2021 Vol. 42, No. 4

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2021, (4): 1-1.
The flying squirrels (Pteromyini, Rodentia) are the most diverse and widely distributed group of gliding mammals. Taxonomic boundaries and relationships within flying squirrels remain an area of active research in mammalogy. The discovery of new specimens of Pteromys (Hylopetes) leonardi Thomas, 1921, previously considered a synonym of Hylopetes alboniger, in Yunnan Province, China allowed a morphological and genetic reassessment of the status of this taxon. Phylogenetic reconstruction was implemented using sequences of two mitochondrial (12S ribosomal RNA and 16S ribosomal RNA) and one nuclear (interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein) gene fragments. Morphological assessments involved examinations of features preserved on skins, skulls, and penises of museum specimens, supplemented with principal component analysis of craniometric data. Together these assessments revealed that this taxon should be recognized not only as a distinct species, but should also be placed within a new genus, described here as Priapomys gen. nov.
Letter to the editor
A new species of the genus Troglonectes is described from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. Troglonectes hechiensis sp. nov . can be easily distinguished from its congeners based on the following characters: eyes normal; whole body covered by scales except head, throat, and abdomen; lateral line incomplete; caudal fin concave; and color pattern present on body.
Accurate information on name-bearing types, including corresponding type localities, is essential for proper taxonomy. However, such geographic information is often missing or unreliable. The localities of type specimens collected 100–200 years ago can be difficult to trace due to changes in local names or simple inaccuracies. Such a case can be found for the gray-backed sportive lemur (Lepilemur dorsalis), with its type locality imprecisely fixed as Northwest Madagascar. In recent years, eight species have been newly described for the Inter-River-Systems (IRSs) of this region, however the designation of L. dorsalis remains controversial due to a lack of a precise type locality. Here, we sequenced the complete mitochondrial genomes (mitogenomes) of type specimens of L. dorsalis and L. grandidieri, which is currently recognized as a synonym of L. dorsalis and compared their sequences with those of samples of known provenance from different IRSs. Results showed that the two type specimens of L. dorsalis and L. grandidieri had identical mitogenome sequences and clustered closely with samples collected in IRS V, indicating that the type locality could be fixed to IRS V. Consequently, L. dorsalis occurs in IRS V, and L. grandidieri and L. mittermeieri are junior synonyms of L. dorsalis. This finding demonstrates the value of type specimens for clarifying phylogeographic and taxonomic questions and clarifies the taxonomy of sportive lemurs in Northwest Madagascar.
The genus Macaca serves as an ideal research model for speciation and introgressive gene flow due to its short period of diversification (about five million years ago) and rapid radiation of constituent species. To understand evolutionary gene flow in macaques, we sequenced four whole genomes (two M. arctoides and two M. thibetana) and combined them with publicly available macaque genome data for genome-wide analyses. We analyzed 14 individuals from nine Macaca species covering all Asian macaque species groups and detected extensive gene flow signals, with the strongest signals between the fascicularis and silenus species groups. Notably, we detected bidirectional gene flow between M. fascicularis and M. nemestrina. The estimated proportion of the genome inherited via gene flow between the two species was 6.19%. However, the introgression signals found among studied island species, such as Sulawesi macaques and M. fuscata, and other species were largely attributed to the genomic similarity of closely related species or ancestral introgression. Furthermore, gene flow signals varied in individuals of the same species (M. arctoides, M. fascicularis, M. mulatta, M. nemestrina and M. thibetana), suggesting very recent gene flow after the populations split. Pairwise sequentially Markovian coalescence (PSMC) analysis showed all macaques experienced a bottleneck five million years ago, after which different species exhibited different fluctuations in demographic history trajectories, implying they have experienced complicated environmental variation and climate change. These results should help improve our understanding of the complicated evolutionary history of macaques, particularly introgressive gene flow.
Over the last several hundred years, donkeys have adapted to high-altitude conditions on the Tibetan Plateau. Interestingly, the kiang, a closely related equid species, also inhabits this region. Previous reports have demonstrated the importance of specific genes and adaptive introgression in divergent lineages for adaptation to hypoxic conditions on the Tibetan Plateau. Here, we assessed whether donkeys and kiangs adapted to the Tibetan Plateau via the same or different biological pathways and whether adaptive introgression has occurred. We assembled a de novo genome from a kiang individual and analyzed the genomes of five kiangs and 93 donkeys (including 24 from the Tibetan Plateau). Our analyses suggested the existence of a strong hard selective sweep at the EPAS1 locus in kiangs. In Tibetan donkeys, however, another gene, i.e., EGLN1, was likely involved in their adaptation to high altitude. In addition, admixture analysis found no evidence for interspecific gene flow between kiangs and Tibetan donkeys. Our findings indicate that despite the short evolutionary time scale since the arrival of donkeys on the Tibetan Plateau, as well as the existence of a closely related species already adapted to hypoxia, Tibetan donkeys did not acquire adaptation via admixture but instead evolved adaptations via a different biological pathway.
