Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Genetics and Molecular Biology]]> vol. 41 num. 1 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[Remembering the past – studies on evolution done by the genetics group at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)]]> Abstract After a brief introduction about the factors that are involved in science development, and world and Brazilian evolutionary genetics, the studies developed in Porto Alegre in this area were reviewed. Four periods in the development of this group were distinguished: (a) Origins and first expansion (1949-1961); (b) Second expansion (1962-1988); (c) Third expansion (1989-2001); and (d) The last 15 years (2002-present). The international Porto Alegre Biological Evolution Workshops (PABEWs), with five biannual events from 2007 o 2015, were also mentioned. The final message stressed the importance of the maintenance of this and other Brazilian groups of research through adequate finance and recognition. <![CDATA[Holobionts and their hologenomes: Evolution with mixed modes of inheritance]]> Abstract Symbioses are ubiquitous and have played an influential role in the evolution of life on Earth. Genomic studies are now revealing a huge diversity of associations among hosts and their microbiotas, allowing us to characterize their complex ecological and evolutionary dynamics. The different transmission modes and the asynchronous cell proliferation of the numerous symbionts associated with one host generate a genomic conflict ought to be solved. Two disputing views have been used to model and predict the outcome of such conflicts. The traditional view is based on community ecology, and considers that selection at the level of individuals is sufficient to explain longstanding associations among species. A new perspective considers that the host and its associated microbiota constitute a biological entity called holobiont, and that regarding it as a higher-level unit of selection is unavoidable to understand phenotypic evolution. Novel extended phenotypes are often built through symbiotic interactions, allowing the holobiont to explore and survive in distinct environmental conditions, and may evolve in a Lamarckian fashion. <![CDATA[<em>Drosophila</em> relics <em>hobo</em> and <em>hobo</em>-MITEs transposons as raw material for new regulatory networks]]> Abstract Hypermutable strains of Drosophila simulans have been studied for 20 years. Several mutants were isolated and characterized, some of which had phenotypes associated with alteration in development; for example, showing ectopic legs with eyes being expressed in place of antennae. The causal agent of this hypermutability is a non-autonomous hobo-related sequence (hoboVA). Around 100 mobilizable copies of this element are present in the D. simulans genome, and these are likely mobilized by the autonomous and canonical hobo element. We have shown that hoboVA has transcription factor binding sites for the developmental genes, hunchback and even-skipped, and that this transposon is expressed in embryos, following the patterns of these genes. We suggest that hobo and hobo-related elements can be material for the emergence of new regulatory networks. <![CDATA[How strong was the bottleneck associated to the peopling of the Americas? New insights from multilocus sequence data]]> Abstract In spite of many genetic studies that contributed for a deep knowledge about the peopling of the Americas, no consensus has emerged about important parameters such as the effective size of the Native Americans founder population. Previous estimates based on genomic datasets may have been biased by the use of admixed individuals from Latino populations, while other recent studies using samples from Native American individuals relied on approximated analytical approaches. In this study we use resequencing data for nine independent regions in a set of Native American and Siberian individuals and a full-likelihood approach based on isolation-with-migration scenarios accounting for recent flow between Asian and Native American populations. Our results suggest that, in agreement with previous studies, the effective size of the Native American population was small, most likely in the order of a few hundred individuals, with point estimates close to 250 individuals, even though credible intervals include a number as large as ~4,000 individuals. Recognizing the size of the genetic bottleneck during the peopling of the Americas is important for determining the extent of genetic markers needed to characterize Native American populations in genome-wide studies and to evaluate the adaptive potential of genetic variants in this population. <![CDATA[Evolution of DNMT2 in drosophilids: Evidence for positive and purifying selection and insights into new protein (pathways) interactions]]> Abstract The DNA methyltransferase 2 (DNMT2) protein is the most conserved member of the DNA methyltransferase family. Nevertheless, its substrate specificity is still controversial and elusive. The genomic role and determinants of DNA methylation are poorly understood in invertebrates, and several mechanisms and associations are suggested. In Drosophila, the only known DNMT gene is Dnmt2. Here we present our findings from a wide search for Dnmt2 homologs in 68 species of Drosophilidae. We investigated its molecular evolution, and in our phylogenetic analyses the main clades of Drosophilidae species were recovered. We tested whether the Dnmt2 has evolved neutrally or under positive selection along the subgenera Drosophila and Sophophora and investigated positive selection