evolve under the heavy constraints of negative selection, while toxin families in lineages that originated relatively recently rapidly diversify under the influence of positive selection. We propose that animal venoms mostly employ a 'two-speed' mode of evolution, where the major influence of diversifying selection accompanies the earlier stages of ecological specialization (e.g., diet and range expansion) in the evolutionary history of the species-the period of expansion, resulting in the rapid diversification of the venom arsenal, followed by longer periods of purifying selection that preserve the potent toxin pharmacopeia-the period of purification and fixation. However, species in the period of purification may re-enter the period of expansion upon experiencing a major shift in ecology or environment. Thus, we highlight for the first time the significant roles of purifying and episodic selections in shaping animal venoms.
Project description:Bothrops punctatus is an endangered, semi-arboreal pitviper species distributed in Panamá, Colombia, and Ecuador, whose venom is poorly characterized. In the present work, the protein composition of this venom was profiled using the 'snake venomics' analytical strategy. Decomplexation of the crude venom by RP-HPLC and SDS-PAGE, followed by tandem mass spectrometry of tryptic digests, showed that it consists of proteins assigned to at least nine snake toxin families. Metalloproteinases are predominant in this secretion (41.5% of the total proteins), followed by C-type lectin/lectin-like proteins (16.7%), bradykinin-potentiating peptides (10.7%), phospholipases A2 (93%), serine proteinases (5.4%), disintegrins (38%), L-amino acid oxidases (3.1%), vascular endothelial growth factors (17%), and cysteine-rich secretory proteins (1.2%). Altogether, 6.6% of the proteins were not identified. In vitro, the venom exhibited proteolytic, phospholipase A2, and L-amino acid oxidase activities, as well as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitory activity, in agreement with the obtained proteomic profile. Cytotoxic activity on murine C2C12 myoblasts was negative, suggesting that the majority of venom phospholipases A2 likely belong to the acidic type, which often lack major toxic effects. The protein composition of B. punctatus venom shows a good correlation with toxic activities here and previously reported, and adds further data in support of the wide diversity of strategies that have evolved in snake venoms to subdue prey, as increasingly being revealed by proteomic analyses.
Project description:The processes that drive the evolution of snake venom variability, particularly the role of diet, have been a topic of intense recent research interest. Here, we test whether extensive variation in venom composition in the medically important viper genus Echis is associated with shifts in diet. Examination of stomach and hindgut contents revealed extreme variation between the major clades of Echis in the proportion of arthropod prey consumed. The toxicity (median lethal dose, LD(50)) of representative Echis venoms to a natural scorpion prey species was found to be strongly associated with the degree of arthropod feeding. Mapping the results onto a novel Echis phylogeny generated from nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data revealed two independent instances of coevolution of venom toxicity and diet. Unlike venom LD(50), the speed with which venoms incapacitated and killed scorpions was not associated with the degree of arthropod feeding. The prey-specific venom toxicity of arthropod-feeding Echis may thus be adaptive primarily by reducing venom expenditure. Overall, our results provide strong evidence that variation in snake venom composition results from adaptive evolution driven by natural selection for different diets, and underscores the need for a multi-faceted, integrative approach to the study of the causes of venom evolution.
Project description:Snake venoms represent an enriched system for investigating the evolutionary processes that lead to complex and dynamic trophic adaptations. It has long been hypothesized that natural selection may drive geographic variation in venom composition, yet previous studies have lacked the population genetic context to examine these patterns. We leverage range-wide sampling of Mojave Rattlesnakes (Crotalus scutulatus) and use a combination of venom, morphological, phylogenetic, population genetic, and environmental data to characterize the striking dichotomy of neurotoxic (Type A) and hemorrhagic (Type B) venoms throughout the range of this species. We find that three of the four previously identified major lineages within C. scutulatus possess a combination of Type A, Type B, and a 'mixed' Type A?+?B venom phenotypes, and that fixation of the two main venom phenotypes occurs on a more fine geographic scale than previously appreciated. We also find that Type A?+?B individuals occur in regions of inferred introgression, and that this mixed phenotype is comparatively rare. Our results support strong directional local selection leading to fixation of alternative venom phenotypes on a fine geographic scale, and are inconsistent with balancing selection to maintain both phenotypes within a single population. Our comparisons to biotic and abiotic factors further indicate that venom phenotype correlates with fang morphology and climatic variables. We hypothesize that links to fang morphology may be indicative of co-evolution of venom and other trophic adaptations, and that climatic variables may be linked to prey distributions and/or physiology, which in turn impose selection pressures on snake venoms.
Project description:Envenomation of humans by snakes is a complex and continuously evolving medical emergency, and treatment is made that much more difficult by the diverse biochemical composition of many venoms. Venomous snakes and their venoms also provide models for the study of molecular evolutionary processes leading to adaptation and genotype-phenotype relationships. To compare venom complexity and protein sequences, venom gland transcriptomes are assembled, which usually requires the sacrifice of snakes for tissue. However, toxin transcripts are also present in venoms, offering the possibility of obtaining cDNA sequences directly from venom. This study provides evidence that unknown full-length venom protein transcripts can be obtained from the venoms of multiple species from all major venomous snake families. These unknown venom protein cDNAs are obtained by the use of primers designed from conserved signal peptide sequences within each venom protein superfamily. This technique was used to assemble a partial venom gland transcriptome for the Middle American Rattlesnake (Crotalus simus tzabcan) by amplifying sequences for phospholipases A2, serine proteases, C-lectins, and metalloproteinases from within venom. Phospholipase A2 sequences were also recovered from the venoms of several rattlesnakes and an elapid snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus), and three-finger toxin sequences were recovered from multiple rear-fanged snake species, demonstrating that the three major clades of advanced snakes (Elapidae, Viperidae, Colubridae) have stable mRNA present in their venoms. These cDNA sequences from venom were then used to explore potential activities derived from protein sequence similarities and evolutionary histories within these large multigene superfamilies. Venom-derived sequences can also be used to aid in characterizing venoms that lack proteomic profiles and identify sequence characteristics indicating specific envenomation profiles. This approach, requiring only venom, provides access to cDNA sequences in the absence of living specimens, even from commercial venom sources, to evaluate important regional differences in venom composition and to study snake venom protein evolution.
Project description:Prey-selective venoms and toxins have been documented across only a few species of snakes. The lack of research in this area has been due to the absence of suitably flexible testing platforms. In order to test more species for prey specificity of their venom, we used an innovative taxonomically flexible, high-throughput biolayer interferometry approach to ascertain the relative binding of 29 ?-neurotoxic venoms from African and Asian elapid representatives (26 Naja spp., Aspidelaps scutatus, Elapsoidea boulengeri, and four locales of Ophiophagus hannah) to the alpha-1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor orthosteric (active) site for amphibian, lizard, snake, bird, and rodent targets. Our results detected prey-selective, intraspecific, and geographical differences of ?-neurotoxic binding. The results also suggest that crude venom that shows prey selectivity is likely driven by the proportions of prey-specific ?-neurotoxins with differential selectivity within the crude venom. Our results also suggest that since the ?-neurotoxic prey targeting does not always account for the full dietary breadth of a species, other toxin classes with a different pathophysiological function likely play an equally important role in prey immobilisation of the crude venom depending on the prey type envenomated. The use of this innovative and taxonomically flexible diverse assay in functional venom testing can be key in attempting to understanding the evolution and ecology of ?-neurotoxic snake venoms, as well as opening up biochemical and pharmacological avenues to explore other venom effects.