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The Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise Genome Provides a Resource for the Conservation of a Threatened Species

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Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is a long-lived species native to the Mojave Desert and is listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. To aid conservation efforts for

Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is a long-lived species native to the Mojave Desert and is listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. To aid conservation efforts for preserving the genetic diversity of this species, we generated a whole genome reference sequence with an annotation based on deep transcriptome sequences of adult skeletal muscle, lung, brain, and blood. The draft genome assembly for G. agassizii has a scaffold N50 length of 252 kbp and a total length of 2.4 Gbp. Genome annotation reveals 20,172 protein-coding genes in the G. agassizii assembly, and that gene structure is more similar to chicken than other turtles. We provide a series of comparative analyses demonstrating (1) that turtles are among the slowest-evolving genome-enabled reptiles, (2) amino acid changes in genes controlling desert tortoise traits such as shell development, longevity and osmoregulation, and (3) fixed variants across the Gopherus species complex in genes related to desert adaptations, including circadian rhythm and innate immune response. This G. agassizii genome reference and annotation is the first such resource for any tortoise, and will serve as a foundation for future analysis of the genetic basis of adaptations to the desert environment, allow for investigation into genomic factors affecting tortoise health, disease and longevity, and serve as a valuable resource for additional studies in this species complex.

Data Availability: All genomic and transcriptomic sequence files are available from the NIH-NCBI BioProject database (accession numbers PRJNA352725, PRJNA352726, and PRJNA281763). All genome assembly, transcriptome assembly, predicted protein, transcript, genome annotation, repeatmasker, phylogenetic trees, .vcf and GO enrichment files are available on Harvard Dataverse (doi:10.7910/DVN/EH2S9K).

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  • 2017-05-31

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The Effect of Inbreeding and Life History Traits on the Risk of Cancer Mortality in Dogs

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Due to artificial selection, dogs have high levels of phenotypic diversity, yet, there appears to be low genetic diversity within individual breeds. Through their domestication from wolves, dogs have gone

Due to artificial selection, dogs have high levels of phenotypic diversity, yet, there appears to be low genetic diversity within individual breeds. Through their domestication from wolves, dogs have gone through a series of population bottlenecks, which has resulted in a reduction in genetic diversity, with a large amount of linkage disequilibrium and the persistence of deleterious mutations. This has led to an increased susceptibility to a multitude of diseases, including cancer. To study the effects of artificial selection and life history characteristics on the risk of cancer mortality, we collected cancer mortality data from four studies as well as the percent of heterozygosity, body size, lifespan and breed group for 201 dog breeds. We also collected specific types of cancer breeds were susceptible to and compared the dog cancer mortality patterns to the patterns observed in other mammals. We found a relationship between cancer mortality rate and heterozygosity, body size, lifespan as well as breed group. Higher levels of heterozygosity were also associated with longer lifespan. These results indicate larger breeds, such as Irish Water Spaniels, Flat-coated Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs, are more susceptible to cancer, with lower heterozygosity and lifespan. These breeds are also more susceptible to sarcomas, as opposed to carcinomas in smaller breeds, such as Miniature Pinschers, Chihuahuas, and Pekingese. Other mammals show that larger and long-lived animals have decreased cancer mortality, however, within dog breeds, the opposite relationship is observed. These relationships could be due to the trade-off between cellular maintenance and growing fast and large, with higher expression of growth factors, such as IGF-1. This study further demonstrates the relationships between cancer mortality, heterozygosity, and life history traits and exhibits dogs as an important model organism for understanding the relationship between genetics and health.

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  • 2017-12