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150 Publications

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    02/02/16 | Tagmentation-based mapping (tagmap) of mobile DNA genomic insertion sites.
    bioRxiv. 2016 Feb 2:. doi: 10.1101/037762

    Multiple methods have been introduced over the past 30 years to identify the genomic insertion sites of transposable elements and other DNA elements that integrate into genomes. However, each of these methods suffer from limitations that can frustrate attempts to map multiple insertions in a single genome and to map insertions in genomes of high complexity that contain extensive repetitive DNA. I introduce a new method for transposon mapping that is simple to perform, can accurately map multiple insertions per genome, and generates long sequence reads that facilitate mapping to complex genomes. The method, called TagMap, for Tagmentation-based Mapping, relies on a modified Tn5 tagmentation protocol with a single tagmentation adaptor followed by PCR using primers specific to the tranposable element and the adaptor sequence. Several minor modifications to normal tagmentation reagents and protocols allow easy and rapid preparation of TagMap libraries. Short read sequencing starting from the adaptor sequence generates oriented reads that flank and are oriented toward the transposable element insertion site. The convergent orientation of adjacent reads at the insertion site allows straightforward prediction of the precise insertion site(s). A Linux shell script is provided to identify insertion sites from fastq files.

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    01/07/16 | The soft touch: low-affinity transcription factor binding sites in development and evolution.
    Crocker J, Preger-Ben Noon E, Stern DL
    Current Topics in Developmental Biology. 2016 Jan 07:. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2015.11.018

    Transcription factor proteins regulate gene expression by binding to specific DNA regions. Most studies of transcription factor binding sites have focused on the highest affinity sites for each factor. There is abundant evidence, however, that binding sites with a range of affinities, including very low affinities, are critical to gene regulation. Here, we present the theoretical and experimental evidence for the importance of low-affinity sites in gene regulation and development. We also discuss the implications of the widespread use of low-affinity sites in eukaryotic genomes for robustness, precision, specificity, and evolution of gene regulation.

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    10/28/15 | A major locus controls a genital shape difference involved in reproductive isolation between Drosophila yakuba and Drosophila santomea.
    Peluffo AE, Nuez I, Debat V, Savisaar R, Stern DL, Orgogozo V
    G3 (Bethesda, Md.). 2015 Oct 28;5(12):2893-901. doi: 10.1534/g3.115.023481

    Rapid evolution of genitalia shape, a widespread phenomenon in animals with internal fertilization, offers the opportunity to dissect the genetic architecture of morphological evolution linked to sexual selection and speciation. Most quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping studies of genitalia divergence have focused on Drosophila melanogaster and its three most closely related species, D. simulans, D. mauritiana, and D. sechellia, and have suggested that the genetic basis of genitalia evolution involves many loci. We report the first genetic study of male genitalia evolution between D. yakuba and D. santomea, two species of the D. melanogaster species subgroup. We focus on male ventral branches, which harm females during interspecific copulation. Using landmark-based geometric morphometrics, we characterized shape variation in parental species, F1 hybrids, and backcross progeny and show that the main axis of shape variation within the backcross population matches the interspecific variation between parental species. For genotyping, we developed a new molecular method to perform multiplexed shotgun genotyping (MSG), which allowed us to prepare genomic DNA libraries from 365 backcross individuals in a few days using little DNA. We detected only three QTL, one of which spans 2.7 Mb and exhibits a highly significant effect on shape variation that can be linked to the harmfulness of the ventral branches. We conclude that the genetic architecture of genitalia morphology divergence may not always be as complex as suggested by previous studies.

