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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 preserving the genetic diversity of this species, we generated a

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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Genomic diversity and abundance of LINE retrotransposons in 4 anole lizards

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Vertebrate genomes demonstrate a remarkable range of sizes from 0.3 to 133 gigabase pairs. The proliferation of repeat elements are a major genomic expansion. In particular, long interspersed nuclear elements (LINES) are autonomous retrotransposons that have the ability to "cut

Vertebrate genomes demonstrate a remarkable range of sizes from 0.3 to 133 gigabase pairs. The proliferation of repeat elements are a major genomic expansion. In particular, long interspersed nuclear elements (LINES) are autonomous retrotransposons that have the ability to "cut and paste" themselves into a host genome through a mechanism called target-primed reverse transcription. LINES have been called "junk DNA," "viral DNA," and "selfish" DNA, and were once thought to be parasitic elements. However, LINES, which diversified before the emergence of many early vertebrates, has strongly shaped the evolution of eukaryotic genomes. This thesis will evaluate LINE abundance, diversity and activity in four anole lizards. An intrageneric analysis will be conducted using comparative phylogenetics and bioinformatics. Comparisons within the Anolis genus, which derives from a single lineage of an adaptive radiation, will be conducted to explore the relationship between LINE retrotransposon activity and causal changes in genomic size and composition.

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Date Created
2013

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A Histological Analysis of Cell Proliferation Patterns in the Regenerating Tail of the Lizard, Anolis carolinensis

Description

While a number of vertebrates, including fishes, salamanders, frogs, and lizards, display regenerative capacity, the process is not necessarily the same. It has been proposed that regeneration, while evolutionarily conserved, has diverged during evolution. However, the extent to which the

While a number of vertebrates, including fishes, salamanders, frogs, and lizards, display regenerative capacity, the process is not necessarily the same. It has been proposed that regeneration, while evolutionarily conserved, has diverged during evolution. However, the extent to which the mechanisms of regeneration have changed between taxa still remains elusive. In the salamander limb, cells dedifferentiate to a more plastic state and aggregate in the distal portion of the appendage to form a blastema, which is responsible for outgrowth and tissue development. In contrast, no such mechanism has been identified in lizards, and it is unclear to what extent evolutionary divergence between amniotes and anamniotes has altered this mechanism. Anolis carolinensis lizards are capable of regenerating their tails after stress-induced autotomy or self-amputation. In this investigation, the distribution of proliferating cells in early A. carolinensis tail regeneration was visualized by immunohistochemistry to examine the location and quantity of proliferating cells. An aggregate of proliferating cells at the distal region of the regenerate is considered indicative of blastema formation. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and minichromosome maintenance complex component 2 (MCM2) were utilized as proliferation markers. Positive cells were counted for each tail (n=9, n=8 respectively). The percent of proliferating cells at the tip and base of the regenerating tail were compared with a one-way ANOVA statistical test. Both markers showed no significant difference (P=0.585, P=0.603 respectively) indicating absence of a blastema-like structure. These results suggest an alternative mechanism of regeneration in lizards and potentially other amniotes.

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2014-05

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Insights towards developing regenerative therapies: the lizard, Anolis carolinensis, as a genetic model for regeneration in amniotes

Description

Damage to the central nervous system due to spinal cord or traumatic brain injury, as well as degenerative musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, drastically impact the quality of life. Regeneration of complex structures is quite limited in mammals, though other

Damage to the central nervous system due to spinal cord or traumatic brain injury, as well as degenerative musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, drastically impact the quality of life. Regeneration of complex structures is quite limited in mammals, though other vertebrates possess this ability. Lizards are the most closely related organism to humans that can regenerate de novo skeletal muscle, hyaline cartilage, spinal cord, vasculature, and skin. Progress in studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of lizard regeneration has previously been limited by a lack of genomic resources. Building on the release of the genome of the green anole, Anolis carolinensis, we developed a second generation, robust RNA-Seq-based genome annotation, and performed the first transcriptomic analysis of tail regeneration in this species. In order to investigate gene expression in regenerating tissue, we performed whole transcriptome and microRNA transcriptome analysis of regenerating tail tip and base and associated tissues, identifying key genetic targets in the regenerative process. These studies have identified components of a genetic program for regeneration in the lizard that includes both developmental and adult repair mechanisms shared with mammals, indicating value in the translation of these findings to future regenerative therapies.

