(1/6654) Using physical-chemistry-based substitution models in phylogenetic analyses of HIV-1 subtypes.

HIV-1 subtype phylogeny is investigated using a previously developed computational model of natural amino acid site substitutions. This model, based on Boltzmann statistics and Metropolis kinetics, involves an order of magnitude fewer adjustable parameters than traditional substitution matrices and deals more effectively with the issue of protein site heterogeneity. When optimized for sequences of HIV-1 envelope (env) proteins from a few specific subtypes, our model is more likely to describe the evolutionary record for other subtypes than are methods using a single substitution matrix, even a matrix optimized over the same data. Pairwise distances are calculated between various probabilistic ancestral subtype sequences, and a distance matrix approach is used to find the optimal phylogenetic tree. Our results indicate that the relationships between subtypes B, C, and D and those between subtypes A and H may be closer than previously thought.  (+info)

(2/6654) Prehistoric birds from New Ireland, Papua New Guinea: extinctions on a large Melanesian island.

At least 50 species of birds are represented in 241 bird bones from five late Pleistocene and Holocene archaeological sites on New Ireland (Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea). The bones include only two of seabirds and none of migrant shorebirds or introduced species. Of the 50 species, at least 12 (petrel, hawk, megapode, quail, four rails, cockatoo, two owls, and crow) are not part of the current avifauna and have not been recorded previously from New Ireland. Larger samples of bones undoubtedly would indicate more extirpated species and refine the chronology of extinction. Humans have lived on New Ireland for ca. 35,000 years, whereas most of the identified bones are 15,000 to 6,000 years old. It is suspected that most or all of New Ireland's avian extinction was anthropogenic, but this suspicion remains undetermined. Our data show that significant prehistoric losses of birds, which are well documented on Pacific islands more remote than New Ireland, occurred also on large, high, mostly forested islands close to New Guinea.  (+info)

(3/6654) Ancestral origins and worldwide distribution of the PRNP 200K mutation causing familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) belongs to a group of prion diseases that may be infectious, sporadic, or hereditary. The 200K point mutation in the PRNP gene is the most frequent cause of hereditary CJD, accounting for >70% of families with CJD worldwide. Prevalence of the 200K variant of familial CJD is especially high in Slovakia, Chile, and Italy, and among populations of Libyan and Tunisian Jews. To study ancestral origins of the 200K mutation-associated chromosomes, we selected microsatellite markers flanking the PRNP gene on chromosome 20p12-pter and an intragenic single-nucleotide polymorphism at the PRNP codon 129. Haplotypes were constructed for 62 CJD families originating from 11 world populations. The results show that Libyan, Tunisian, Italian, Chilean, and Spanish families share a major haplotype, suggesting that the 200K mutation may have originated from a single mutational event, perhaps in Spain, and spread to all these populations with Sephardic migrants expelled from Spain in the Middle Ages. Slovakian families and a family of Polish origin show another unique haplotype. The haplotypes in families from Germany, Sicily, Austria, and Japan are different from the Mediterranean or eastern European haplotypes. On the basis of this study, we conclude that founder effect and independent mutational events are responsible for the current geographic distribution of hereditary CJD associated with the 200K mutation.  (+info)

(4/6654) mtDNA analysis of Nile River Valley populations: A genetic corridor or a barrier to migration?

To assess the extent to which the Nile River Valley has been a corridor for human migrations between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa, we analyzed mtDNA variation in 224 individuals from various locations along the river. Sequences of the first hypervariable segment (HV1) of the mtDNA control region and a polymorphic HpaI site at position 3592 allowed us to designate each mtDNA as being of "northern" or "southern" affiliation. Proportions of northern and southern mtDNA differed significantly between Egypt, Nubia, and the southern Sudan. At slowly evolving sites within HV1, northern-mtDNA diversity was highest in Egypt and lowest in the southern Sudan, and southern-mtDNA diversity was highest in the southern Sudan and lowest in Egypt, indicating that migrations had occurred bidirectionally along the Nile River Valley. Egypt and Nubia have low and similar amounts of divergence for both mtDNA types, which is consistent with historical evidence for long-term interactions between Egypt and Nubia. Spatial autocorrelation analysis demonstrates a smooth gradient of decreasing genetic similarity of mtDNA types as geographic distance between sampling localities increases, strongly suggesting gene flow along the Nile, with no evident barriers. We conclude that these migrations probably occurred within the past few hundred to few thousand years and that the migration from north to south was either earlier or lesser in the extent of gene flow than the migration from south to north.  (+info)

(5/6654) Distribution of haplotypes from a chromosome 21 region distinguishes multiple prehistoric human migrations.