in relation to several physicochemical properties. Despite of a major selective constraint on Dnmt2, we detected six sites under positive selection. Regarding the DNMT2 protein, 12 sites under positive-destabilizing selection were found, which suggests a selection that favors structural and functional shifts in the protein. The search for new potential protein partners with DNMT2 revealed 15 proteins with high evolutionary rate covariation (ERC), indicating a plurality of DNMT2 functions in different pathways. These events might represent signs of molecular adaptation, with molecular peculiarities arising from the diversity of evolutionary histories experienced by drosophilids. <![CDATA[Oxytocin and arginine vasopressin systems in the domestication process]]> Abstract Domestication is of unquestionable importance to the technological revolution that has given rise to modern human societies. In this study, we analyzed the DNA and protein sequences of six genes of the oxytocin and arginine vasopressin systems (OXT-OXTR; AVP-AVPR1a, AVPR1b and AVPR2) in 40 placental mammals. These systems play an important role in the control of physiology and behavior. According to our analyses, neutrality does not explain the pattern of molecular evolution found in some of these genes. We observed specific sites under positive selection in AVPR1b (ω = 1.429, p = 0.001) and AVPR2 (ω= 1.49, p = 0.001), suggesting that they could be involved in behavior and physiological changes, including those related to the domestication process. Furthermore, AVPR1a, which plays a role in social behavior, is under relaxed selective constraint in domesticated species. These results provide new insights into the nature of the domestication process and its impact on the OXT-AVP system. <![CDATA[Association between molecular markers and behavioral phenotypes in the immatures of a butterfly]]> Abstract Newly hatched caterpillars of the butterfly Heliconius erato phyllis routinely cannibalize eggs. In a manifestation of kin recognition they cannibalize sibling eggs less frequently than unrelated eggs. Previous work has estimated the heritability of kin recognition in H. erato phyllis to lie between 14 and 48%. It has furthermore been shown that the inheritance of kin recognition is compatible with a quantitative model with a threshold. Here we present the results of a preliminary study, in which we tested for associations between behavioral kin recognition phenotypes and AFLP and SSR markers. We implemented two experimental approaches: (1) a cannibalism test using sibling eggs only, which allowed for only two behavioral outcomes (cannibal and non-cannibal), and (2) a cannibalism test using two sibling eggs and one unrelated egg, which allowed four outcomes [cannibal who does not recognize siblings, cannibal who recognizes siblings, “super-cannibal” (cannibal of both eggs), and “super non-cannibal” (does not cannibalize eggs at all)]. Single-marker analyses were performed using χ2 tests and logistic regression with null markers as covariates. Results of the χ2 tests identified 72 associations for experimental design 1 and 73 associations for design 2. Logistic regression analysis of the markers found to be significant in the χ2 test resulted in 20 associations for design 1 and 11 associations for design 2. Experiment 2 identified markers that were more frequently present or absent in cannibals who recognize siblings and super non-cannibals; i.e. in both phenotypes capable of kin recognition. <![CDATA[Effective population size and the genetic consequences of commercial whaling on the humpback whales (<em>Megaptera novaeangliae</em>) from Southwestern Atlantic Ocean]]> Abstract Genotypes of 10 microsatellite loci of 420 humpback whales from the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean population were used to estimate for the first time its contemporary effective (Ne) and census (Nc) population sizes and to test the genetic effect of commercial whaling. The results are in agreement with our previous studies that found high genetic diversity for this breeding population. Using an approximate Bayesian computation approach, the scenario of constant Ne was significantly supported over scenarios with moderate to strong size changes during the commercial whaling period. The previous generation Nc (Ne multiplied by 3.6), which should corresponds to the years between around 1980 and 1990, was estimated between ~2,600 and 6,800 whales (point estimate ~4,000), and is broadly compatible with the recent abundance surveys extrapolated to the past using a growth rate of 7.4% per annum. The long-term Nc in the constant scenario (point estimate ~15,000) was broadly compatible (considering the confidence interval) with pre-whaling catch records estimates (point estimate ~25,000). Overall, our results shown that the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean humpback whale population is genetically very diverse and resisted well to the strong population reduction during commercial whaling. <![CDATA[Skull shape and size variation within and between <em>mendocinus</em> and <em>torquatus</em> groups in the genus <em>Ctenomys</em> (Rodentia: Ctenomyidae) in chromosomal polymorphism context]]> Abstract We tested the association between chromosomal polymorphism and skull shape and size variation in two groups of the subterranean rodent Ctenomys. The hypothesis is based on the premise that chromosomal rearrangements in small populations, as it occurs in Ctenomys, produce reproductive isolation and allow the independent diversification of populations. The mendocinus group has species with