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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2013-09-20
    Description: Mitochondria are intracellular organelles where oxidative phosphorylation is carried out to complete ATP synthesis. Mitochondria have their own genome; in metazoans, this is a small, circular molecule encoding 13 electron transport proteins, 22 tRNAs, and 2 rRNAs. In invertebrates, mitochondrial gene rearrangement is common, and it is correlated with increased substitution rates. In vertebrates, mitochondrial gene rearrangement is rare, and its relationship to substitution rate remains unexplored. Mitochondrial genes can also show spatial variation in substitution rates around the genome due to the mechanism of mtDNA replication, which produces a mutation gradient. To date, however, the strength of the mutation gradient and whether movement along the gradient in rearranged (or otherwise modified) genomes impacts genic substitution rates remain unexplored in the majority of vertebrates. Salamanders include both normal mitochondrial genomes and independently derived rearrangements and expansions, providing a rare opportunity to test the effects of large-scale changes to genome architecture on vertebrate mitochondrial gene sequence evolution. We show that: 1) rearranged/expanded genomes have higher substitution rates; 2) most genes in rearranged/expanded genomes maintain their position along the mutation gradient, substitution rates of the genes that do move are unaffected by their new position, and the gradient in salamanders is weak; and 3) genomic rearrangements/expansions occur independent of levels of selective constraint on genes. Together, our results demonstrate that large-scale changes to genome architecture impact mitochondrial gene evolution in predictable ways; however, despite these impacts, the same functional constraints act on mitochondrial protein-coding genes in both modified and normal genomes.
    Electronic ISSN: 1759-6653
    Topics: Biology
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  • 2
    Publication Date: 2012-12-29
    Description: Evolutionary changes in genome size result from the combined effects of mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Insertion and deletion mutations (indels) directly impact genome size by adding or removing sequences. Most species lose more DNA through small indels (i.e., ~1–30 bp) than they gain, which can result in genome reduction over time. Because this rate of DNA loss varies across species, small indel dynamics have been suggested to contribute to genome size evolution. Species with extremely large genomes provide interesting test cases for exploring the link between small indels and genome size; however, most large genomes remain relatively unexplored. Here, we examine rates of DNA loss in the tetrapods with the largest genomes—the salamanders. We used low-coverage genomic shotgun sequence data from four salamander species to examine patterns of insertion, deletion, and substitution in neutrally evolving non-long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon sequences. For comparison, we estimated genome-wide DNA loss rates in non-LTR retrotransposon sequences from five other vertebrate genomes: Anolis carolinensis , Danio rerio , Gallus gallus , Homo sapiens , and Xenopus tropicalis . Our results show that salamanders have significantly lower rates of DNA loss than do other vertebrates. More specifically, salamanders experience lower numbers of deletions relative to insertions, and both deletions and insertions are skewed toward smaller sizes. On the basis of these patterns, we conclude that slow DNA loss contributes to genomic gigantism in salamanders. We also identify candidate molecular mechanisms underlying these differences and suggest that natural variation in indel dynamics provides a unique opportunity to study the basis of genome stability.
    Electronic ISSN: 1759-6653
    Topics: Biology
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  • 3
    Publication Date: 2014-07-19
    Description: Among animals, genome sizes range from 20 Mb to 130 Gb, with 380-fold variation across vertebrates. Most of the largest vertebrate genomes are found in salamanders, an amphibian clade of 660 species. Thus, salamanders are an important system for studying causes and consequences of genomic gigantism. Previously, we showed that plethodontid salamander genomes accumulate higher levels of long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons than do other vertebrates, although the evolutionary origins of such sequences remained unexplored. We also showed that some salamanders in the family Plethodontidae have relatively slow rates of DNA loss through small insertions and deletions. Here, we present new data from Cryptobranchus alleganiensis , the hellbender. Cryptobranchus and Plethodontidae span the basal phylogenetic split within salamanders; thus, analyses incorporating these taxa can shed light on the genome of the ancestral crown salamander lineage, which underwent expansion. We show that high levels of LTR retrotransposons likely characterize all crown salamanders, suggesting that disproportionate expansion of this transposable element (TE) class contributed to genomic expansion. Phylogenetic and age distribution analyses of salamander LTR retrotransposons indicate that salamanders’ high TE levels reflect persistence and diversification of ancestral TEs rather than horizontal transfer events. Finally, we show that relatively slow DNA loss rates through small indels likely characterize all crown salamanders, suggesting that a decreased DNA loss rate contributed to genomic expansion at the clade’s base. Our identification of shared genomic features across phylogenetically distant salamanders is a first step toward identifying the evolutionary processes underlying accumulation and persistence of high levels of repetitive sequence in salamander genomes.
    Electronic ISSN: 1759-6653
    Topics: Biology
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  • 4
    Publication Date: 2012-12-29
    Print ISSN: 0956-540X
    Electronic ISSN: 1365-246X
    Topics: Geosciences
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