Reconstruction of gross avian genome structure, organization and evolution suggests that the chicken lineage most closely resembles the dinosaur avian ancestor.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The availability of multiple avian genome sequence assemblies greatly improves our ability to define overall genome organization and reconstruct evolutionary changes. In birds, this has previously been impeded by a near intractable karyotype and relied almost exclusively on comparative molecular cytogenetics of only the largest chromosomes. Here, novel whole genome sequence information from 21 avian genome sequences (most newly assembled) made available on an interactive browser (Evolution Highway) was analyzed. RESULTS: Focusing on the six best-assembled genomes allowed us to assemble a putative karyotype of the dinosaur ancestor for each chromosome. Reconstructing evolutionary events that led to each species' genome organization, we determined that the fastest rate of change occurred in the zebra finch and budgerigar, consistent with rapid speciation events in the Passeriformes and Psittaciformes. Intra- and interchromosomal changes were explained most parsimoniously by a series of inversions and translocations respectively, with breakpoint reuse being commonplace. Analyzing chicken and zebra finch, we found little evidence to support the hypothesis of an association of evolutionary breakpoint regions with recombination hotspots but some evidence to support the hypothesis that microchromosomes largely represent conserved blocks of synteny in the majority of the 21 species analyzed. All but one species showed the expected number of microchromosomal rearrangements predicted by the haploid chromosome count. Ostrich, however, appeared to retain an overall karyotype structure of 2n=80 despite undergoing a large number (26) of hitherto un-described interchromosomal changes. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that mechanisms exist to preserve a static overall avian karyotype/genomic structure, including the microchromosomes, with widespread interchromosomal change occurring rarely (e.g., in ostrich and budgerigar lineages). Of the species analyzed, the chicken lineage appeared to have undergone the fewest changes compared to the dinosaur ancestor.

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Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1186/1471-2164-15-1060

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Romanov, Michael N, Marta Farré, Pamela E Lithgow, Katie E Fowler, Benjamin M Skinner, Rebecca O'Connor, Gothami Fonseka, Niclas Backström, et al. (2014). Reconstruction of gross avian genome structure, organization and evolution suggests that the chicken lineage most closely resembles the dinosaur avian ancestor. BMC Genomics, 15. p. 1060. 10.1186/1471-2164-15-1060 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9319.

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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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