During a 2018 antimicrobial resistance surveillance of Escherichia coli isolates from diarrheal calves in Xinjiang Province, China, an unexpectedly high prevalence (48.5%) of fosfomycin resistance was observed. This study aimed to reveal the determinants of fosfomycin resistance and the underlying transmission mechanism. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening showed that all fosfomycin-resistant E. coli carried the fosA3 gene. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and southern blot hybridization revealed that the 16 fosA3-positive isolates belonged to four different PFGE patterns (i.e., A, B, C, D). The fosA3 genes of 11 clonally related strains (pattern D) were located on the chromosome, while others were carried by plasmids. Whole-genome and long-read sequencing indicated that the pattern D strains were E. coli O101:H9-ST10, and the pattern C, B, and A strains were O101:H9-ST167, O8:H30-ST1431, and O101:H9 with unknown ST, respectively. Among the pattern C strains, the blaCTX-M-14 gene was co-localized with the fosA3 gene on the F18:A-:B1 plasmids. Interestingly, phylogenetic analysis based on core genome single nucleotide polymorphisms (cgSNPs) showed that the O101:H9-ST10 strains were closely related to a Australian-isolated Chroicocephalus-origin E. coli O101:H9-ST10 strain producing CTX-M-14 and FosA3, with a difference of only 11 SNPs. These results indicate possible international dissemination of the high-risk E. coli clone O101:H9-ST10 by migratory birds.
Mutations of PTEN-induced kinase I (PINK1) cause early-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD) with selective neurodegeneration in humans. However, current PINK1 knockout mouse and pig models are unable to recapitulate the typical neurodegenerative phenotypes observed in PD patients. This suggests that generating PINK1 disease models in non-human primates (NHPs) that are close to humans is essential to investigate the unique function of PINK1 in primate brains. Paired single guide RNA (sgRNA)/Cas9-D10A nickases and truncated sgRNA/Cas9, both of which can reduce off-target effects without compromising on-target editing, are two optimized strategies in the CRISPR/Cas9 system for establishing disease animal models. Here, we combined the two strategies and injected Cas9-D10A mRNA and two truncated sgRNAs into one-cell-stage cynomolgus zygotes to target the PINK1 gene. We achieved precise and efficient gene editing of the target site in three newborn cynomolgus monkeys. The frame shift mutations of PINK1 in mutant fibroblasts led to a reduction in mRNA. However, western blotting and immunofluorescence staining confirmed the PINK1 protein levels were comparable to that in wild-type fibroblasts. We further reprogramed mutant fibroblasts into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which showed similar ability to differentiate into dopamine (DA) neurons. Taken together, our results showed that co-injection of Cas9-D10A nickase mRNA and sgRNA into one-cell-stage cynomolgus embryos enabled the generation of human disease models in NHPs and target editing by pair truncated sgRNA/Cas9-D10A in PINK1 gene exon 2 did not impact protein expression.
Tree shrews (Tupaia spp.) have been used in neuroscience research since the 1960s due to their evolutionary proximity to primates. The use of and interest in this animal model have recently increased, in part due to the adaptation of modern neuroscience tools in this species. These tools include quantitative behavioral assays, calcium imaging, optogenetics and transgenics. To facilitate the exchange and development of these new technologies and associated research findings, we organized the inaugural “Tree Shrew Users Meeting” which was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we review this meeting and discuss the history of tree shrews as an animal model in neuroscience research and summarize the current themes being investigated using this animal, as well as future directions.
Letter to the editor
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited retinal degenerative disease that begins with defective rod photoreceptor function, followed by impaired cone function, and complete blindness in its late stage. To date, however, there is no effective treatment for RP. By carrying a nonsense mutation in the Pde6b gene, rd1 mice display elevated cGMP in conjunction with higher intracellular Ca2+ in their rod photoreceptors, resulting in fast retinal degeneration. Ca2+ has been linked to activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. The mTOR pathway integrates extracellular and intracellular signals to sense the supply of nutrients and plays a central role in regulating protein and lipid synthesis as well as apoptosis and autophagy. In the present study, we showed that mTOR and phosphorylated mTOR (p-mTOR, activated form of mTOR) are up-regulated in rd1 photoreceptors at postnatal day 10 (P10), a pre-degenerative stage. Moreover, the downstream effectors of mTOR, such as pS6K and S6K, are also increased, suggesting activation of the mTOR signaling pathway. Intravitreal administration of rapamycin, a negative regulator of mTOR, inhibits the mTOR pathway in rd1 photoreceptors. Consequently, the progression of retinal degeneration is slower and retinal function is enhanced, possibly mediated by activation of autophagy in the photoreceptors. Taken together, these results highlight rapamycin as a potential therapeutic avenue for retinal degeneration.
