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

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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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Caveolin-1: a potential biomarker of aggressive triple-negative breast cancer in African American women

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In the U.S., breast cancer (BC) incidences among African American (AA) and CA (CA) women are similar, yet AA women have a significantly higher mortality rate. In addition, AA women often present with tumors at a younger age, with a

In the U.S., breast cancer (BC) incidences among African American (AA) and CA (CA) women are similar, yet AA women have a significantly higher mortality rate. In addition, AA women often present with tumors at a younger age, with a higher tumor grade/stage and are more likely to be diagnosed with the highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtype. Even within the TNBC subtype, AA women have a worse clinical outcome compared to CA. Although multiple socio-economic and lifestyle factors may contribute to these observed health disparities, it is essential that the underlying biological differences between CA and AA TNBC are identified. In this study, gene expression profiling was performed on archived FFPE samples, obtained from CA and AA women diagnosed with early stage TNBC. Initial analysis revealed a pattern of differential expression in the AA cohort compared to CA. Further molecular characterization results showed that the AA cohort segregated into 3-TNBC molecular subtypes; Basal-like (BL2), Immunomodulatory (IM) and Mesenchymal (M). Gene expression analyses resulted in 190 differentially expressed genes between the AA and CA cohorts. Pathway enrichment analysis demonstrated that differentially expressed genes were over-represented in cytoskeletal remodeling, cell adhesion, tight junctions, and immune response in the AA TNBC -cohort. Furthermore, genes in the Wnt/β-catenin pathway were over-expressed. These results were validated using RT-qPCR on an independent cohort of FFPE samples from AA and CA women with early stage TNBC, and identified Caveolin-1 (CAV1) as being significantly expressed in the AA-TNBC cohort. Furthermore, CAV1 was shown to be highly expressed in a cell line panel of TNBC, in particular, those of the mesenchymal and basal-like molecular subtype. Finally, silencing of CAV1 expression by siRNA resulted in a significant decrease in proliferation in each of the TNBC cell lines. These observations suggest that CAV1 expression may contribute to the more aggressive phenotype observed in AA women diagnosed with TNBC.

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2015

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

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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

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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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2012

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

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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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2015

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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2020