Friday 15 March 2024

Towards telomere-to-telomere fish genomes with Oxford Nanopore Technologies gap-filling

It was a pleasure to be invited to the “What You’re Missing Matters” tour at Perth, and present some ongoing work investigating the best way to incorporate Oxford Nanopore Technologies data into our high-quality HiFi+HiC fish genomes. The results are too preliminary to share here (and will soon be superseded) but do get in touch if it sounds interesting to you.

Thursday 7 March 2024

Is developmental plasticity triggered by DNA methylation changes in the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina)?

Second cane toad paper of the week! This time, we're revisiting invasive epigenomics.

Yagound B, Sarma RR, Edwards RJ, Richardson MF, Rodriguez Lopez CM, Crossland MR, Brown GP, DeVore JL, Shine R & Rollins LA (2024): Is developmental plasticity triggered by DNA methylation changes in the invasive cane toad (Rhinella marina)? Ecology and Evolution 14:e11127. [Ecol Evol] [PubMed] [bioRxiv]

Many organisms can adjust their development according to environmental conditions, including the presence of conspecifics. Although this developmental plasticity is common in amphibians, its underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Exposure during development to either ‘cannibal cues’ from older conspecifics, or ‘alarm cues’ from injured conspecifics, causes reduced growth and survival in cane toad (Rhinella marina) tadpoles. Epigenetic modifications, such as changes in DNA methylation patterns, are a plausible mechanism underlying these developmental plastic responses. Here we tested this hypothesis, and asked whether cannibal cues and alarm cues trigger the same DNA methylation changes in developing cane toads. We found that exposure to both cannibal cues and alarm cues was associated with local changes in DNA methylation patterns. These DNA methylation changes affected genes putatively involved in developmental processes, but in different genomic regions for different conspecific-derived cues. Genetic background explains most of the epigenetic variation among individuals. Overall, the molecular mechanisms triggered by exposure to cannibal cues seem to differ from those triggered by alarm cues. Studies linking epigenetic modifications to transcriptional activity are needed to clarify the proximate mechanisms that regulate developmental plasticity in cane toads.

Monday 4 March 2024

Whole-mitogenome analysis unveils previously undescribed genetic diversity in cane toads across their invasion trajectory

Congratulations to Kelton Cheung for getting her first PhD paper out. This one has been a long time brewing and involved quite a lot of data wrangling, but we got there in the end. Invasive cane toads might be a little more complex than we thought.

Cheung K, Amos TG, Shine R, DeVore JL, S Ducatez S, Edwards RJ & Rollins LA (2024): Whole-mitogenome analysis unveils previously undescribed genetic diversity in cane toads across their invasion trajectory. Ecology and Evolution 14:e11115. [Ecol Evol] [PubMed] [bioRxiv]

Invasive species offer insights into rapid adaptation to novel environments. The iconic cane toad (Rhinella marina) is an excellent model for studying rapid adaptation during invasion. Previous research using the mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase 3 (ND3) gene in Hawai’ian and Australian invasive populations found a single haplotype, indicating an extreme genetic bottleneck following introduction. Nuclear genetic diversity also exhibited reductions across the genome in these two populations. Here, we investigated the mitochondrial genomics of cane toads across this invasion trajectory. We created the first reference mitochondrial genome for this species using long-read sequence data. We combined whole-genome resequencing data of 15 toads with published transcriptomic data of 125 individuals to construct nearly complete mitochondrial genomes from the native (French Guiana) and introduced (Hawai’i and Australia) ranges for population genomic analyses. In agreement with previous investigations of these populations, we identified genetic bottlenecks in both Hawai’ian and Australian introduced populations, alongside evidence of population expansion in the invasive ranges. Although mitochondrial genetic diversity in introduced populations was reduced, our results revealed that it had been underestimated: we identified 45 mitochondrial haplotypes in Hawai’ian and Australian samples, none of which were found in the native range. Additionally, we identified two distinct groups of haplotypes from the native range, separated by a minimum of 110 base pairs (0.6%). These findings enhance our understanding of how invasion has shaped the genetic landscape of this species.