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2015

Advancing the lizard, Anolis carolinensis, as a model system for genomic studies of evolution, development and regeneration

Description

Well-established model systems exist in four out of the seven major classes of vertebrates. These include the mouse, chicken, frog and zebrafish. Noticeably missing from this list is a reptilian model organism for comparative studies between the vertebrates and for

Well-established model systems exist in four out of the seven major classes of vertebrates. These include the mouse, chicken, frog and zebrafish. Noticeably missing from this list is a reptilian model organism for comparative studies between the vertebrates and for studies of biological processes unique to reptiles. To help fill in this gap the green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, is being adapted as a model organism. Despite the recent release of the complete genomic sequence of the A. carolinensis, the lizard lacks some resources to aid researchers in their studies. Particularly, the lack of transcriptomic resources for lizard has made it difficult to identify genes complete with alternative splice forms and untranslated regions (UTRs). As part of this work the genome annotation for A. carolinensis was improved through next generation sequencing and assembly of the transcriptomes from 14 different adult and embryonic tissues. This revised annotation of the lizard will improve comparative studies between vertebrates, as well as studies within A. carolinensis itself, by providing more accurate gene models, which provide the bases for molecular studies. To demonstrate the utility of the improved annotations and reptilian model organism, the developmental process of somitogenesis in the lizard was analyzed and compared with other vertebrates. This study identified several key features both divergent and convergent between the vertebrates, which was not previously known before analysis of a reptilian model organism. The improved genome annotations have also allowed for molecular studies of tail regeneration in the lizard. With the annotation of 3' UTR sequences and next generation sequencing, it is now possible to do expressional studies of miRNA and predict their mRNA target transcripts at genomic scale. Through next generation small RNA sequencing and subsequent analysis, several differentially expressed miRNAs were identified in the regenerating tail, suggesting miRNA may play a key role in regulating this process in lizards. Through miRNA target prediction several key biological pathways were identified as potentially under the regulation of miRNAs during tail regeneration. In total, this work has both helped advance A. carolinensis as model system and displayed the utility of a reptilian model system.

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Date Created
2012

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Structure-function study of telomerase RNA from evolutionary disparate species: remarkable divergence in gross architecture with the preservation of critical universal structural elements

Description

Telomerase enzyme is a truly remarkable enzyme specialized for the addition of short, highly repetitive DNA sequences onto linear eukaryotic chromosome ends. The telomerase enzyme functions as a ribonucleoprotein, minimally composed of the highly conserved catalytic telomerase reverse transcriptase

Telomerase enzyme is a truly remarkable enzyme specialized for the addition of short, highly repetitive DNA sequences onto linear eukaryotic chromosome ends. The telomerase enzyme functions as a ribonucleoprotein, minimally composed of the highly conserved catalytic telomerase reverse transcriptase and essential telomerase RNA component containing an internalized short template region within the vastly larger non-coding RNA. Even among closely related groups of species, telomerase RNA is astonishingly divergent in sequence, length, and secondary structure. This massive disparity is highly prohibitive for telomerase RNA identification from previously unexplored groups of species, which is fundamental for secondary structure determination. Combined biochemical enrichment and computational screening methods were employed for the discovery of numerous telomerase RNAs from the poorly characterized echinoderm lineage. This resulted in the revelation that--while closely related to the vertebrate lineage and grossly resembling vertebrate telomerase RNA--the echinoderm telomerase RNA central domain varies extensively in structure and sequence, diverging even within echinoderms amongst sea urchins and brittle stars. Furthermore, the origins of telomerase RNA within the eukaryotic lineage have remained a persistent mystery. The ancient Trypanosoma telomerase RNA was previously identified, however, a functionally verified secondary structure remained elusive. Synthetic Trypanosoma telomerase was generated for molecular dissection of Trypanosoma telomerase RNA revealing two RNA domains functionally equivalent to those found in known telomerase RNAs, yet structurally distinct. This work demonstrates that telomerase RNA is uncommonly divergent in gross architecture, while retaining critical universal elements.

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Date Created
2015

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Methods in the assessment of genotype-phenotype correlations in rare childhood disease through orthogonal multi-omics, high-throughput sequencing approaches

Description

Rapid advancements in genomic technologies have increased our understanding of rare human disease. Generation of multiple types of biological data including genetic variation from genome or exome, expression from transcriptome, methylation patterns from epigenome, protein complexity from proteome and metabolite

