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

Description

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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Date Created
  • 2017-05-31

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A novel role for lunatic fringe in the development of epaxial musculature

Description

Skeletal muscles arise from the myotome compartment of the somites that form during vertebrate embryonic development. Somites are transient structures serve as the anlagen for the axial skeleton, skeletal muscle,

Skeletal muscles arise from the myotome compartment of the somites that form during vertebrate embryonic development. Somites are transient structures serve as the anlagen for the axial skeleton, skeletal muscle, tendons, and dermis, as well as imposing the metameric patterning of the axial musculoskeletal system, peripheral nerves, and vasculature. Classic studies have described the role of Notch, Wnt, and FGF signaling pathways in controlling somite formation and muscle formation. However, little is known about the transformation of myotome compartments into identifiable post-natal muscle groups. Using a mouse model, I have undertaken an evaluation of morphological events, including hypertrophy and hyperplasia, related to the formation of several muscles positioned along the dorsal surface of the vertebrae and ribs. Lunatic fringe (Lfng) deficient embryos and neonates were also examined to further understand the role of the Notch pathway in these processes as it is a modulator of the Notch receptor and plays an important role in defining somite borders and anterior-posterior patterning in many vertebrates. Lunatic fringe deficient embryos showed defects in muscle fiber hyperplasia and hypertrophy in the iliocostalis and longissimus muscles of the erector spinae group. This novel data suggests an additional role for Lfng and the Notch signaling pathway in embryonic and fetal muscle development.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Using Molecular, Cellular and Bioengineering Approaches Towards Understanding Muscle Stem Cell Biology

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Satellite cells are adult muscle stem cells that activate, proliferate, and differentiate into myofibers upon muscle damage. Satellite cells can be cultured and manipulated in vitro, and thus represent an

Satellite cells are adult muscle stem cells that activate, proliferate, and differentiate into myofibers upon muscle damage. Satellite cells can be cultured and manipulated in vitro, and thus represent an accessible model for studying skeletal muscle biology, and a potential source of autologous stem cells for regenerative medicine. This work summarizes efforts to further understanding of satellite cell biology, using novel model organisms, bioengineering, and molecular and cellular approaches. Lizards are evolutionarily the closest vertebrates to humans that regenerate entire appendages. An analysis of lizard myoprogenitor cell transcriptome determined they were most transcriptionally similar to mammalian satellite cells. Further examination showed that among genes with the highest level of expression in lizard satellite cells were an increased number of regulators of chondrogenesis. In micromass culture, lizard satellite cells formed nodules that expressed chondrogenic regulatory genes, thus demonstrating increased musculoskeletal plasticity. However, to exploit satellite cells for therapeutics, development of an ex vivo culture is necessary. This work investigates whether substrates composed of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, as either coatings or hydrogels, can support expansion of this population whilst maintaining their myogenic potency. Stiffer substrates are necessary for in vitro proliferation and differentiation of satellite cells, while the ECM composition was not significantly important. Additionally, satellite cells on hydrogels entered a quiescent state that could be reversed when the cells were subsequently cultured on Matrigel. Proliferation and gene expression data further indicated that C2C12 cells are not a good proxy for satellite cells. To further understand how different signaling pathways control satellite cell behavior, an investigation of the Notch inhibitor protein Numb was carried out. Numb deficient satellite cells fail to activate, proliferate and participate in muscle repair. Examination of Numb isoform expression in satellite cells and embryonic tissues revealed that while developing limb bud, neural tube, and heart express the long and short isoforms of NUMB, satellite cells predominantly express the short isoforms. A preliminary immunoprecipitation- proteomics experiment suggested that the roles of NUMB in satellite cells are related to cell cycle modulation, cytoskeleton dynamics, and regulation of transcription factors necessary for satellite cell function.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Proximate and ultimate mechanisms of nestmate recognition in ants

Description

The most abundantly studied societies, with the exception of humans, are those of the eusocial insects, which include all ants. Eusocial insect societies are typically composed of many dozens to

The most abundantly studied societies, with the exception of humans, are those of the eusocial insects, which include all ants. Eusocial insect societies are typically composed of many dozens to millions of individuals, referred to as nestmates, which require some form of communication to maintain colony cohesion and coordinate the activities within them. Nestmate recognition is the process of distinguishing between nestmates and non-nestmates, and embodies the first line of defense for social insect colonies. In ants, nestmate recognition is widely thought to occur through olfactory cues found on the exterior surfaces of individuals. These cues, called cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs), comprise the overwhelming majority of ant nestmate profiles and help maintain colony identity. In this dissertation, I investigate how nestmate recognition is influenced by evolutionary, ontogenetic, and environmental factors. First, I contributed to the sequencing and description of three ant genomes including the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, presented in detail here. Next, I studied how variation in nestmate cues may be shaped through evolution by comparatively studying a family of genes involved in fatty acid and hydrocarbon biosynthesis, i.e., the acyl-CoA desaturases, across seven ant species in comparison with other social and solitary insects. Then, I tested how genetic, developmental, and social factors influence CHC profile variation in P. barbatus, through a three-part study. (1) I conducted a descriptive, correlative study of desaturase gene expression and CHC variation in P. barbatus workers and queens; (2) I explored how larger-scale genetic variation in the P. barbatus species complex influences CHC variation across two genetically isolated lineages (J1/J2 genetic caste determining lineages); and (3) I experimentally examined how CHC development is influenced by an individual’s social environment. In the final part of my work, I resolved discrepancies between previous findings of nestmate recognition behavior in P. barbatus by studying how factors of territorial experience, i.e., spatiotemporal relationships, affect aggressive behaviors among red harvester ant colonies. Through this research, I was able to identify promising methodological approaches and candidate genes, which both broadens our understanding of P. barbatus nestmate recognition systems and supports future functional genetic studies of CHCs in ants.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Methods for Detecting Mutations in Non-model Organisms

Description

Next-generation sequencing is a powerful tool for detecting genetic variation. How-ever, it is also error-prone, with error rates that are much larger than mutation rates.
This can make mutation detection

Next-generation sequencing is a powerful tool for detecting genetic variation. How-ever, it is also error-prone, with error rates that are much larger than mutation rates.
This can make mutation detection difficult; and while increasing sequencing depth
can often help, sequence-specific errors and other non-random biases cannot be de-
tected by increased depth. The problem of accurate genotyping is exacerbated when
there is not a reference genome or other auxiliary information available.
I explore several methods for sensitively detecting mutations in non-model or-
ganisms using an example Eucalyptus melliodora individual. I use the structure of
the tree to find bounds on its somatic mutation rate and evaluate several algorithms
for variant calling. I find that conventional methods are suitable if the genome of a
close relative can be adapted to the study organism. However, with structured data,
a likelihood framework that is aware of this structure is more accurate. I use the
techniques developed here to evaluate a reference-free variant calling algorithm.
I also use this data to evaluate a k-mer based base quality score recalibrator
(KBBQ), a tool I developed to recalibrate base quality scores attached to sequencing
data. Base quality scores can help detect errors in sequencing reads, but are often
inaccurate. The most popular method for correcting this issue requires a known
set of variant sites, which is unavailable in most cases. I simulate data and show
that errors in this set of variant sites can cause calibration errors. I then show that
KBBQ accurately recalibrates base quality scores while requiring no reference or other
information and performs as well as other methods.
Finally, I use the Eucalyptus data to investigate the impact of quality score calibra-
tion on the quality of output variant calls and show that improved base quality score
calibration increases the sensitivity and reduces the false positive rate of a variant
calling algorithm.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020