Elizabeth Egan, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Malaria caused by the apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium falciparum has served as a strong evolutionary force throughout human history, selecting for red blood cell polymorphisms that confer innate protection against severe disease. Recently, gain-of-function mutations in the mechanosensitive ion channel PIEZO1 were shown to ameliorate Plasmodium parasite growth, blood-brain barrier dysfunction, and mortality in a mouse model of malaria. In humans, the gain-of-function allele PIEZO1 E756del is highly prevalent and enriched in Africans, raising the possibility that it is under positive selection due to malaria. Here we used a case-control study design to test for an association between PIEZO1 E756del and malaria severity among children in Gabon. We found that the E756del variant is strongly associated with protection against severe malaria in heterozygotes. In subjects with sickle cell trait, heterozygosity for PIEZO1 E756del did not confer additive protection and homozygosity was associated with an elevated risk of severe disease, suggesting an epistatic relationship between hemoglobin S and PIEZO1 E756del. Using donor blood samples, we show that red cells heterozygous for PIEZO1 E756del are not dehydrated and can support the intracellular growth of P. falciparum similar to wild-type cells. However, surface expression of the P. falciparum virulence protein PfEMP-1 was significantly reduced in infected cells heterozygous for PIEZO1 756del, a phenomenon that has been observed with other protective polymorphisms, such as hemoglobin C. Our findings demonstrate that PIEZO1 is an important innate determinant of malaria susceptibility in humans and suggest that the mechanism of protection may be related to impaired export of P. falciparum virulence proteins.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1919843117
View details for PubMedID 32265284
Plasmodium parasites, along with their Piroplasm relatives, have caused malaria-like illnesses in terrestrial mammals for millions of years. Several Plasmodium-protective alleles have recently evolved in human populations, but little is known about host adaptation to blood parasites over deeper evolutionary timescales. In this work, we analyze mammalian adaptation in ~500 Plasmodium- or Piroplasm- interacting proteins (PPIPs) manually curated from the scientific literature. We show that (i) PPIPs are enriched for both immune functions and pleiotropy with other pathogens, and (ii) the rate of adaptation across mammals is significantly elevated in PPIPs, compared to carefully matched control proteins. PPIPs with high pathogen pleiotropy show the strongest signatures of adaptation, but this pattern is fully explained by their immune enrichment. Several pieces of evidence suggest that blood parasites specifically have imposed selection on PPIPs. First, even non-immune PPIPs that lack interactions with other pathogens have adapted at twice the rate of matched controls. Second, PPIP adaptation is linked to high expression in the liver, a critical organ in the parasite life cycle. Finally, our detailed investigation of alpha-spectrin, a major red blood cell membrane protein, shows that domains with particularly high rates of adaptation are those known to interact specifically with P. falciparum. Overall, we show that host proteins that interact with Plasmodium and Piroplasm parasites have experienced elevated rates of adaptation across mammals, and provide evidence that some of this adaptation has likely been driven by blood parasites.
View details for PubMedID 28957326
Adaptive evolution plays a large role in generating the phenotypic diversity observed in nature, yet current methods are impractical for characterizing the molecular basis and fitness effects of large numbers of individual adaptive mutations. Here, we used a DNA barcoding approach to generate the genotype-to-fitness map for adaptation-driving mutations from a Saccharomyces cerevisiae population experimentally evolved by serial transfer under limiting glucose. We isolated and measured the fitness of thousands of independent adaptive clones and sequenced the genomes of hundreds of clones. We found only two major classes of adaptive mutations: self-diploidization and mutations in the nutrient-responsive Ras/PKA and TOR/Sch9 pathways. Our large sample size and precision of measurement allowed us to determine that there are significant differences in fitness between mutations in different genes, between different paralogs, and even between different classes of mutations within the same gene.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2016.08.002
View details for PubMedID 27594428
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5070919
Inbreeding increases homozygosity and exposes deleterious recessive alleles, generally decreasing the fitness of inbred individuals. Interestingly, males and females are usually affected differently by inbreeding, though the more vulnerable sex depends on the species and trait measured.We used the soil-dwelling nematode Caenorhabditis remanei to examine sex-specific inbreeding depression across nine lineages, five levels of inbreeding, and hundreds of thousands of progeny. Female nematodes consistently suffered greater fitness losses than their male counterparts, especially at high levels of inbreeding.These results suggest that females experience stronger selection on genes contributing to reproductive traits. Inbreeding depression in males may be further reduced by sex chromosome hemizygosity, which affects the dominance of some mutations, as well as by the absence of sexual selection. Determining the relative contributions of sex-specific expression, genes on the sex chromosomes, and the environment they are filtered through-including opportunities for sexual selection-may explain the frequent though inconsistent records of sex differences in inbreeding depression, along with their implications for conservation and the evolution of mating systems.
View details for DOI 10.1186/s12862-016-0604-5
View details for Web of Science ID 000369616700004
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4748534
Rapid diversification is often associated with morphological or ecological adaptations that allow organisms to radiate into novel niches. Neotropical Adelpha butterflies, which comprise over 200 species and subspecies, are characterized by extraordinary breadth in host plant use and wing colour patterns compared to their closest relatives. To examine the relationship between phenotypic and species diversification, we reconstructed the phylogenetic history of Adelpha and its temperate sister genus Limenitis using genomewide restriction-site-associated DNA (RAD) sequencing. Despite a declining fraction of shared markers with increasing evolutionary distance, the RAD-Seq data consistently generated well-supported trees using a variety of phylogenetic methods. These well-resolved phylogenies allow the identification of an ecologically important relationship with a toxic host plant family, as well as the confirmation of widespread, convergent wing pattern mimicry throughout the genus. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that evolutionary innovations in both larvae and adults have permitted the colonization of novel host plants and fuelled adaptive diversification within this large butterfly radiation.
View details for DOI 10.1111/mec.13168
View details for Web of Science ID 000353961500009
View details for PubMedID 25809206
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