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  • ItemOpen Access
    The tempo and mode of angiosperm mitochondrial genome divergence inferred from intraspecific variation in Arabidopsis thaliana
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2020-01-21) Wu, Zhiqiang, author; Waneka, Gus, author; Sloan, Daniel B., author; Genetics Society of America, publisher
    The mechanisms of sequence divergence in angiosperm mitochondrial genomes have long been enigmatic. In particular, it is difficult to reconcile the rapid divergence of intergenic regions that can make non-coding sequences almost unrecognizable even among close relatives with the unusually high levels of sequence conservation found in genic regions. It has been hypothesized that different mutation/repair mechanisms act on genic and intergenic sequences or alternatively that mutational input is relatively constant but that selection has strikingly different effects on these respective regions. To test these alternative possibilities, we analyzed mtDNA divergence within Arabidopsis thaliana, including variants from the 1001 Genomes Project and changes accrued in published mutation accumulation (MA) lines. We found that base-substitution frequencies are relatively similar for intergenic regions and synonymous sites in coding regions, whereas indel and nonsynonymous substitutions rates are greatly depressed in coding regions, supporting a conventional model in which mutation/repair mechanisms are consistent throughout the genome but differentially filtered by selection. Most types of sequence and structural changes were undetectable in 10-generation MA lines, but we found significant shifts in relative copy number across mtDNA regions for lines grown under stressed vs. benign conditions. We confirmed quantitative variation in copy number across the A. thaliana mitogenome using both whole-genome sequencing and droplet digital PCR, further undermining the classic but oversimplified model of a circular angiosperm mtDNA structure. Our results suggest that copy number variation is one of the most fluid features of angiosperm mitochondrial genomes.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Confounding factors in algal phosphorus limitation experiments
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2018-10-18) Beck, Whitney S., author; Hall, Ed K., author; PLOS ONE, publisher
    Assessing algal nutrient limitation is critical for understanding the interaction of primary production and nutrient cycling in streams, and nutrient diffusing substrate (NDS) experiments are often used to determine limiting nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Unexpectedly, many experiments have also shown decreased algal biomass on NDS P treatments compared to controls. To address whether inhibition of algal growth results from direct P toxicity, NDS preparation artifacts, or environmental covariates, we first quantified the frequency of nutrient inhibition in published experiments. We also conducted a meta-analysis to determine whether heterotrophic microbial competition or selective grazing could explain decreases in algal biomass with P additions. We then deployed field experiments to determine whether P-inhibition of algal growth could be explained by P toxicity, differences in phosphate cation (K vs. Na), differences in phosphate form (monobasic vs. dibasic), or production of H2O2 during NDS preparation. We found significant inhibition of algal growth in 12.9% of published NDS P experiments as compared to 4.7% and 3.6% of N and NP experiments. The meta-analysis linear models did not show enhanced heterotrophy on NDS P treatments or selective grazing of P-rich algae. Our field experiments did not show inhibition of autotrophic growth with P additions, but we found significantly lower gross primary productivity (GPP) and biomass-specific GPP of benthic algae on monobasic phosphate salts as compared to dibasic phosphate salts, likely because of reduced pH levels. Additionally, we note that past field experiments and meta-analyses support the plausibility of direct P toxicity or phosphate form (monobasic vs. dibasic) leading to inhibition of algal growth, particularly when other resources such as N or light are limiting. Given that multiple mechanisms may be acting simultaneously, we recommend practical, cost-effective steps to minimize the potential for P- inhibition of algal growth as an artifact of NDS experimental design.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Linear plasmids and the rate of sequence evolution in plant mitochondrial genomes
