Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Epistasis and pleiotropy affecting modularity

Recently we have discussed modularity a few times. For those who can't get enough of it: here is another paper. For those who are starting to get fed up with it: focus on the cool results and the methods we animal ecologist can only dream of.

Fika will be provided.
Tuesday, April 25, 10.00 in Darwin.

Epistasis and Pleiotropy Affect the Modularity of the Genotype–Phenotype Map of Cross-Resistance in HIV-1

Robert Polster  Christos J. Petropoulos  Sebastian Bonhoeffer  Frédéric Guillaume
Mol Biol Evol (2016) 33 (12): 3213-3225



The genotype–phenotype (GP) map is a central concept in evolutionary biology as it describes the mapping of molecular genetic variation onto phenotypic trait variation. Our understanding of that mapping remains partial, especially when trying to link functional clustering of pleiotropic gene effects with patterns of phenotypic trait co-variation. Only on rare occasions have studies been able to fully explore that link and tend to show poor correspondence between modular structures within the GP map and among phenotypes. By dissecting the structure of the GP map of the replicative capacity of HIV-1 in 15 drug environments, we provide a detailed view of that mapping from mutational pleiotropic variation to phenotypic co-variation, including epistatic effects of a set of amino-acid substitutions in the reverse transcriptase and protease genes. We show that epistasis increases the pleiotropic degree of single mutations and provides modularity to the GP map of drug resistance in HIV-1. Moreover, modules of epistatic pleiotropic effects within the GP map match the phenotypic modules of correlated replicative capacity among drug classes. Epistasis thus increases the evolvability of cross-resistance in HIV by providing more drug- and class-specific pleiotropic profiles to the main effects of the mutations. We discuss the implications for the evolution of cross-resistance in HIV.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Guest seminar by Thomas Madsen

Some of you might have heard about Sweden's southernmost adder population in Smygehuk and the spectacular rescue action in the 90s that even made it into Nature. The man behind the story, Thomas Madsen from Deakin University, AU, is currently visiting Sweden to continue his work on this snake population (they are still going strong!).
Before he disappears back to Australia again, he'll give a seminar at our EXEB meeting on Tuesday, April 18th. While his research interest has recently branched out to cancer in the Tasmanian devil (see e.g. here and here), he'll tell us about predator-prey dynamics between snakes and rats!

Floods and famine: climate-induced collapse of a tropical predator-prey community

Beata Ujvari and Thomas Madsen

1.     Will climate change threaten wildlife populations by gradual shifts in mean conditions, or by increased frequency of extreme weather events? 
2.     Based on long-term data (from 1991 to 2014), the aim of the present study was to analyze and compare the sensitivity of predator-prey demography to extreme climatic events versus normal, albeit highly variable, annual deviations in climatic conditions in the Australian wet-dry tropics. 
3.     From 1991 to 2005, predators (water pythons, Liasis fuscus) and their main prey (dusky rats, Rattus colletti) showed significant climate-driven fluctuations in numbers. 
4.     These fluctuations were, however, trivial compared to the impact of two massive but brief deluges in 2007 and 2011, which virtually eliminated the dusky rats.  The two floods resulted in the pythons experiencing an unprecedented famine in 7 out of the last 8 years causing a massive shift in python demography i.e. a significant reduction in feeding rates, reproductive output, growth rates, relative body mass, survival, mean body length and numbers (from 3173 in 1992 to 96 in 2013). 
5.     Our results demonstrate that attempts to predict faunal responses to climate change, even if based on long-term studies, may be doomed to failure.  Consequently, biologists may need to confront the uncomfortable truth that increased frequency of brief unpredictable bouts of extreme weather can influence populations far more than gradual deviations in mean climatic conditions.

There will be fika!

Time: Tuesday, April 18, 10.00
Locale: "Darwin", 2nd floor (Ecology Building)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Marvin's master's thesis

Macrostomum lignano. Picture courtesy of Lukas Schärer.
Marvin Moosmann will present his master's thesis next week on Tuesday April 11th at 10.00 in Darwin. The opponent will be Charlie Cornwallis.

Thesis abstract: The relationship between the male and the female function in the simultaneous hermaphroditic flatworm Macrostomum lignano has been intensively studied on a phenotypic level. The results from these studies largely coincide with predictions that derive from sex allocation theory, which assumes a trade-off between the allocation of resources to the sex functions. Results from a recent experimental evolution study suggest that sexually antagonistic genetic variation could also have an impact on the correlation between male and female fitness. Sexually antagonistic genetic variation manifests itself in a negative genetic correlation between male and female fitness and has so far mainly been described in separate-sexed organisms. This study investigates the phenotypic and genetic correlation between the male and female fitness components in M. lignano in two stressful environments; salt stress and food stress. The results suggest that there is no genetic or phenotypic correlation between male and female fitness, despite considerable genetic variation in fitness for both sex functions. However, the residual variation shows a tendency for a negative correlation in a food-restricted environment, which could be an indication of a resource trade-off that is obscured on a phenotypic level by the genetic variation in fitness. It was further found that the genetic variances of both fitness functions are environment dependent.