Pre-print of the article, and supplementary data tables describing evidence used to show moderate amounts of hybridization among competing theories in systematic biology between 1960 and 1990.
Pre-print of the article, and supplementary data tables describing evidence used to show moderate amounts of hybridization among competing theories in systematic biology between 1960 and 1990.
Understanding how microorganisms adapt and respond to the microgravity environment of spaceflight is important for the function and integrity of onboard life support systems, astronaut health and mission success. Microbial contamination of spacecraft Environmental Life Support Systems (ECLSS), including the potable water system, are well documented and have caused major disruption to spaceflight missions. The potable water system on the International Space Station (ISS) uses recycled wastewater purified by multiple processes so it is safe for astronaut consumption and personal hygiene. However, despite stringent antimicrobial treatments, multiple bacterial species and biofilms have been recovered from this potable water system. This finding raises concern for crew health risks, vehicle operations and ECLSS system integrity during exploration missions. These concerns are further heightened given that 1) potential pathogens have been isolated from the ISS potable water system, 2) the immune response of astronauts is blunted during spaceflight, 3) spaceflight induces unexpected alterations in microbial responses, including growth and biofilm formation, antimicrobial resistance, stress responses, and virulence, and 4) different microbial phenotypes are often observed between reductionistic pure cultures as compared to more complex multispecies co-cultures, the latter of which are more representative of natural environmental conditions. To advance the understanding of the impact of microgravity on microbial responses that could negatively impact spacecraft ECLSS systems and crew health, this study characterized a range of phenotypic profiles in both pure and co-cultures of bacterial isolates collected from the ISS potable water system between 2009 and 2014. Microbial responses profiled included population dynamics, resistance to silver, biofilm formation, and in vitro colonization of intestinal epithelial cells. Growth characteristics and antibiotic sensitivities for bacterial strains were evaluated to develop selective and/or differential media that allow for isolation of a pure culture from co-cultures, which was critical for the success of this study. Bacterial co-culture experiments were performed using dynamic Rotating Wall Vessel (RWV) bioreactors under spaceflight analogue (Low Shear Modeled Microgravity/LSMMG) and control conditions. These experiments indicated changes in fluid shear have minimal impact on strain recovery. The antimicrobial efficacy of silver on both sessile co-cultures, grown on 316L stainless steel coupons, and planktonic co-cultures showed that silver did not uniformly reduce the recovery of all strains; however, it had a stronger antimicrobial effect on biofilm cultures than planktonic cultures. The impact of silver on the ability of RWV cultured planktonic and biofilm bacterial co-cultures to colonize human intestinal epithelial cells showed that, those strains which were impacted by silver treatment, often increased adherence to the monolayer. Results from these studies provide insight into the dynamics of polymicrobial community interactions, biofilm formation and survival mechanisms of ISS potable water isolates, with potential application for future design of ECLSS systems for sustainable human space exploration.
Weevils are one of the most diverse groups of animals with thousands of species suspected to remain undiscovered. The Conoderinae Schoenherr, 1833 are no exception, being especially diverse and unknown in the Neotropics where they are recognizable for their unique behaviors and color patterns among weevils. Despite these peculiarities, the group has received little attention from researchers in the past century, with almost nothing known about their evolution. This dissertation presents a series of three studies that begin to elucidate the evolutionary history of these bizarre and fascinating weevils, commencing with an overview of their biology and classificatory history (Chapter 1).
Chapter 2 presents the first formal cladistic analysis on the group to redefine the New World tribes Lechriopini Lacordaire, 1865 and Zygopini, Lacordaire, 1865. An analysis of 75 taxa (65 ingroup) with 75 morphological characters yielded six equally parsimonious trees and synapomorphies that are used to reconstitute the tribes, resulting in the transfer of sixteen genera from the Zygopini to the Lechriopini and four generic transfers out of the Lechriopini to elsewhere in the Conoderinae.
Chapter 3 constitutes a taxonomic revision of the genus Trichodocerus Chevrolat, 1879, the sole genus in the tribe Trichodocerini Champion, 1906, which has had an uncertain phylogenetic placement in the Curculionidae but has most recently been treated in the Conoderinae. In addition to redescriptions of the three previously described species placed in the genus, twenty-four species are newly described and an identification key is provided for all recognized species groups and species.
Chapter 4 quantitatively tests the similarity in color pattern among species hypothesized to belong to several different mimicry complexes. The patterns of 160 species of conoderine weevils were evaluated for 15 categorical and continuous characters. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) is used to visualize similarity by the proximity of individual species and clusters of species assigned to a mimicry complex in ordination space with clusters being statistically tested using permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA).
The power of science lies in its ability to infer and predict the
existence of objects from which no direct information can be obtained
experimentally or observationally. A well known example is to
ascertain the existence of black holes of various masses in different
parts of the universe from indirect evidence, such as X-ray emissions.