low chromosomal diploid number variation (2n=46-48), while species from the torquatus group have a higher karyotype variation (2n=42-70). We analyzed the shape and size variation of skull and mandible by a geometric morphometric approach, with univariate and multivariate statistical analysis in 12 species from mendocinus and torquatus groups of the genus Ctenomys. We used 763 adult skulls in dorsal, ventral, and lateral views, and 515 mandibles in lateral view and 93 landmarks in four views. Although we expected more phenotypic variation in the torquatus than the mendocinus group, our results rejected the hypothesis of an association between chromosomal polymorphism and skull shape and size variation. Moreover, the torquatus group did not show more variation than mendocinus. Habitat heterogeneity associated to biomechanical constraints and other factors like geography, phylogeny, and demography, may affect skull morphological evolution in Ctenomys. <![CDATA[Phylogeographic analyses of the pampas cat (<em>Leopardus colocola</em>; Carnivora, Felidae) reveal a complex demographic history]]> Abstract The pampas cat is a small felid that occurs in open habitats throughout much of South America. Previous studies have revealed intriguing patterns of morphological differentiation and genetic structure among its populations, as well as molecular evidence for hybridization with the closely related L. tigrinus. Here we report phylogeographic analyses encompassing most of its distribution (focusing particularly on Brazilian specimens, which had been poorly sampled in previous studies), using a novel dataset comprising 2,143 bp of the mitogenome, along with previously reported mtDNA sequences. Our data revealed strong population strutucture and supported a west-to-east colonization process in this species’ history. We detected two population expansion events, one older (ca. 200 thousand years ago [kya]) in western South America and another more recent (ca. 60-50 kya) in eastern areas, coinciding with the expansion of savanna environments in Brazil. Analyses including L. tigrinus individuals bearing introgressed mtDNA from L. colocola showed a complete lack of shared haplotypes between species, indicating that their hybridization was ancient. Finally, we observed a close relationship between Brazilian/Uruguayan L. colocola haplotypes and those sampled in L. tigrinus, indicating that their hybridization was likely related to the demographic expansion of L. colocola into eastern South America. <![CDATA[Cytological and genome size data analyzed in a phylogenetic frame: Evolutionary implications concerning <em>Sisyrinchium</em> taxa (Iridaceae: Iridoideae)]]> Abstract Sisyrinchium is the largest genus of Iridaceae in the Americas and has the greatest amount of cytological data available. This study aimed at investigating how genomes evolved in this genus. Chromosome number, genome size and altitude from species of sect. Viperella were analyzed in a phylogenetic context. Meiotic and pollen analyses were performed to assess reproductive success of natural populations, especially from those polyploid taxa. Character optimizations revealed that the common ancestor of sect. Viperella was probably diploid (2n = 2x =18) with two subsequent polyplodization events. Total DNA content (2C) varied considerably across the phylogeny with larger genomes detected mainly in polyploid species. Altitude also varied across the phylogeny, however no significant relationship was found between DNA content changes and altitude in our data set. All taxa presented regular meiosis and pollen viability (&gt; 87%), except for S. sp. nov. aff. alatum (22.70%), suggesting a recent hybrid origin. Chromosome number is mostly constant within this section and polyploidy is the only source of modification. Although 2C varied considerably among the 20 taxa investigated, the diversity observed cannot be attributed only to polyploidy events because large variations of DNA content were also observed among diploids. <![CDATA[Genetic diversity and population structure of <em>Vriesea reitzii</em> (Bromeliaceae), a species from the Southern Brazilian Highlands]]> Abstract The Southern Brazilian Highlands are composed by a mosaic of Mixed Ombrophilous Forest (MOF) and grassland formations, an interesting landscape for the study of population structure. We analyzed the genetic diversity within and among populations of the MOF-endemic bromeliad Vriesea reitzii by genotyping seven nuclear microsatellite loci in 187 individuals from six populations. We characterized levels of genetic diversity and assessed the genetic structure among populations. Vriesea reitzii populations showed high levels of genetic variation (number of alleles 28 - 43, allelic richness 3.589 - 5.531) and moderate levels of genetic differentiation (FST = 0.123, RST = 0.096). The high levels of genetic diversity may be explained by species life-history traits, such as habit and mating system. The moderate structure may be a product of the combination of ancient and contemporary gene flow, resulting from the expansion of the forest in the Holocene, and/or due to facilitated dispersal mediated by the MOF’s mosaic landscape. The genetic results indicated no imminent threat to this bromeliad. However, the species is highly associated with the MOF, putting landscape conservation at the center of conservation efforts for the species’ maintenance. <![CDATA[Ecological drivers of plant genetic diversity at the southern edge of geographical distributions: Forestal vines in a temperate region]]> Abstract The Tropical Niche Conservatism hypothesis is one of