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2016) Warren, Jessica M., author; Simmons, Mark P., author; Wu, Zhiqiang, author; Sloan, Daniel B., author; Oxford University Press, publisher
    The mitochondrial genomes of flowering plants experience frequent insertions of foreign sequences, including linear plasmids that also exist in standalone forms within mitochondria, but the history and phylogenetic distribution of plasmid insertions is not well known. Taking advantage of the increased availability of plant mitochondrial genome sequences, we performed phylogenetic analyses to reconstruct the evolutionary history of these plasmids and plasmid-derived insertions. Mitochondrial genomes from multiple land plant lineages (including liverworts, lycophytes, ferns, and gymnosperms) include fragmented remnants from ancient plasmid insertions. Such insertions are much more recent and widespread in angiosperms, in which approximately 75% of sequenced mitochondrial genomes contain identifiable plasmid insertions. Although conflicts between plasmid and angiosperm phylogenies provide clear evidence of repeated horizontal transfers, we were still able to detect significant phylogenetic concordance, indicating that mitochondrial plasmids have also experienced sustained periods of (effectively) vertical transmission in angiosperms. The observed levels of sequence divergence in plasmid-derived genes suggest that nucleotide substitution rates in these plasmids, which often encode their own viral-like DNA polymerases, are orders of magnitude higher than in mitochondrial chromosomes. Based on these results, we hypothesize that the periodic incorporation of mitochondrial genes into plasmids contributes to the remarkable heterogeneity in substitution rates among genes that has recently been discovered in some angiosperm mitochondrial genomes. In support of this hypothesis, we show that the recently acquired ψtrnP-trnW gene region in a maize linear plasmid is evolving significantly faster than homologous sequences that have been retained in the mitochondrial chromosome in closely related grasses.
  • ItemOpen Access
    High transcript abundance, RNA editing, and small RNAs in intergenic regions within the massive mitochondrial genome of the angiosperm Silene noctiflora
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2015) Wu, Zhiqiang, author; Stone, James D., author; Štorchovaá, Helena, author; Sloan, Daniel B., author; BMC Genomics, publisher
    Background: Species within the angiosperm genus Silene contain the largest mitochondrial genomes ever identified. The enormity of these genomes (up to 11 Mb in size) appears to be the result of increased non-coding DNA, which represents >99 % of the genome content. These genomes are also fragmented into dozens of circular-mapping chromosomes, some of which contain no identifiable genes, raising questions about if and how these "empty" chromosomes are maintained by selection. To assess the possibility that they contain novel and unannotated functional elements, we have performed RNA-seq to analyze the mitochondrial transcriptome of Silene noctiflora. Results: We identified regions of high transcript abundance in almost every chromosome in the mitochondrial genome including those that lack any annotated genes. In some cases, these transcribed regions exhibited higher expression levels than some core mitochondrial protein-coding genes. We also identified RNA editing sites throughout the genome, including 97 sites that were outside of protein-coding gene sequences and found in pseudogenes, introns, UTRs, and transcribed intergenic regions. Unlike in protein-coding sequences, however, most of these RNA editing sites were only edited at intermediate frequencies. Finally, analysis of mitochondrial small RNAs indicated that most were likely degradation products from longer transcripts, but we did identify candidates for functional small RNAs that mapped to intergenic regions and were not associated with longer RNA transcripts. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate transcriptional activity in many localized regions within the extensive intergenic sequence content in the S. noctiflora mitochondrial genome, supporting the possibility that the genome contains previously unidentified functional elements. However, transcription by itself is not proof of functional importance, and we discuss evidence that some of the observed transcription and post-transcriptional modifications are non-adaptive. Therefore, further investigations are required to determine whether any of the identified transcribed regions have played a functional role in the proliferation and maintenance of the enormous non-coding regions in Silene mitochondrial genomes.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Soil bacterial community composition altered by increased nutrient availability in Arctic tundra soils