In the field of complex networks, the problem of detecting
hidden nodes can be stated, as follows. Consider a network whose
topology is completely unknown but whose nodes consist of two types:
one accessible and another inaccessible from the outside world. The
accessible nodes can be observed or monitored, and it is assumed that time
series are available from each node in this group. The inaccessible
nodes are shielded from the outside and they are essentially
``hidden.'' The question is, based solely on the
available time series from the accessible nodes, can the existence and
locations of the hidden nodes be inferred? A completely data-driven,
compressive-sensing based method is developed to address this issue by utilizing
complex weighted networks of nonlinear oscillators, evolutionary game
and geospatial networks.
Both microbes and multicellular organisms actively regulate their cell
fate determination to cope with changing environments or to ensure
proper development. Here, the synthetic biology approaches are used to
engineer bistable gene networks to demonstrate that stochastic and
permanent cell fate determination can be achieved through initializing
gene regulatory networks (GRNs) at the boundary between dynamic
attractors. This is experimentally realized by linking a synthetic GRN
to a natural output of galactose metabolism regulation in yeast.
Combining mathematical modeling and flow cytometry, the
engineered systems are shown to be bistable and that inherent gene expression
stochasticity does not induce spontaneous state transitioning at
steady state. By interfacing rationally designed synthetic
GRNs with background gene regulation mechanisms, this work
investigates intricate properties of networks that illuminate possible
regulatory mechanisms for cell differentiation and development that
can be initiated from points of instability.
Acceptance of the plant group Martyniaceae as a distinct family has long been questioned. Previously placed in the family Pedaliaceae, the Martyniaceae have been allied to numerous other families within the order Lamiales. The objectives of this study include the investigation of the placement of the Martyniaceae within the order Lamiales using molecular data (chloroplast DNA sequences), the further examination of the internal relationships of the Martyniaceae using an expanded nuclear and chloroplast sequences data set, and the construction of a taxonomic treatment of the family that includes all published names and taxa in the Martyniaceae. An analysis of the Lamiales using two chloroplast gene regions (ndhF and rps16) reveals that the Martyniaceae should be segregated from the family Pedaliaceae, but is not able to support the placement of any of its putatively-related families as sister to the Martyniaceae. Sequences from 151 taxa of the Lamiales are included in the analysis, including six representatives from the Martyniaceae. An analysis of the Martyniaceae using three chloroplast gene regions (psbA-trnH spacer, trnQ-5'rps16 intergenic spacer, and trnS-trnG-trnG spacer and intron) and the Internal Transcribed Spacer resolves two major clades within the Martyniaceae corresponding to the North American taxa (Martynia and Proboscidea) and the South American taxa (Craniolaria, Holoregmia, and Ibicella). Sequences from all five genera and 15 taxa were included in the analysis. Results from the molecular phylogenetic analyses are incorporated into a revised taxonomic treatment of the family. Five genera and thirteen species are recognized for the family Martyniaceae.
The Zingiberales, including the gingers (Zingiber), bananas (Musa) and ornamental flowers (Strelitzia, Canna, and Heliconia) are a diverse group of monocots that occupy the tropics and subtropics worldwide. The monophyly of the order is well supported, although relationships between families are not well resolved. A rapid divergence of the Zingiberales has been proposed to explain the poor resolution of paraphyletic families in the order, and direct fossil evidence shows members of both of these lineages of Zingiberaceae and Musaceae were present by the Late Cretaceous. Comparisons of the fossils with extant relatives and their systematic placement have been limited because variation within modern taxa is not completely known. The current study focuses on describing zingiberalean fossil material from North Dakota that includes seeds, leaves, buds, adventitious roots and rhizomes. A survey of extant zingiberalean seeds was conducted, including descriptions of those for which data were previously unknown, in order to resolve the taxonomic placement of the fossil material. Upon careful examination, anatomical characters of the seed coat in fossil and extant seeds provide the basis for a more accurate taxonomic placement of the fossils and a better understanding of character evolution within the order.
Understanding the diversity, evolutionary relationships, and geographic distribution of species is foundational knowledge in biology. However, this knowledge is lacking for many diverse lineages of the tree of life. This is the case for the desert stink beetles in the tribe Amphidorini LeConte, 1862 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) – a lineage of arid-adapted flightless beetles found throughout western North America. Four interconnected studies that jointly increase our knowledge of this group are presented. First, the darkling beetle fauna of the Algodones sand dunes in southern California is examined as a case study to explore the scientific practice of checklist creation. An updated list of the species known from this region is presented, with a critical focus on material now made available through digitization and global aggregation. This part concludes with recommendations for future biodiversity checklist authors. Second, the psammophilic genus Trogloderus LeConte, 1879 is revised. Six new species are described, and the first, multi-gene phylogeny for the genus is inferred. In addition, historical biogeographic reconstructions along with novel hypotheses of speciation patterns within the Intermountain Region are given. In particular, the Kaibab Plateau and Kaiparowitz Formation are found to have promoted speciation on the Colorado Plateau. The Owens Valley and prehistoric Bouse Embayment are similarly hypothesized to drive species diversification in southern California. Third, a novel phylogenomic analysis for the tribe Amphidorini is presented, based on 29 de novo partial transcriptomes. Three putative ortholog sets were discovered and analyzed to infer the relationships between species groups and genera. The existing classification of the tribe is found to be highly inadequate, though the earliest-diverging relationships within the tribe are still in question. Finally, the new phylogenetic framework is used to provide a genus-level revision for the Amphidorini, which previously contained six valid genera and 253 valid species. This updated classification includes more than 100 taxonomic changes and results in the revised tribe consisting of 16 genera, with three being described as new to science.
