Project description:Size is a fundamental feature of biological systems that affects physiology at all levels. For example, the dynamic, microtubule-based spindle that mediates chromosome segregation scales to a wide range of cell sizes across different organisms and cell types. Xenopus frog species possess a variety of egg and meiotic spindle sizes, and differences in activities or levels of microtubule-associated proteins in the egg cytoplasm between Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis have been shown to account for spindle scaling . Increased activity of the microtubule severing protein katanin scales the X. tropicalis spindle smaller compared to X. laevis , as do elevated levels of TPX2, a protein that enriches the cross-linking kinesin-5 motor Eg5 at spindle poles . To examine the conservation of spindle scaling mechanisms more broadly across frog species, we have utilized the tiny, distantly related Pipid frog Hymenochirus boettgeri. We find that egg extracts from H. boettgeri form meiotic spindles similar in size to X. tropicalis but that TPX2 and katanin-mediated scaling is not conserved. Instead, the microtubule depolymerizing motor protein kif2a functions to modulate spindle size. H. boettgeri kif2a possesses an activating phosphorylation site that is absent from X. laevis. Comparison of katanin and kif2a phosphorylation sites across a variety of species revealed strong evolutionary conservation, with X. laevis and X. tropicalis possessing distinct and unique alterations. Our study highlights the diversity and complexity of spindle assembly and scaling mechanisms, indicating that there is more than one way to assemble a spindle of a particular size.
Project description:THE skin secretion of many amphibians contains peptides that are able to kill a broad range of microorganisms (antimicrobial peptides: AMPs) and potentially play a role in innate immune defense. Similar to the toxin arsenals of various animals, amphibian AMP repertoires typically show major structural variation, and previous studies have suggested that this may be the result of diversifying selection in adaptation to a diverse spectrum of pathogens. Here we report on transcriptome analyses that indicate a very different pattern in the dwarf clawed frog H. boettgeri. Our analyses reveal a diverse set of transcripts containing two to six tandem repeats, together encoding 14 distinct peptides. Five of these have recently been identified as AMPs, while three more are shown here to potently inhibit the growth of gram-negative bacteria, including multi-drug resistant strains of the medically important Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Although the number of predicted peptides is similar to the numbers of related AMPs in Xenopus and Silurana frog species, they show significantly lower structural variation. Selection analyses confirm that, in contrast to the AMPs of other amphibians, the H. boettgeri peptides did not evolve under diversifying selection. Instead, the low sequence variation among tandem repeats resulted from purifying selection, recent duplication and/or concerted gene evolution. Our study demonstrates that defense peptide repertoires of closely related taxa, after diverging from each other, may evolve under differential selective regimes, leading to contrasting patterns of structural diversity.
Project description:Recent advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies have equipped biologists with a powerful new set of tools for advancing research goals. The resulting flood of sequence data has made it critically important to train the next generation of scientists to handle the inherent bioinformatic challenges. The North East Bioinformatics Collaborative (NEBC) is undertaking the genome sequencing and annotation of the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea) to promote advancement of bioinformatics infrastructure in our region, with an emphasis on practical education to create a critical mass of informatically savvy life scientists. In support of the Little Skate Genome Project, the NEBC members have developed several annotation workshops and jamborees to provide training in genome sequencing, annotation and analysis. Acting as a nexus for both curation activities and dissemination of project data, a project web portal, SkateBase (http://skatebase.org) has been developed. As a case study to illustrate effective coupling of community annotation with workforce development, we report the results of the Mitochondrial Genome Annotation Jamborees organized to annotate the first completely assembled element of the Little Skate Genome Project, as a culminating experience for participants from our three prior annotation workshops. We are applying the physical/virtual infrastructure and lessons learned from these activities to enhance and streamline the genome annotation workflow, as we look toward our continuing efforts for larger-scale functional and structural community annotation of the L. erinacea genome.