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2014-10-02) Koyama, Akihiro, author; Wallenstein, Matthew D., author; Simpson, Rodney T., author; Moore, John C., author; Frontiers Research Foundation, publisher
    The pool of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the Arctic is disproportionally large compared to those in other biomes. This large quantity of SOC accumulated over millennia due to slow rates of decomposition relative to net primary productivity. Decomposition is constrained by low temperatures and nutrient concentrations, which limit soil microbial activity. We investigated how nutrients limit bacterial and fungal biomass and community composition in organic and mineral soils within moist acidic tussock tundra ecosystems. We sampled two experimental arrays of moist acidic tussock tundra that included fertilized and non-fertilized control plots. One array included plots that had been fertilized annually since 1989 and the other since 2006. Fertilization significantly altered overall bacterial community composition and reduced evenness, to a greater degree in organic than mineral soils, and in the 1989 compared to the 2006 site. The relative abundance of copiotrophic α-Proteobacteria and β-Proteobacteria was higher in fertilized than control soils, and oligotrophic Acidobacteria were less abundant in fertilized than control soils at the 1989 site. Fungal community composition was less sensitive to increased nutrient availability, and fungal responses to fertilization were not consistent between soil horizons and sites. We detected two ectomycorrhizal genera, Russula and Cortinarius spp., associated with shrubs. Their relative abundance was not affected by fertilization despite increased dominance of their host plants in the fertilized plots. Our results indicate that fertilization, which has been commonly used to simulate warming in Arctic tundra, has limited applicability for investigating fungal dynamics under warming.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Carbon-degrading enzyme activities stimulated by increased nutrient availability in Arctic tundra soils
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2013-10) Koyama, Akihiro, author; Wallenstein, Matthw D., author; Simpson, Rodney T., author; Moore, John C., author; Public Library of Science, publisher
    Climate-induced warming of the Arctic tundra is expected to increase nutrient availability to soil microbes, which in turn may accelerate soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition. We increased nutrient availability via fertilization to investigate the microbial response via soil enzyme activities. Specifically, we measured potential activities of seven enzymes at four temperatures in three soil profiles (organic, organic/mineral interface, and mineral) from untreated native soils and from soils which had been fertilized with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) since 1989 (23 years) and 2006 (six years). Fertilized plots within the 1989 site received annual additions of 10 g N⋅m-2⋅year-1 and 5 g P⋅m-2⋅year-1. Within the 2006 site, two fertilizer regimes were established - one in which plots received 5 g N⋅m-2⋅year-1 and 2.5 g P⋅m-2⋅year-1 and one in which plots received 10 g N⋅m-2⋅year-1 and 5 g P⋅m-2⋅year-1. The fertilization treatments increased activities of enzymes hydrolyzing carbon (C)-rich compounds but decreased phosphatase activities, especially in the organic soils. Activities of two enzymes that degrade N-rich compounds were not affected by the fertilization treatments. The fertilization treatments increased ratios of enzyme activities degrading C-rich compounds to those for N-rich compounds or phosphate, which could lead to changes in SOM chemistry over the long term and to losses of soil C. Accelerated SOM decomposition caused by increased nutrient availability could significantly offset predicted increased C fixation via stimulated net primary productivity in Arctic tundra ecosystems.