Despite mounting genetic evidence implicating a recent origin of modern humans, the elucidation of early migratory gene-flow episodes remains incomplete. Geographic distribution of haplotypes may show traces of ancestral migrations. However, such evolutionary signatures can be erased easily by recombination and mutational perturbations. A 565-bp chromosome 21 region near the MX1 gene, which contains nine sites frequently polymorphic in human populations, has been found. It is unaffected by recombination and recurrent mutation and thus reflects only migratory history, genetic drift, and possibly selection. Geographic distribution of contemporary haplotypes implies distinctive prehistoric human migrations: one to Oceania, one to Asia and subsequently to America, and a third one predominantly to Europe. The findings with chromosome 21 are confirmed by independent evidence from a Y chromosome phylogeny. Loci of this type will help to decipher the evolutionary history of modern humans.  (+info)

(6/6654) High recombination rate in natural populations of Plasmodium falciparum.

Malaria parasites are sexually reproducing protozoa, although the extent of effective meiotic recombination in natural populations has been debated. If meiotic recombination occurs frequently, compared with point mutation and mitotic rearrangement, linkage disequilibrium between polymorphic sites is expected to decline with increasing distance along a chromosome. The rate of this decline should be proportional to the effective meiotic recombination rate in the population. Multiple polymorphic sites covering a 5-kb region of chromosome 9 (the msp1 gene) have been typed in 547 isolates from six populations in Africa to test for such a decline and estimate its rate in populations of Plasmodium falciparum. The magnitude of two-site linkage disequilibrium declines markedly with increasing molecular map distance between the sites, reaching nonsignificant levels within a map range of 0.3-1.0 kb in five of the populations and over a larger map distance in the population with lowest malaria endemicity. The rate of decline in linkage disequilibrium over molecular map distance is at least as rapid as that observed in most chromosomal regions of other sexually reproducing eukaryotes, such as humans and Drosophila. These results are consistent with the effective recombination rate expected in natural populations of P. falciparum, predicted on the basis of the underlying molecular rate of meiotic crossover and the coefficient of inbreeding caused by self-fertilization events. This is conclusive evidence to reject any hypothesis of clonality or low rate of meiotic recombination in P. falciparum populations. Moreover, the data have major implications for the design and interpretation of population genetic studies of selection on P. falciparum genes.  (+info)

(7/6654) The modulation of DNA content: proximate causes and ultimate consequences.

The forces responsible for modulating the large-scale features of the genome remain one of the most difficult issues confronting evolutionary biology. Although diversity in chromosomal architecture, nucleotide composition, and genome size has been well documented, there is little understanding of either the evolutionary origins or impact of much of this variation. The 80,000-fold divergence in genome sizes among eukaryotes represents perhaps the greatest challenge for genomic holists. Although some researchers continue to characterize much variation in genome size as a mere by-product of an intragenomic selfish DNA "free-for-all" there is increasing evidence for the primacy of selection in molding genome sizes via impacts on cell size and division rates. Moreover, processes inducing quantum or doubling series variation in gametic or somatic genome sizes are common. These abrupt shifts have broad effects on phenotypic attributes at both cellular and organismal levels and may play an important role in explaining episodes of rapid-or even saltational-character state evolution.  (+info)

(8/6654) Identification of a distinct common strain of "Norwalk-like viruses" having a global distribution.

"Norwalk-like viruses" (NLVs) are the most common cause of outbreaks of nonbacterial gastroenteritis. During molecular surveillance of NLV strains from 152 outbreaks of gastroenteritis that occurred in the US between August 1993 and July 1997, we identified an NLV strain that predominated during the 1995-1996 season. The "95/96-US" strain caused 60 outbreaks in geographically distant locations within the US and was identified, by sequence comparisons, in an additional 7 countries on 5 continents during the same period. This is the first demonstration linking a single NLV strain globally and suggests that the circulation of these strains might involve patterns of transmission not previously considered. The diagnostic techniques are now available to establish a global network for surveillance of NLV strains that would highlight the importance of NLVs worldwide and allow molecular identification of common strains having a global distribution so as to consider interventions for their control.  (+info)