Comparative genomics reveals molecular features unique to the songbird lineage.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image

Date

2014-12-13

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats

169
views
179
downloads

Citation Stats

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Songbirds (oscine Passeriformes) are among the most diverse and successful vertebrate groups, comprising almost half of all known bird species. Identifying the genomic innovations that might be associated with this success, as well as with characteristic songbird traits such as vocal learning and the brain circuits that underlie this behavior, has proven difficult, in part due to the small number of avian genomes available until recently. Here we performed a comparative analysis of 48 avian genomes to identify genomic features that are unique to songbirds, as well as an initial assessment of function by investigating their tissue distribution and predicted protein domain structure. RESULTS: Using BLAT alignments and gene synteny analysis, we curated a large set of Ensembl gene models that were annotated as novel or duplicated in the most commonly studied songbird, the Zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), and then extended this analysis to 47 additional avian and 4 non-avian genomes. We identified 10 novel genes uniquely present in songbird genomes. A refined map of chromosomal synteny disruptions in the Zebra finch genome revealed that the majority of these novel genes localized to regions of genomic instability associated with apparent chromosomal breakpoints. Analyses of in situ hybridization and RNA-seq data revealed that a subset of songbird-unique genes is expressed in the brain and/or other tissues, and that 2 of these (YTHDC2L1 and TMRA) are highly differentially expressed in vocal learning-associated nuclei relative to the rest of the brain. CONCLUSIONS: Our study reveals novel genes unique to songbirds, including some that may subserve their unique vocal control system, substantially improves the quality of Zebra finch genome annotations, and contributes to a better understanding of how genomic features may have evolved in conjunction with the emergence of the songbird lineage.

Department

Description

Provenance

Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1186/1471-2164-15-1082

Publication Info

Wirthlin, Morgan, Peter V Lovell, Erich D Jarvis and Claudio V Mello (2014). Comparative genomics reveals molecular features unique to the songbird lineage. BMC Genomics, 15. p. 1082. 10.1186/1471-2164-15-1082 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11122.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.

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.


Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.