Genetic variation and structure of Ubame oak (Quercus phillyraeoides A. Gray), a shrub tree on the Pacific coast of Japan, were examined to elucidate historical population dynamics using five chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) marker regions and 11 nuclear microsatellite loci. Three cpDNA haplotypes (A, B and C) were identified in a screen of 41 populations across the entire distribution range in Japan. Haplotype A was the most prevalent and was found in the entire range. Haplotype B was locally restricted to the Kii Peninsula, while haplotype C was restricted to the southwestern part of Japan. These haplotypes corresponded with the nuclear genetic constitution revealed by microsatellite markers. Two genetically differentiated major groups were identified by STRUCTURE analysis applied to 536 individuals from 28 populations, and they mostly corresponded with the two major cpDNA haplotypes, A and C. These populations were further divided into three geographically identified groups: group 1 in the area including Kanto and Tokai regions, the Kii Peninsula and the Muroto-misaki Cape on the Pacific coast; group 2 in the Bungo-suido Channel area; and group 3 in southern Kyushu and Okinawa. Populations in the Seto Inland Sea were divided into two groups: one was included in group 1 and appears to have originated from last glacial maximum (LGM) refugia located in the Kii Peninsula, while the other was included in group 2 and appears to have originated from LGM refugia located in southern Kyushu. These groups can be considered as conservation units for the preservation of unique seashore ecosystems, or as a seed source to foster coastal protection forests and next-generation production forests. Considerable care should be taken to protect isolated populations that may be specialized to unique local environments, such as those on the islands of Koshikijima and Izenajima.
Melanocytes develop from the vertebrate embryo-specific neural crest, migrate, and localize in various organs, including not only the skin but also several extracutaneous locations such as the heart, inner ear and choroid. Little is known about the functions of extracutaneous melanocytes except for cochlear melanocytes, which are essential for hearing ability. In this study, we focused on the structure of the choroid, in which melanocytes are abundant around the well-developed blood vascular system. By comparing structural differences in the choroid of wild-type and melanocyte-deficient Mitfmi-bw/Mitfmi-bw mutant mice, our observations suggest that choroidal melanocytes contribute to the morphogenesis and/or maintenance of the normal vasculature structure of that tissue.
Genome-wide association studies have reported numerous candidate loci associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). NUCKS1 and INPP5K are two such candidate loci, although they have rarely been reported in Asian populations. To explore these potential genes for PD susceptibility, we investigated the association between PD and two SNPs, rs823114 and rs1109303, located on the NUCKS1 and INPP5K genes, respectively, in the Han population of northern China. We genotyped the two SNPs using the multiplex PCR-RFLP (polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism) technique. A total of 685 subjects including 322 sporadic PD patients and 363 healthy controls were recruited from the population. After Bonferroni correction, our results suggested that there was a significant association of a minor allele (G) in rs823114 with reduced risk of PD development (P = 0.017, OR = 0.768, 95%CI = 0.618 − 0.955), and the difference in genotypes between the PD patients and healthy controls was significant under the dominant model (GA + GG vs. AA). After stratification by gender, males had a lower risk than females (P = 0.008, OR = 0.666, 95%CI = 0.495 − 0.898). However, the distribution of genotype frequency exhibited no significant differences between the PD and control groups (P > 0.025) in INPP5K rs1109303 (P = 0.048, OR = 0.806, 95%CI = 0.650 − 0.998). We conclude that NUCKS1 rs823114 indicates a decreased risk of susceptibility to PD and shows a male genetic distribution bias in the Han Chinese population.
Acceleration of the amino acid substitution rate is a good indicator of positive selection in adaptive evolutionary changes of functional genes. Genomic information about mammals has become readily available in recent years, as many researchers have attempted to clarify the adaptive evolution of mammals by examining evolutionary rate change based on multiple loci. The order Cetartiodactyla (Artiodactyla and Cetacea) is one of the most diverse orders of mammals. Species in this order are found throughout all continents and seas, except Antarctica, and they exhibit wide variation in morphology and habitat. Here, we focused on the metabolism-related genes of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in species of the order Cetartiodactyla using 191 mtDNA sequences available in databases. Based on comparisons of the dN/dS ratio (ω) in 12 protein-coding genes, ATP8 was shown to have a higher ω value (ω = 0.247) throughout Cetartiodactyla than the other 11 genes (ω < 0.05). In a branch-site analysis of ATP8 sequences, a markedly higher ω value of 0.801 was observed in the ancestral lineage of the clade of Cetacea, which is indicative of adaptive evolution. Through efforts to detect positively selected amino acids, codon positions 52 and 54 of ATP8 were shown to have experienced positive selective pressure during the course of evolution; multiple substitutions have occurred at these sites throughout the cetacean lineage. At position 52, glutamic acid was replaced with asparagine, and, at position 54, lysine was replaced with non-charged amino acids. These sites are conserved in most Artiodactyla. These results imply that the ancestor of cetaceans underwent accelerated amino acid changes in ATP8 and replacements at codons 52 and 54, which adjusted metabolism to adapt to the marine environment.
Paired box (Pax) 6, a member of the Pax family of transcription factors, contains two DNA-binding domains, called the paired domain (PD) and the homeodomain (HD), and plays pivotal roles in development of structures such as the eye, central nervous system and pancreas. Pax6 is a major developmental switching molecule because, for example, ectopic expression of the Pax6 gene can induce ectopic whole eye development. Intensive research has been devoted to elucidating the molecular mechanism(s) involved in the function(s) of Pax6, but many issues remain unexplained. One of the important issues is to identify the nuclear localization signal (NLS) in the PD of Pax6, which is predicted to have a stronger NLS activity than that in the HD. We produced expression plasmid constructs that encode the chick Pax6 protein modified to delete the entire PD except for fragments containing putative NLS sequences, and electroporated them in ovo into the developing chick midbrain to define the NLS of the PD. The results show that the NLS in the PD of chick Pax6 consists of an unusually long sequence of 36 amino acid residues. Within this long NLS motif, the central 18 amino acids comprising two consecutive nine-residue segments showed highest NLS activity; this central area corresponds to the C-terminal half of the third α–helix of the PAI subdomain and the subsequent 11 amino acids of a 16-residue linker between PAI and the adjacent RED subdomain. This information helps to elucidate the molecular mechanism by which Pax6 plays a pivotal role during ontogeny.