Evolutionary genomics and adaptive evolution of the Hedgehog gene family (Shh, Ihh and Dhh) in vertebrates.

Abstract

The Hedgehog (Hh) gene family codes for a class of secreted proteins composed of two active domains that act as signalling molecules during embryo development, namely for the development of the nervous and skeletal systems and the formation of the testis cord. While only one Hh gene is found typically in invertebrate genomes, most vertebrates species have three (Sonic hedgehog--Shh; Indian hedgehog--Ihh; and Desert hedgehog--Dhh), each with different expression patterns and functions, which likely helped promote the increasing complexity of vertebrates and their successful diversification. In this study, we used comparative genomic and adaptive evolutionary analyses to characterize the evolution of the Hh genes in vertebrates following the two major whole genome duplication (WGD) events. To overcome the lack of Hh-coding sequences on avian publicly available databases, we used an extensive dataset of 45 avian and three non-avian reptilian genomes to show that birds have all three Hh paralogs. We find suggestions that following the WGD events, vertebrate Hh paralogous genes evolved independently within similar linkage groups and under different evolutionary rates, especially within the catalytic domain. The structural regions around the ion-binding site were identified to be under positive selection in the signaling domain. These findings contrast with those observed in invertebrates, where different lineages that experienced gene duplication retained similar selective constraints in the Hh orthologs. Our results provide new insights on the evolutionary history of the Hh gene family, the functional roles of these paralogs in vertebrate species, and on the location of mutational hotspots.

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Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1371/journal.pone.0074132

Publication Info

Pereira, Joana, Warren E Johnson, Stephen J O'Brien, Erich D Jarvis, Guojie Zhang, M Thomas P Gilbert, Vitor Vasconcelos, Agostinho Antunes, et al. (2014). Evolutionary genomics and adaptive evolution of the Hedgehog gene family (Shh, Ihh and Dhh) in vertebrates. PLoS One, 9(12). p. e74132. 10.1371/journal.pone.0074132 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11141.

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Scholars@Duke

Jarvis

Erich David Jarvis

Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment of Neurobiology

Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. They use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates. Some of the questions require performing behavior/molecular biology experiments in freely ranging animals, such as hummingbirds in tropical forest of Brazil. Recent results show that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression. All three groups were found to exhibit vocally-activated gene expression in exactly 7 forebrain nuclei that are very similar to each other. These structures for vocal learning and production are thought to have evolved independently within the past 70 million years, since they are absent from interrelated non-vocal learning orders. One structure, Area X of the basal ganglia's striatum in songbirds, shows large differential gene activation depending on the social context in which the bird sings. These differences may reflect a semantic content of song, perhaps similar to human language.

The overall goal of the research is to advance knowledge of the neural mechanisms for vocal learning and basic mechanisms of brain function. These goals are further achieved by combined collaborative efforts with the laboratories of Drs. Mooney and Nowicki at Duke University, who study respectively behavior and electrophysiological aspects of songbird vocal communication.


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