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Elaborate expansion of syntenic V1R hotspots correlates with high species diversity in nocturnal mouse and dwarf lemurs

By Kelsie E Hunnicutt, George P. Tiley, Rachel C. Williams, Peter A Larsen, Marina B. Blanco, Rodin M. Rasoloarison, C. Ryan Campbell, Kevin Zhu, David W Weisrock, Hiroaki Matsunami, Anne D Yoder

Posted 15 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/637348

Sensory gene families are of special interest, both for what they can tell us about molecular evolution, and for what they imply as mediators of social communication. The vomeronasal type-1 receptors (V1Rs) have often been hypothesized as playing a fundamental role in driving or maintaining species boundaries given their likely function as mediators of intraspecific mate choice, particularly in nocturnal mammals. Here, we employ a comparative genomic approach for revealing patterns of V1R evolution within primates, with a special focus on the small-bodied nocturnal mouse and dwarf lemurs of Madagascar (genera Microcebus and Cheirogaleus , respectively). By doubling the existing genomic resources for strepsirrhine primates (i.e., the lemurs and lorises), we find that the highly-speciose and morphologically-cryptic mouse lemurs have experienced an elaborate proliferation of V1Rs that we argue is functionally related to their capacity for rapid lineage diversification. Contrary to a previous study that found equivalent degrees of V1R diversity in diurnal and nocturnal lemurs, our study finds a strong correlation between nocturnality and V1R elaboration, with nocturnal lemurs showing elaborate V1R repertoires and diurnal lemurs showing less diverse repertoires. Recognized subfamilies among V1Rs show unique signatures of diversifying positive selection, as might be expected if they have each evolved to respond to specific stimuli. Further, a detailed syntenic comparison of mouse lemurs with mouse (genus Mus ) and other mammalian outgroups shows that orthologous mammalian subfamilies, predicted to be of ancient origin, tend to cluster in a densely populated region across syntenic chromosomes that we refer to as V1R “hotspots.”

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