  • ItemOpen Access
    History of plastid DNA insertions reveals weak deletion and AT mutation biases in angiosperm mitochondrial genomes
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2014-12) Sloan, Daniel B., author; Wu, Zhiqiang, author; Oxford University Press, publisher
    Angiosperm mitochondrial genomes exhibit many unusual properties, including heterogeneous nucleotide composition and exceptionally large and variable genome sizes. Determining the role of nonadaptive mechanisms such as mutation bias in shaping the molecular evolution of these unique genomes has proven challenging because their dynamic structures generally prevent identification of homologous intergenic sequences for comparative analyses. Here, we report an analysis of angiosperm mitochondrial DNA sequences that are derived from inserted plastid DNA (mtpts). The availability of numerous completely sequenced plastid genomes allows us to infer the evolutionary history of these insertions, including the specific nucleotide substitutions and indels that have occurred because their incorporation into the mitochondrial genome. Our analysis confirmed that many mtpts have a complex history, including frequent gene conversion and multiple examples of horizontal transfer between divergent angiosperm lineages. Nevertheless, it is clear that the majority of extant mtpt sequence in angiosperms is the product of recent transfer (or gene conversion) and is subject to rapid loss/deterioration, suggesting that most mtpts are evolving relatively free from functional constraint. The evolution of mtpt sequences reveals a pattern of biased mutational input in angiosperm mitochondrial genomes, including an excess of small deletions over insertions and a skew toward nucleotide substitutions that increase AT content. However, these mutation biases are far weaker than have been observed in many other cellular genomes, providing insight into some of the notable features of angiosperm mitochondrial architecture, including the retention of large intergenic regions and the relatively neutral GC content found in these regions.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Behavioral responses associated with a human-mediated predator shelter
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2014-04) Graeme, Shannon, author; Cordes, Line S., author; Hardy, Amanda R., author; Angeloni, Lisa M., author; Crooks, Kevin R., author; Public Library of Science, publisher
    Human activities in protected areas can affect wildlife populations in a similar manner to predation risk, causing increases in movement and vigilance, shifts in habitat use and changes in group size. Nevertheless, recent evidence indicates that in certain situations ungulate species may actually utilize areas associated with higher levels of human presence as a potential refuge from disturbance-sensitive predators. We now use four-years of behavioral activity budget data collected from pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and elk (Cervus elephus) in Grand Teton National Park, USA to test whether predictable patterns of human presence can provide a shelter from predatory risk. Daily behavioral scans were conducted along two parallel sections of road that differed in traffic volume - with the main Teton Park Road experiencing vehicle use that was approximately thirty-fold greater than the River Road. At the busier Teton Park Road, both species of ungulate engaged in higher levels of feeding (27% increase in the proportion of pronghorn feeding and 21% increase for elk), lower levels of alert behavior (18% decrease for pronghorn and 9% decrease for elk) and formed smaller groups. These responses are commonly associated with reduced predatory threat. Pronghorn also exhibited a 30% increase in the proportion of individuals moving at the River Road as would be expected under greater exposure to predation risk. Our findings concur with the 'predator shelter hypothesis', suggesting that ungulates in GTNP use human presence as a potential refuge from predation risk, adjusting their behavior accordingly. Human activity has the potential to alter predator-prey interactions and drive trophic-mediated effects that could ultimately impact ecosystem function and biodiversity.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Observations of cattle use of prairie dog towns
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2003-09) Guenther, Debra A., author; Detling, James K., author; American Society for Range Management, publisher
    We investigated the use of prairie dog towns by cattle (Bos taurus) on the shortgrass steppe of northeastern Colorado by conducting surveys of cattle and vegetation from June to August 1999. Cattle presence and behavior were recorded 3 times a week during driving surveys of 15 black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) towns. A subset of 3 pastures with prairie dog towns was intensively surveyed twice weekly wherein the habitat and activity of a randomly chosen focal animal was recorded every 6 minutes for 3.5 hours. Bite and step counts of other individuals were recorded for 5-minute intervals. Vegetation height and cover data were collected monthly on each of 6 habitats. Results from driving surveys and intensively surveyed pastures were similar; cattle neither significantly preferred nor avoided prairie dog towns. Bare ground cover on prairie dog towns did not significantly differ from most other habitats, but vegetation on prairie dog towns was significantly shorter on (mean = 6.7 cm) than that off (mean = 11.9 cm) prairie dog towns. Nevertheless, foraging observations indicated that there was no significant difference between cattle foraging rates on swales (70.9 bites/min) and prairie dog towns (69.5 bites/min). Thus, cattle on the shortgrass steppe appear to use prairie dog towns in proportion to their availability and, while there, they graze as intensively as they do on habitats not inhabited by prairie dogs.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Do olfactory cues mediate interactions between rodents on northern shortgrass prairie?
