Causes and evolutionary significance of genetic convergence.

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02906, USA.
Trends in Genetics (Impact Factor: 11.6). 09/2010; 26(9):400-5. DOI: 10.1016/j.tig.2010.06.005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Convergent phenotypes provide extremely valuable systems for studying the genetics of new adaptations. Accumulating studies on this topic have reported surprising cases of convergent evolution at the molecular level, ranging from gene families being recurrently recruited to identical amino acid replacements in distant lineages. Together, these different examples of genetic convergence suggest that molecular evolution is in some cases strongly constrained by a combination of limited genetic material suitable for new functions and a restricted number of substitutions that can confer specific enzymatic properties. We discuss approaches for gaining further insights into the causes of genetic convergence and their potential contribution to our understanding of how the genetic background determines the evolvability of complex organismal traits.


Available from: Guillaume Besnard, May 30, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: SUMMARY The genomes of more than 20 helminths have now been sequenced. Here we perform a meta-analysis of all sequenced genomes of nematodes and Platyhelminthes, and attempt to address the question of what are the defining characteristics of helminth genomes. We find that parasitic worms lack systems for surface antigenic variation, instead maintaining infections using their surfaces as the first line of defence against the host immune system, with several expanded gene families of genes associated with the surface and tegument. Parasite excretory/secretory products evolve rapidly, and proteases even more so, with each parasite exhibiting unique modifications of its protease repertoire. Endoparasitic flatworms show striking losses of metabolic capabilities, not matched by nematodes. All helminths do however exhibit an overall reduction in auxiliary metabolism (biogenesis of co-factors and vitamins). Overall, the prevailing pattern is that there are few commonalities between the genomes of independently evolved parasitic worms, with each parasite having undergone specific adaptations for their particular niche.
    Parasitology 12/2014; 142(S1):1-13. DOI:10.1017/S0031182014001449 · 2.35 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Convergent evolution is common throughout the tree of life, but the molecular mechanisms causing similar phenotypes to appear repeatedly are obscure. Yeasts have arisen in multiple fungal clades, but the genetic causes and consequences of their evolutionary origins are unknown. Here we show that the potential to develop yeast forms arose early in fungal evolution and became dominant independently in multiple clades, most likely via parallel diversification of Zn-cluster transcription factors, a fungal-specific family involved in regulating yeast–filamentous switches. Our results imply that convergent evolution can happen by the repeated deployment of a conserved genetic toolkit for the same function in distinct clades via regulatory evolution. We suggest that this mechanism might be a common source of evolutionary convergence even at large time scales.
    Nature Communications 07/2014; 5. DOI:10.1038/ncomms5471 · 10.74 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A large proportion of duplicates, originating from ubiquitously expressed genes, acquire testis-biased expression. Identifying the underlying cause of this observation requires determining whether the duplicates have altered functions relative to the parental genes. Typically, statistical methods are used to test for positive selection, signature of which in protein sequence of duplicates implies functional divergence. When assumptions are violated, however, such tests can lead to false inference of positive selection. More convincing evidence for naturally selected functional changes would be the occurrence of structural changes with similar functional consequences in independent duplicates of the same gene. We investigated two testis-specific duplicates of the broadly expressed enzyme gene Aldehyde dehydrogenase (Aldh) that arose in different Drosophila lineages. The duplicates show a typical pattern of accelerated amino acid substitutions relative to their broadly expressed paralogs, with statistical evidence for positive selection in both cases. Importantly, in both duplicates, width of the entrance to the substrate binding site, known a priori to influence substrate specificity, and otherwise conserved throughout the genus Drosophila, has been reduced, resulting in narrowing of the entrance. Protein structure modeling suggests that the reduction of the size of the enzyme’s substrate entry channel, which is likely to shift substrate specificity toward smaller aldehydes, is accounted for by the positively selected parallel substitutions in one duplicate but not the other. Evolution of the testis-specific duplicates was accompanied by reduction in expression of the ancestral Aldh in males, supporting the hypothesis that the duplicates may have helped resolve intralocus sexual conflict over Aldh function.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 01/2015; 32(4). DOI:10.1093/molbev/msu407 · 14.31 Impact Factor