the most relevant theories to explain why tropical diversity is high, although the mechanisms underlying this hypothesis require further clarification. A possible research avenue to address the underlying mechanisms includes determining population-level processes associated with such a hypothesis, in particular by trying to identify how adaptation may occur in extreme niche conditions at the edges of species ranges. However, the determinants of molecular diversity at the edges of geographical distributions of tropical taxa are still poorly known. Here we assessed which environmental variables determine diversity in nuclear and plastid genetic markers for populations of four Passiflora species in the southern limit of their geographical distributions. Climatic factors can drive genetic diversity, and their importance varies according to the marker. The primary predictors are variables representing higher temperatures during cold periods of the year and higher precipitation during dry periods. We concluded that, although these species are present in colder areas at the edge of their range, Tropical Niche Conservatism acts as a restraining force on genetic diversity in southern populations of Passiflora. <![CDATA[Genetic and ecological niche modeling of <em>Calydorea crocoides</em> (Iridaceae): an endemic species of Subtropical Highland Grasslands]]> Abstract Evolutionary analyses have been widely used for evaluation of genetic diversity of natural populations and correlate these data to the fitness of the species, especially in the case of threatened species. Calydorea crocoides occurs in a restricted area at altitudes from 800 to 1500 m in southern Brazil and is considered endangered. A study assessing genetic diversity, cytogenetic features and ecological niche was performed aiming to characterize C. crocoides by multidisciplinary approaches. Molecular data highlighted that most of the total variation (76%; p &lt; 0.001) was found within populations and the parameters of genetic diversity were high at the species level (PPB = 98.97%; I = 0.4319; h = 0.2821). Gene flow (Nm) was estimated in 0.97 individuals per generation. Cytogenetically, C. crocoides presents a bimodal karyotype and low asymmetry. DAPI banding pattern was uniform, but the CMA-signal evidenced a pericentric inversion in the population ESC688. The species presents high pollen viability and two different morphologies of pollen grains. Our data showed high levels of polymorphism maintained in this species that could ensure conservationist practices in which the main goal is to preserve the evolutionary potential of the species through the maintenance of genetic diversity. <![CDATA[Molecular evolution and functional divergence of alcohol dehydrogenases in animals, fungi and plants]]> Abstract Alcohol dehydrogenases belong to the large superfamily of medium-chain dehydrogenases/reductases, which occur throughout the biological world and are involved with many important metabolic routes. We considered the phylogeny of 190 ADH sequences of animals, fungi, and plants. Non-class III Caenorhabditis elegans ADHs were seen closely related to tetrameric fungal ADHs. ADH3 forms a sister group to amphibian, reptilian, avian and mammalian non-class III ADHs. In fishes, two main forms are identified: ADH1 and ADH3, whereas in amphibians there is a new ADH form (ADH8). ADH2 is found in Mammalia and Aves, and they formed a monophyletic group. Additionally, mammalian ADH4 seems to result from an ADH1 duplication, while in Fungi, ADH formed clusters based on types and genera. The plant ADH isoforms constitute a basal clade in relation to ADHs from animals. We identified amino acid residues responsible for functional divergence between ADH types in fungi, mammals, and fishes. In mammals, these differences occur mainly between ADH1/ADH4 and ADH3/ADH5, whereas functional divergence occurred in fungi between ADH1/ADH5, ADH5/ADH4, and ADH5/ADH3. In fishes, the forms also seem to be functionally divergent. The ADH family expansion exemplifies a neofunctionalization process where reiterative duplication events are related to new activities. <![CDATA[Genome-wide analysis of the Glycerol-3-Phosphate Acyltransferase (GPAT) gene family reveals the evolution and diversification of plant GPATs]]> Abstract sn-Glycerol-3-phosphate 1-O-acyltransferase (GPAT) is an important enzyme that catalyzes the transfer of an acyl group from acyl-CoA or acyl-ACP to the sn-1 or sn-2 position of sn-glycerol-3-phosphate (G3P) to generate lysophosphatidic acids (LPAs). The functional studies of GPAT in plants demonstrated its importance in controlling storage and membrane lipid. Identifying genes encoding GPAT in a variety of plant species is crucial to understand their involvement in different metabolic pathways and physiological functions. Here, we performed genome-wide and evolutionary analyses of GPATs in plants. GPAT genes were identified in all algae and plants studied. The phylogenetic analysis showed that these genes group into three main clades. While clades I (GPAT9) and II (soluble GPAT) include GPATs from algae and plants, clade III (GPAT1-8) includes GPATs specific from plants that are involved in the biosynthesis of cutin or suberin. Gene organization and the expression pattern of GPATs in plants corroborate with clade formation in the phylogeny, suggesting that the evolutionary patterns is reflected in their functionality. Overall, our results provide important insights into the evolution of the plant GPATs and allowed us to explore the evolutionary mechanism underlying the functional diversification among these genes.