Synthetic gene networks have evolved from simple proof-of-concept circuits to
complex therapy-oriented networks over the past fifteen years. This advancement has
greatly facilitated expansion of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Multistability is a
mechanism that cells use to achieve a discrete number of mutually exclusive states in
response to environmental inputs. However, complex contextual connections of gene
regulatory networks in natural settings often impede the experimental establishment of
the function and dynamics of each specific gene network.
In this work, diverse synthetic gene networks are rationally designed and
constructed using well-characterized biological components to approach the cell fate
determination and state transition dynamics in multistable systems. Results show that
unimodality and bimodality and trimodality can be achieved through manipulation of the
signal and promoter crosstalk in quorum-sensing systems, which enables bacterial cells to
communicate with each other.
Moreover, a synthetic quadrastable circuit is also built and experimentally
demonstrated to have four stable steady states. Experiments, guided by mathematical
modeling predictions, reveal that sequential inductions generate distinct cell fates by
changing the landscape in sequence and hence navigating cells to different final states.
Circuit function depends on the specific protein expression levels in the circuit.
We then establish a protein expression predictor taking into account adjacent
transcriptional regions’ features through construction of ~120 synthetic gene circuits
(operons) in Escherichia coli. The predictor’s utility is further demonstrated in evaluating genes’ relative expression levels in construction of logic gates and tuning gene expressions and nonlinear dynamics of bistable gene networks.
These combined results illustrate applications of synthetic gene networks to
understand the cell fate determination and state transition dynamics in multistable
systems. A protein-expression predictor is also developed to evaluate and tune circuit
The engineering of microbial cell factories capable of synthesizing industrially relevant chemical building blocks is an attractive alternative to conventional petrochemical-based production methods. This work focuses on the novel and enhanced biosynthesis of phenol, catechol, and muconic acid (MA). Although the complete biosynthesis from glucose has been previously demonstrated for all three compounds, established production routes suffer from notable inherent limitations. Here, multiple pathways to the same three products were engineered, each incorporating unique enzyme chemistries and/or stemming from different endogenous precursors. In the case of phenol, two novel pathways were constructed and comparatively evaluated, with titers reaching as high as 377 ± 14 mg/L at a glucose yield of 35.7 ± 0.8 mg/g. In the case of catechol, three novel pathways were engineered with titers reaching 100 ± 2 mg/L. Finally, in the case of MA, four novel pathways were engineered with maximal titers reaching 819 ± 44 mg/L at a glucose yield of 40.9 ± 2.2 mg/g. Furthermore, the unique flexibility with respect to engineering multiple pathways to the same product arises in part because these compounds are common intermediates in aromatic degradation pathways. Expanding on the novel pathway engineering efforts, a synthetic ‘metabolic funnel’ was subsequently constructed for phenol and MA, wherein multiple pathways were expressed in parallel to maximize carbon flux toward the final product. Using this novel ‘funneling’ strategy, maximal phenol and MA titers exceeding 0.5 and 3 g/L, respectively, were achieved, representing the highest achievable production metrics products reported to date.
Natural history is, and was, dependent upon the collection of specimens. In the nineteenth century, American naturalists and institutions of natural history cultivated and maintained extensive collection networks comprised of numerous collectors that provided objects of natural history for study. Effective networks were collaborative in nature, with naturalists such as Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian trading their time and expertise for specimens. The incorporation of Darwinian and Neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theory into natural history in the middle of the century led to dramatic changes in the relationship between naturalists and collectors, as naturalists sought to reconcile their observations within the new evolutionary context. This dissertation uses the careers of collectors Robert Kennicott, Frank Stephens, Edward W. Nelson, E.A. Goldman, and Edmund Heller as case studies in order to evaluate how the changes in the theoretical framework of late nineteenth century natural history led to advances in field practice by assessing how naturalists trained their collectors to meet new demands within the field. Research focused on the correspondence between naturalists and collectors, along with the field notes and applicable publications by collectors. I argue that the changes in natural history necessitated naturalists training their collectors in the basics of biogeography - the study of geographic distribution of organisms, and systematics - the study of the diversity of life - leading to a collaborative relationship in which collectors played an active role in the formation of new biological knowledge. The project concludes that the changes in natural history with regard to theory and practice gradually necessitated a more professional cadre of collectors. Collectors became active agents in the formation of biological knowledge, and instrumental in the formation of a truly systematic natural history. As a result, collectors became de facto field naturalists, the forerunners of the field biologists that dominated the practice of natural history in the early and middle twentieth century.