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    03/16/15 | Genetic architecture and functional characterization of genes underlying the rapid diversification of male external genitalia between Drosophila simulans and Drosophila mauritiana.
    Tanaka KM, Hopfen C, Herbert MR, Schlötterer C, Stern DL, Masly JP, McGregor AP, Nunes MD
    Genetics. 2015 Mar 16:. doi: 10.1534/genetics.114.174045

    Male sexual characters are often among the first traits to diverge between closely related species and identifying the genetic basis of such changes can contribute to our understanding of their evolutionary history. However, little is known about the genetic architecture or the specific genes underlying the evolution of male genitalia. The morphology of the claspers, posterior lobes and anal plates exhibit striking differences between Drosophila mauritiana and Drosophila simulans. Using QTL and introgression-based high-resolution mapping, we identified several small regions on chromosome arms 3L and 3R that contribute to differences in these traits. However, we found that the loci underlying the evolution of clasper differences between these two species are independent from those that contribute to posterior lobe and anal plate divergence. Furthermore, while most of the loci affect each trait in the same direction and act additively, we also found evidence for epistasis between loci for clasper bristle number. In addition, we conducted an RNAi screen in D. melanogaster to investigate if positional and expression candidate genes located on chromosome 3L, are also involved in genital development. We found that six of these genes, including components of Wnt signaling and male-specific lethal 3 (msl3), regulate the development of genital traits consistent with the effects of the introgressed regions where they are located and that thus represent promising candidate genes for the evolution these traits.

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    02/01/15 | Next generation multilocus sequence typing (NGMLST) and the analytical software program MLSTEZ enable efficient, cost-effective, high-throughput, multilocus sequencing typing.
    Chen Y, Frazzitta AE, Litvintseva AP, Fang C, Mitchell TG, Springer DJ, Ding Y, Yuan G, Perfect JR
    Fungal Genetics and Biology. 2015 Feb;75:64-71. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2015.01.005

    Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) has become the preferred method for genotyping many biological species, and it is especially useful for analyzing haploid eukaryotes. MLST is rigorous, reproducible, and informative, and MLST genotyping has been shown to identify major phylogenetic clades, molecular groups, or subpopulations of a species, as well as individual strains or clones. MLST molecular types often correlate with important phenotypes. Conventional MLST involves the extraction of genomic DNA and the amplification by PCR of several conserved, unlinked gene sequences from a sample of isolates of the taxon under investigation. In some cases, as few as three loci are sufficient to yield definitive results. The amplicons are sequenced, aligned, and compared by phylogenetic methods to distinguish statistically significant differences among individuals and clades. Although MLST is simpler, faster, and less expensive than whole genome sequencing, it is more costly and time-consuming than less reliable genotyping methods (e.g. amplified fragment length polymorphisms). Here, we describe a new MLST method that uses next-generation sequencing, a multiplexing protocol, and appropriate analytical software to provide accurate, rapid, and economical MLST genotyping of 96 or more isolates in single assay. We demonstrate this methodology by genotyping isolates of the well-characterized, human pathogenic yeast Cryptococcus neoformans.

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    01/16/15 | Low affinity binding site clusters confer Hox specificity and regulatory robustness.
    Crocker J, Abe N, Rinaldi L, McGregor AP, Frankel N, Wang S, Alsawadi A, Valenti P, Plaza S, Payre F, Mann RS, Stern DL
    Cell. 2015 Jan 15;160:191-203. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.11.041

    In animals, Hox transcription factors define regional identity in distinct anatomical domains. How Hox genes encode this specificity is a paradox, because different Hox proteins bind with high affinity in vitro to similar DNA sequences. Here, we demonstrate that the Hox protein Ultrabithorax (Ubx) in complex with its cofactor Extradenticle (Exd) bound specifically to clusters of very low affinity sites in enhancers of the shavenbaby gene of Drosophila. These low affinity sites conferred specificity for Ubx binding in vivo, but multiple clustered sites were required for robust expression when embryos developed in variable environments. Although most individual Ubx binding sites are not evolutionarily conserved, the overall enhancer architecture-clusters of low affinity binding sites-is maintained and required for enhancer function. Natural selection therefore works at the level of the enhancer, requiring a particular density of low affinity Ubx sites to confer both specific and robust expression.