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 1996-02) Stapp, Paul, author; Van Horne, Beatrice, author; NRC Research Press, publisher
    We counted captures of free-ranging deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) in odor-baited traps to determine whether deer mice use olfactory cues to detect and evade grasshopper mice (Onychomys leucogaster), a predator and possible competitor on northern shortgrass prairie. Avoidance was measured using the frequency of captures in traps containing grasshopper mouse odors compared with that in traps containing odors of an innocuous rodent (Reithrodontomys megalotis) and in clean traps. We predicted that deer mice would be most deterred by odors in areas where grasshopper mice were common, and during winter, when alternative prey for grasshopper mice are less abundant. We also expected reproductive females to show greater avoidance because of the vulnerability of litters in burrows. Surprisingly, deer mice showed no evidence of avoidance in any experiments. These results are consistent with trapping records from capture–recapture studies on our site. We assert that the presence of grasshopper mice may affect the surface activity of deer mice, but that deer mice apparently do not use olfactory cues to avoid grasshopper mice. Taken with other studies noting the lack of avoidance of predator odors by deer mice and similar species, our results suggest that the response of rodents to predator odors is more variable than was previously appreciated.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The use of on-animal acoustical recording devices for studying animal behavior
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2013-07) Lynch, Emma, author; Angeloni, Lisa, author; Fristrup, Kurt, author; Joyce, Damon, author; Wittemyer, George, author; John Wiley and Sons, publisher
    Audio recordings made from free-ranging animals can be used to investigate aspects of physiology, behavior, and ecology through acoustic signal processing. On-animal acoustical monitoring applications allow continuous remote data collection, and can serve to address questions across temporal and spatial scales. We report on the design of an inexpensive collar-mounted recording device and present data on the activity budget of wild mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) derived from these devices applied for a 2-week period. Over 3300 h of acoustical recordings were collected from 10 deer on their winter range in a natural gas extraction field in northwestern Colorado. Analysis of a subset of the data indicated deer spent approximately 33.5% of their time browsing, 20.8% of their time processing food through mastication, and nearly 38.3% of their time digesting through rumination, with marked differences in diel patterning of these activities. Systematic auditory vigilance was a salient activity when masticating, and these data offer options for quantifying wildlife responses to varying listening conditions and predation risk. These results (validated using direct observation) demonstrate that acoustical monitoring is a viable and accurate method for characterizing individual time budgets and behaviors of ungulates, and may provide new insight into the ways external forces affect wildlife behavior.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Arabidopsis thaliana VOZ (Vascular plant One-Zinc finger) transcription factors are required for proper regulation of flowering time
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2013-04-15) Celesnik, Helena, author; Ali, Gul S., author; Robison, Faith M., author; Reddy, Anireddy S. N., author; The Company of Biologists Ltd., publisher
    Transition to flowering in plants is tightly controlled by environmental cues, which regulate the photoperiod and vernalization pathways, and endogenous signals, which mediate the autonomous and gibberellin pathways. In this work, we investigated the role of two Zn2+-finger transcription factors, the paralogues AtVOZ1 and AtVOZ2, in Arabidopsis thaliana flowering. Single atvoz1-1 and atvoz2-1 mutants showed no significant phenotypes as compared to wild type. However, atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 double mutant plants exhibited several phenotypes characteristic of flowering-time mutants. The double mutant displayed a severe delay in flowering, together with additional pleiotropic phenotypes. Late flowering correlated with elevated expression of FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), which encodes a potent floral repressor, and decreased expression of its target, the floral promoter FD. Vernalization rescued delayed flowering of atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 and reversed elevated FLC levels. Accumulation of FLC transcripts in atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 correlated with increased expression of several FLC activators, including components of the PAF1 and SWR1 chromatin-modifying complexes. Additionally, AtVOZs were shown to bind the promoter of MOS3/SAR3 and directly regulate expression of this nuclear pore protein, which is known to participate in the regulation of flowering time, suggesting that AtVOZs exert at least some of their flowering regulation by influencing the nuclear pore function. Complementation of atvoz1-1 atvoz2-1 with AtVOZ2 reversed all double mutant phenotypes, confirming that the observed morphological and molecular changes arise from the absence of functional AtVOZ proteins, and validating the functional redundancy between AtVOZ1 and AtVOZ2.