A new species of the genus Gonyosoma Wagler, 1828 is described herein based on six specimens from the Diaoluoshan Mountains, Hainan Island, Hainan Province, China. The new species, Gonyosoma hainanense sp. nov. , is most similar to its continental sister species, Gonyosoma boulengeri (Mocquard, 1897). Both taxa have a scaled protrusion on the anterior portion of the rostrum, distinct from other congeners. However, Gonyosoma hainanense sp. nov. can be distinguished from G. boulengeri by two significant morphological characters: (1) black orbital stripe absent in adults (vs. present in G. boulengeri); and (2) two loreals (vs. one loreal in G. boulengeri). The new species is also genetically divergent and forms a unique clade from its sister species and all other congeners based on sequences of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome b (cyt b).
Fish morphological phenotypes are important resources in artificial breeding, functional gene mapping, and population-based studies in aquaculture and ecology. Traditional morphological measurement of phenotypes is rather expensive in terms of time and labor. More importantly, manual measurement is highly dependent on operational experience, which can lead to subjective phenotyping results. Here, we developed 3DPhenoFish software to extract fish morphological phenotypes from three-dimensional (3D) point cloud data. Algorithms for background elimination, coordinate normalization, image segmentation, key point recognition, and phenotype extraction were developed and integrated into an intuitive user interface. Furthermore, 18 key points and traditional 2D morphological traits, along with 3D phenotypes, including area and volume, can be automatically obtained in a visualized manner. Intuitive fine-tuning of key points and customized definitions of phenotypes are also allowed in the software. Using 3DPhenoFish, we performed high-throughput phenotyping for four endemic Schizothoracinae species, including Schizopygopsis younghusbandi, Oxygymnocypris stewartii, Ptychobarbus dipogon, and Schizothorax oconnori. Results indicated that the morphological phenotypes from 3DPhenoFish exhibited high linear correlation (>0.94) with manual measurements and offered informative traits to discriminate samples of different species and even for different populations of the same species. In summary, we developed an efficient, accurate, and customizable tool, 3DPhenoFish, to extract morphological phenotypes from point cloud data, which should help overcome traditional challenges in manual measurements. 3DPhenoFish can be used for research on morphological phenotypes in fish, including functional gene mapping, artificial selection, and conservation studies. 3DPhenoFish is an open-source software and can be downloaded for free at https://github.com/lyh24k/3DPhenoFish/tree/master.
Persistent uplift means the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) is an ideal natural laboratory to investigate genome evolution and adaptation within highland environments. However, how paleogeographic and paleoclimatic events influence the genome and population of endemic fish species remains unclear. Glyptosternon maculatum is an ancient endemic fish found on the QTP and the only critically endangered species in the Sisoridae family. Here, we found that major transposons in the G. maculatum genome showed episodic bursts, consistent with contemporaneous geological and climatic events during the QTP formation. Notably, histone genes showed significant expansion in the G. maculatum genome, which may be mediated by long interspersed nuclear elements (LINE) repetitive element duplications. Population analysis showed that ancestral G. maculatum populations experienced two significant depressions 2.6 million years ago (Mya) and 10 000 years ago, exhibiting excellent synchronization with Quaternary glaciation and the Younger Dryas, respectively. Thus, we propose that paleogeography and paleoclimate were dominating driving forces for population dynamics in endemic fish on the QTP. Tectonic movements and temperature fluctuation likely destroyed the habitat and disrupted the drainage connectivity among populations. These factors may have caused severe bottlenecks and limited migration among ancestral G. maculatum populations, resulting in the low genetic diversity and endangered status of the species today.
Normal spermatogenic processes require the scrotal temperature to be lower than that of the body as excessive heat affects spermatogenesis in the testes, reduces sperm quality and quantity, and even causes infertility. Endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS) is a crucial factor in many pathologies. Although several studies have linked ERS to heat stress, researchers have not yet determined which ERS signaling pathways contribute to heat-induced testicular damage. Melatonin activates antioxidant enzymes, scavenges free radicals, and protects the testes from inflammation; however, few studies have reported on the influence of melatonin on heat-induced testicular damage. Using a murine model of testicular hyperthermia, we observed that heat stress causes both ERS and apoptosis in the testes, especially in the spermatocytes. These observations were confirmed using the mouse spermatocyte cell line GC2, where the Atf6 and Perk signaling pathways were activated during heat stress. Knockout of the above genes effectively reduced spermatocyte damage caused by heat stress. Pretreatment with melatonin alleviated heat-induced apoptosis by inhibiting the Atf6 and Perk signaling pathways. This mitigation was dependent on the melatonin receptors. In vivo experiments verified that melatonin treatment relieved heat-induced testicular damage. In conclusion, our results demonstrated that ATF6 and PERK are important mediators for heat-induced apoptosis, which can be prevented by melatonin treatment. Thus, our study highlights melatonin as a potential therapeutic agent in mammals for subfertility/infertility induced by testicular hyperthermia.