Project description:Gene order, or microsynteny, is generally thought not to be conserved across metazoan phyla. Only a handful of exceptions, typically of tandemly duplicated genes such as Hox genes, have been discovered. Here, we performed a systematic survey for microsynteny conservation in 17 genomes and identified nearly 600 pairs of unrelated genes that have remained together across over 600 million years of evolution. Using multiple genome-wide resources, including several genomic features, epigenetic marks, sequence conservation and microarray expression data, we provide extensive evidence that many of these ancient microsyntenic arrangements have been conserved in order to preserve either (i) the coordinated transcription of neighboring genes, or (ii) Genomic Regulatory Blocks (GRBs), in which transcriptional enhancers controlling key developmental genes are contained within nearby “bystander” genes. In addition, we generated ChIP-seq data for key histone modifications in zebrafish embryos to further investigate putative GRBs in embryonic development. Finally, using chromosome conformation capture (3C) assays and stable transgenic experiments, we demonstrate that enhancers within bystander genes drive the expression of genes such as Otx and Islet, critical regulators of central nervous system development across bilaterians. These results show that ancient genomic associations are far more common in modern metazoans than previously thought – likely involving over 12% of the ancestral bilaterian genome – and that cis-regulatory constraints have played a major role in conserving the architecture of metazoan genomes. ChIP-seq H3K27me3 of 24hpf zebrafish embryos
Project description:Animal germ cells produce PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), small silencing RNAs that suppress transposons and enable gamete maturation. Mammalian transposon-silencing piRNAs accumulate early in spermatogenesis, whereas pachytene piRNAs are produced later during post-natal spermatogenesis and account for >95% of all piRNAs in the adult mouse testis. Mutants defective for pachytene piRNA pathway proteins fail to produce mature sperm, but neither the piRNA precursor transcripts nor the trigger for pachytene piRNA production is known. Here, we show that the transcription factor A-MYB initiates pachytene piRNA production. A-MYB drives transcription of both pachytene piRNA precursor RNAs and the mRNAs for core piRNA biogenesis factors, including MIWI, the protein through which pachytene piRNAs function. A-MYB regulation of piRNA pathway proteins and piRNA genes creates a coherent feed-forward loop that ensures the robust accumulation of pachytene piRNAs. This regulatory circuit, which can be detected in rooster testes, likely predates the divergence of birds and mammals. PAS-Seq and CAGE in mouse testes
Project description:A major challenge in biology is to determine how evolutionarily novel characters originate, however, mechanistic explanations for the origin of novelties are almost completely unknown. The evolution of mammalian pregnancy is an excellent system in which to study the origin of novelties because extant mammals preserve major stages in the transition from egg-laying to live-birth. To determine the molecular bases of this transition we characterized the pregnant/gravid uterine transcriptome from tetrapods, including species in the three major mammalian lineages, and used ancestral transcriptome reconstruction to trace the evolutionary history of uterine gene expression. We show that thousands of genes evolved endometrial expression during the origins of mammalian pregnancy, including numerous genes that mediate maternal-fetal communication and immunotolerance.Furthermore we show that thousands of regulatory elements active in decidualized human endometrial stromal cells are derived from ancient mammalian transposable elements which provided binding sites for transcription factors that mediate decidualization and endometrial cell-type identity. Our results indicate that one of the defining mammalian novelties evolved via domestication of ancient mammalian transposable elements into hormone-responsive regulatory elements throughout the genome. Examination of histone modification and DNAse hypersensitivity in decidualized dESC
Project description:The rapid accumulation of ancient human genomes from various areas and time periods potentially enables the expansion of studies of biodiversity, biogeography, forensics, population history, and epidemiology into past populations. However, most ancient DNA (aDNA) data were generated through microarrays designed for modern-day populations, which are known to misrepresent the population structure. Past studies addressed these problems by using ancestry informative markers (AIMs). It is, thereby, unclear whether AIMs derived from contemporary human genomes can capture ancient population structures, and whether AIM-finding methods are applicable to aDNA, provided that the high missingness rates in ancient-and oftentimes haploid-DNA can also distort the population structure. Here, we define ancient AIMs (aAIMs) and develop a framework to evaluate established and novel AIM-finding methods in identifying the most informative markers. We show that aAIMs identified by a novel principal component analysis (PCA)-based method outperform all of the competing methods in classifying ancient individuals into populations and identifying admixed individuals. In some cases, predictions made using the aAIMs were more accurate than those made with a complete marker set. We discuss the features of the ancient Eurasian population structure and strategies to identify aAIMs. This work informs the design of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarrays and the interpretation of aDNA results, which enables a population-wide testing of primordialist theories.