Rapid advancements in genomic technologies have increased our understanding of rare human disease. Generation of multiple types of biological data including genetic variation from genome or exome, expression from transcriptome, methylation patterns from epigenome, protein complexity from proteome and metabolite information from metabolome is feasible. "Omics" tools provide comprehensive view into biological mechanisms that impact disease trait and risk. In spite of available data types and ability to collect them simultaneously from patients, researchers still rely on their independent analysis. Combining information from multiple biological data can reduce missing information, increase confidence in single data findings, and provide a more complete view of genotype-phenotype correlations. Although rare disease genetics has been greatly improved by exome sequencing, a substantial portion of clinical patients remain undiagnosed. Multiple frameworks for integrative analysis of genomic and transcriptomic data are presented with focus on identifying functional genetic variations in patients with undiagnosed, rare childhood conditions. Direct quantitation of X inactivation ratio was developed from genomic and transcriptomic data using allele specific expression and segregation analysis to determine magnitude and inheritance mode of X inactivation. This approach was applied in two families revealing non-random X inactivation in female patients. Expression based analysis of X inactivation showed high correlation with standard clinical assay. These findings improved understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying X-linked disorders. In addition multivariate outlier analysis of gene and exon level data from RNA-seq using Mahalanobis distance, and its integration of distance scores with genomic data found genotype-phenotype correlations in variant prioritization process in 25 families. Mahalanobis distance scores revealed variants with large transcriptional impact in patients. In this dataset, frameshift variants were more likely result in outlier expression signatures than other types of functional variants. Integration of outlier estimates with genetic variants corroborated previously identified, presumed causal variants and highlighted new candidate in previously un-diagnosed case. Integrative genomic approaches in easily attainable tissue will facilitate the search for biomarkers that impact disease trait, uncover pharmacogenomics targets, provide novel insight into molecular underpinnings of un-characterized conditions, and help improve analytical approaches that use large datasets.

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Date Created
2015

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Comparative genomics and novel bioinformatics methodology applied to the green anole reveal unique sex chromosome evolution

Description

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage

In species with highly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, the degradation of one of the sex chromosomes can result in unequal gene expression between the sexes (e.g., between XX females and XY males) and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Dosage compensation is a process whereby genes on the sex chromosomes achieve equal gene expression which prevents deleterious side effects from having too much or too little expression of genes on sex chromsomes. The green anole is part of a group of species that recently underwent an adaptive radiation. The green anole has XX/XY sex determination, but the content of the X chromosome and its evolution have not been described. Given its status as a model species, better understanding the green anole genome could reveal insights into other species. Genomic analyses are crucial for a comprehensive picture of sex chromosome differentiation and dosage compensation, in addition to understanding speciation.

In order to address this, multiple comparative genomics and bioinformatics analyses were conducted to elucidate patterns of evolution in the green anole and across multiple anole species. Comparative genomics analyses were used to infer additional X-linked loci in the green anole, RNAseq data from male and female samples were anayzed to quantify patterns of sex-biased gene expression across the genome, and the extent of dosage compensation on the anole X chromosome was characterized, providing evidence that the sex chromosomes in the green anole are dosage compensated.

In addition, X-linked genes have a lower ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates than the autosomes when compared to other Anolis species, and pairwise rates of evolution in genes across the anole genome were analyzed. To conduct this analysis a new pipeline was created for filtering alignments and performing batch calculations for whole genome coding sequences. This pipeline has been made publicly available.

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Date Created
2016

Transcriptomic and Cellular Studies of Tail Regeneration in Saurian Reptiles

Description

Traumatic injury to the central nervous or musculoskeletal system in traditional amniote models, such as mouse and chicken, is permanent with long-term physiological and functional effects. However, among amniotes, the ability to regrow complex, multi-tissue structures is unique to non-avian

Traumatic injury to the central nervous or musculoskeletal system in traditional amniote models, such as mouse and chicken, is permanent with long-term physiological and functional effects. However, among amniotes, the ability to regrow complex, multi-tissue structures is unique to non-avian reptiles. Structural regeneration is extensively studied in lizards, with most species able to regrow a functional tail. The lizard regenerated tail includes the spinal cord, cartilage, de novo muscle, vasculature, and skin, and unlike mammals, these tissues can be replaced in lizards as adults. These studies focus on the events that occur before and after the tail regrowth phase, identifying conserved mechanisms that enable functional tail regeneration in the green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis. An examination of coordinated interactions between peripheral nerves, Schwann cells, and skeletal muscle reveal that reformation of the lizard neuromuscular system is dependent upon developmental programs as well as those unique to the adult during late stages of regeneration. On the other hand, transcriptomic analysis of the early injury response identified many immunoregulatory genes that may be essential for inhibiting fibrosis and initiating regenerative programs. Lastly, an anatomical and histological study of regrown alligator tails reveal that regenerative capacity varies between different reptile groups, providing comparative opportunities within amniotes and across vertebrates. In order to identify mechanisms that limit regeneration, these cross-species analyses will be critical. Taken together, these studies serve as a foundation for future experimental work that will reveal the interplay between reparative and regenerative mechanisms in adult amniotes with translational implications for medical therapies.

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Agent

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Date Created
2020

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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 difficult; and while increasing sequencing depth
can often help, sequence-specific

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