Despite decades of research, knowledge about the genes that are important for development and function of the mammalian eye and are involved in human eye disorders remains incomplete. During mammalian evolution, mammals that naturally exhibit poor vision or regressive eye phenotypes have independently lost many eye-related genes. This provides an opportunity to predict novel eye-related genes based on specific evolutionary gene loss signatures. Building on these observations, we performed a genome-wide screen across 49 mammals for functionally uncharacterized genes that are preferentially lost in species exhibiting lower visual acuity values. The screen uncovered several genes, including SERPINE3, a putative serine proteinase inhibitor. A detailed investigation of 381 additional mammals revealed that SERPINE3 is independently lost in 18 lineages that typically do not primarily rely on vision, predicting a vision-related function for this gene. To test this, we show that SERPINE3 has the highest expression in eyes of zebrafish and mouse. In the zebrafish retina, serpine3 is expressed in Müller glia cells, a cell type essential for survival and maintenance of the retina. A CRISPR-mediated knockout of serpine3 in zebrafish resulted in alterations in eye shape and defects in retinal layering. Furthermore, two human polymorphisms that are in linkage with SERPINE3 are associated with eye-related traits. Together, these results suggest that SERPINE3 has a role in vertebrate eyes. More generally, by integrating comparative genomics with experiments in model organisms, we show that screens for specific phenotype-associated gene signatures can predict functions of uncharacterized genes.
All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and the Supplementary Materials. The annotated protein alignment of intact and complete mammalian SERPINE3 genes (Supplementary File 1), the predicted structure of human SERPINE3 (Supplementary File 2) and the raw microscopy images of fish eyes (Figure 4 - source data 3) are available at https://genome.senckenberg.de/download/SERPINE3/.TOGA annotations of SERPINE3 and a visualization of gene-inactivating mutations are available at our UCSC genome browser mirror https://genome.senckenberg.de.
- Michael Hiller
- Michael Hiller
- Michael Hiller
- Michael Brand
- Michael Brand
- Juliane Hammer
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All experiments in mouse and zebrafish were performed in accordance with the German animal welfare legislation. Protocols were approved by the Institutional Animal Welfare Officer (Tierschutzbeauftragter), and licensed by the regional Ethical Commission for Animal Experimentation (Landesdirektion Sachsen, Germany; license no. DD24-5131/354/11, DD24.1-5131/451/8, DD24-5131/346/11, DD24-5131/346/12).
- George H Perry, Pennsylvania State University, United States
© 2022, Indrischek et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Several previous lines of research have suggested, indirectly, that mouse lifespan is particularly susceptible to endocrine or nutritional signals in the first few weeks of life, as tested by manipulations of litter size, growth hormone levels, or mutations with effects specifically on early-life growth rate. The pace of early development in mice can also be influenced by exposure of nursing and weanling mice to olfactory cues. In particular, odors of same-sex adult mice can in some circumstances delay maturation. We hypothesized that olfactory information might also have a sex-specific effect on lifespan, and we show here that the lifespan of female mice can be increased significantly by odors from adult females administered transiently, that is from 3 days until 60 days of age. Female lifespan was not modified by male odors, nor was male lifespan susceptible to odors from adults of either sex. Conditional deletion of the G protein Gαo in the olfactory system, which leads to impaired accessory olfactory system function and blunted reproductive priming responses to male odors in females, did not modify the effect of female odors on female lifespan. Our data provide support for the idea that very young mice are susceptible to influences that can have long-lasting effects on health maintenance in later life, and provide a potential example of lifespan extension by olfactory cues in mice.
Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes impose a severe global public health burden as vectors of multiple viral pathogens. Under optimal environmental conditions, Aedes aegypti females have access to human hosts that provide blood proteins for egg development, conspecific males that provide sperm for fertilization, and freshwater that serves as an egg-laying substrate suitable for offspring survival. As global temperatures rise, Aedes aegypti females are faced with climate challenges like intense droughts and intermittent precipitation, which create unpredictable, suboptimal conditions for egg-laying. Here we show that under drought-like conditions simulated in the laboratory, females retain mature eggs in their ovaries for extended periods, while maintaining the viability of these eggs until they can be laid in freshwater. Using transcriptomic and proteomic profiling of Aedes aegypti ovaries, we identify two previously uncharacterized genes named tweedledee and tweedledum, each encoding a small, secreted protein that both show ovary-enriched, temporally-restricted expression during egg retention. These genes are mosquito-specific, linked within a syntenic locus, and rapidly evolving under positive selection, raising the possibility that they serve an adaptive function. CRISPR-Cas9 deletion of both tweedledee and tweedledum demonstrates that they are specifically required for extended retention of viable eggs. These results highlight an elegant example of taxon-restricted genes at the heart of an important adaptation that equips Aedes aegypti females with 'insurance' to flexibly extend their reproductive schedule without losing reproductive capacity, thus allowing this species to exploit unpredictable habitats in a changing world.