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    12/12/14 | Evolved differences in larval social behavior mediated by novel pheromones.
    Mast JD, De Moraes CM, Alborn HT, Lavis LD, Stern DL
    eLife. 2014 Dec 12;3:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04205

    Pheromones, chemical signals that convey social information, mediate many insect social behaviors, including navigation and aggregation. Several studies have suggested that behavior during the immature larval stages of Drosophila development is influenced by pheromones, but none of these compounds or the pheromone-receptor neurons that sense them have been identified. Here we report a larval pheromone-signaling pathway. We found that larvae produce two novel long-chain fatty acids that are attractive to other larvae. We identified a single larval chemosensory neuron that detects these molecules. Two members of the pickpocket family of DEG/ENaC channel subunits (ppk23 and ppk29) are required to respond to these pheromones. This pheromone system is evolving quickly, since the larval exudates of D. simulans, the sister species of D. melanogaster, are not attractive to other larvae. Our results define a new pheromone signaling system in Drosophila that shares characteristics with pheromone systems in a wide diversity of insects.

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    12/12/14 | Pupariation site preference within and between Drosophila sibling species.
    Erezyilmaz DF, Stern DL
    Evolution. 2013 Sep;67(9):2714-27. doi: 10.1111/evo.12146

    Holometabolous insects pass through a sedentary pupal stage and often choose a location for pupation that is different from the site of larval feeding. We have characterized a difference in pupariation site choice within and between sibling species of Drosophila. We found that, in nature, Drosophila sechellia pupariate within their host fruit, Morinda citrifolia, and that they perform this behavior in laboratory assays. In contrast, in the laboratory, geographically diverse strains of Drosophila simulans vary in their pupariation site preference; D. simulans lines from the ancestral range in southeast Africa pupariate on fruit, or a fruit substitute, whereas populations from Europe or the New World select sites off of fruit. We explored the genetic basis for the evolved preference in puariation site preference by performing quantitative trait locus mapping within and between species. We found that the interspecific difference is controlled largely by loci on chromosomes X and II. In contrast, variation between two strains of D. simulans appears to be highly polygenic, with the majority of phenotypic effects due to loci on chromosome III. These data address the genetic basis of how new traits arise as species diverge and populations disperse.

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    12/03/14 | Identification of loci that cause phenotypic variation in diverse species with the reciprocal hemizygosity test.
    Stern DL
    Trends in Genetics. 2014 Dec;30(12):547-554. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2014.09.006

    The reciprocal hemizygosity test is a straightforward genetic test that can positively identify genes that have evolved to contribute to a phenotypic difference between strains or between species. The test involves a comparison between hybrids that are genetically identical throughout the genome except at the test locus, which is rendered hemizygous for alternative alleles from the two parental strains. If the two reciprocal hemizygotes display different phenotypes, then the two parental alleles must have evolved. New methods for targeted mutagenesis will allow application of the reciprocal hemizygosity test in many organisms. This review discusses the principles, advantages, and limitations of the test.

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    07/24/14 | Looking under the lamp post: neither fruitless nor doublesex has evolved to generate divergent male courtship in Drosophila.
    Cande J, Stern DL, Morita T, Prud'homme B, Gompel N
    Cell Reports. 2014 Jul 24;8(2):363-70. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.06.023

    How do evolved genetic changes alter the nervous system to produce different patterns of behavior? We address this question using Drosophila male courtship behavior, which is innate, stereotyped, and evolves rapidly between species. D. melanogaster male courtship requires the male-specific isoforms of two transcription factors, fruitless and doublesex. These genes underlie genetic switches between female and male behaviors, making them excellent candidate genes for courtship behavior evolution. We tested their role in courtship evolution by transferring the entire locus for each gene from divergent species to D. melanogaster. We found that despite differences in Fru+ and Dsx+ cell numbers in wild-type species, cross-species transgenes rescued D. melanogaster courtship behavior and no species-specific behaviors were conferred. Therefore, fru and dsx are not a significant source of evolutionary variation in courtship behavior.

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