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Metabolic engineering of Arabidopsis for butanetriol production using bacterial genes
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2013-11) Abdel-Ghany, Salah E., author; Day, Irene, author; Heuberger, Adam L., author; Broeckling, Corey D., author; Reddy, Anireddy S. N., author; Elsevier Inc., publisher
    1,2,4-butanetriol (butanetriol) is a useful precursor for the synthesis of the energetic material butanetriol trinitrate and several pharmaceutical compounds. Bacterial synthesis of butanetriol from xylose or arabinose takes place in a pathway that requires four enzymes. To produce butanetriol in plants by expressing bacterial enzymes, we cloned native bacterial or codon optimized synthetic genes under different promoters into a binary vector and stably transformed Arabidopsis plants. Transgenic lines expressing introduced genes were analyzed for the production of butanetriol using gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Soil-grown transgenic plants expressing these genes produced up to 20 µg/g of butanetriol. To test if an exogenous supply of pentose sugar precursors would enhance the butanetriol level, transgenic plants were grown in a medium supplemented with either xylose or arabinose and the amount of butanetriol was quantified. Plants expressing synthetic genes in the arabinose pathway showed up to a forty-fold increase in butanetriol levels after arabinose was added to the medium. Transgenic plants expressing either bacterial or synthetic xylose pathways, or the arabinose pathway showed toxicity symptoms when xylose or arabinose was added to the medium, suggesting that a by-product in the pathway or butanetriol affected plant growth. Furthermore, the metabolite profile of plants expressing arabinose and xylose pathways was altered. Our results demonstrate that bacterial pathways that produce butanetriol can be engineered into plants to produce this chemical. This proof-of-concept study for phytoproduction of butanetriol paves the way to further manipulate metabolic pathways in plants to enhance the level of butanetriol production.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Slow DNA loss in the gigantic genomes of salamanders
    (Colorado State University. Libraries, 2012) Sun, Cheng, author; Arriaza, José R. López, author; Mueller, Rachel Lockridge, author; Oxford University Press, publisher
    Evolutionary changes in genome size result from the combined effects of mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Insertion and deletion mutations (indels) directly impact genome size by adding or removing sequences. Most species lose more DNA through small indels (i.e., ~1-30 bp) than they gain, which can result in genome reduction over time. Because this rate of DNA loss varies across species, small indel dynamics have been suggested to contribute to genome size evolution. Species with extremely large genomes provide interesting test cases for exploring the link between small indels and genome size; however, most large genomes remain relatively unexplored. Here, we examine rates of DNA loss in the tetrapods with the largest genomes - the salamanders. We used low-coverage genomic shotgun sequence data from four salamander species to examine patterns of insertion, deletion, and substitution in neutrally evolving non-long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon sequences. For comparison, we estimated genome-wide DNA loss rates in non-LTR retrotransposon sequences from five other vertebrate genomes: Anolis carolinensis, Danio rerio, Gallus gallus, Homo sapiens, and Xenopus tropicalis. Our results show that salamanders have significantly lower rates of DNA loss than do other vertebrates. More specifically, salamanders experience lower numbers of deletions relative to insertions, and both deletions and insertions are skewed toward smaller sizes. On the basis of these patterns, we conclude that slow DNA loss contributes to genomic gigantism in salamanders. We also identify candidate molecular mechanisms underlying these differences and suggest that natural variation in indel dynamics provides a unique opportunity to study the basis of genome stability.