Publications by authors named "Hagar Weinberger"

4 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Positions under positive selection--key for selectivity and potency of scorpion alpha-toxins.

Mol Biol Evol 2010 May 17;27(5):1025-34. Epub 2009 Dec 17.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Alpha-neurotoxins target voltage-gated sodium channels (Na(v)s) and constitute an important component in the venom of Buthidae scorpions. These toxins are short polypeptides highly conserved in sequence and three-dimensional structure, and yet they differ greatly in activity and preference for insect and various mammalian Na(v)s. Despite extensive studies of the structure-function relationship of these toxins, only little is known about their evolution and phylogeny. Using a broad data set based on published sequences and rigorous cloning, we reconstructed a reliable phylogenetic tree of scorpion alpha-toxins and estimated the evolutionary forces involved in the diversification of their genes using maximum likelihood-based methods. Although the toxins are largely conserved, four positions were found to evolve under positive selection, of which two (10 and 18; numbered according to LqhalphaIT and Lqh2 from the Israeli yellow scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus hebraeus) have been previously shown to affect toxin activity. The putative role of the other two positions (39 and 41) was analyzed by mutagenesis of Lqh2 and LqhalphaIT. Whereas substitution P41K in Lqh2 did not alter its activity, substitution K41P in LqhalphaIT significantly decreased the activity at insect and mammalian Na(v)s. Surprisingly, not only that substitution A39L in both toxins increased their activity by 10-fold but also LqhalphaIT(A39L) was active at the mammalian brain channel rNa(v)1.2a, which otherwise is hardly affected by LqhalphaIT, and Lqh2(A39L) was active at the insect channel, DmNa(v)1, which is almost insensitive to Lqh2. Thus, position 39 is involved not only in activity but also in toxin selectivity. Overall, this study describes evolutionary forces involved in the diversification of scorpion alpha-toxins, highlights the key role of positions under positive selection for selectivity and potency, and raises new questions as to the toxin-channel face of interaction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msp310DOI Listing
May 2010

Fusion and retrotransposition events in the evolution of the sea anemone Anemonia viridis neurotoxin genes.

J Mol Evol 2009 Aug 16;69(2):115-24. Epub 2009 Jul 16.

Department of Plant Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Israel.

Sea anemones are sessile predators that use a variety of toxins to paralyze prey and foe. Among these toxins, Types I, II and III are short peptides that affect voltage-gated sodium channels. Anemonia viridis is the only sea anemone species that produces both Types I and III neurotoxin. Although the two toxin types are unrelated in sequence and three-dimensional structure, cloning and comparative analysis of their loci revealed a highly similar sequence at the 5' region, which encodes a signal peptide. This similarity was likely generated by gene fusion and could be advantageous in transcript stability and intracellular trafficking and secretion. In addition, these analyses identified the processed pseudogenes of the two gene families in the genome of A. viridis, probably resulting from retrotransposition events. As presence of processed pseudogenes in the genome requires transcription in germ-line cells, we analyzed oocyte-rich ovaries and found that indeed they contain Types I and III transcripts. This result raises questions regarding the role of toxin transcripts in these tissues. Overall, the retrotransposition and gene fusion events suggest that the genes of both Types I and III neurotoxins evolved in a similar fashion and share a partial common ancestry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00239-009-9258-xDOI Listing
August 2009

Intron retention as a posttranscriptional regulatory mechanism of neurotoxin expression at early life stages of the starlet anemone Nematostella vectensis.

J Mol Biol 2008 Jul 11;380(3):437-43. Epub 2008 May 11.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.

Sea anemones use an arsenal of peptide neurotoxins accumulated in special stinging cells (nematocytes) for defense and predation. Intriguingly, genomic analysis of Nematostella vectensis revealed only a single toxin, Nv1 (N. vectensis toxin 1), encoded by multiple extremely conserved genes. We examined the toxic potential of Nv1 and whether it is produced by the three developmental stages (embryo, planula, and polyp) of Nematostella. Nv1 was expressed in recombinant form and, similarly to Type I sea anemone toxins, inhibited the inactivation of voltage-gated sodium channels. However, in contrast to the other toxins, Nv1 revealed high specificity for insect over mammalian voltage-gated sodium channels. Transcript analysis indicated that multiple Nv1 loci are transcribed at all developmental stages of N. vectensis, whereas splicing of these transcripts is restricted to the polyp stage. This finding suggests that regulation of Nv1 synthesis is posttranscriptional and that the embryo and planula stages do not produce the Nv1 toxin. This rare phenomenon of intron retention at the early developmental stages is intriguing and raises the question as to the mechanism enabling such differential expression in sea anemones.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2008.05.011DOI Listing
July 2008

Concerted evolution of sea anemone neurotoxin genes is revealed through analysis of the Nematostella vectensis genome.

Mol Biol Evol 2008 Apr 24;25(4):737-47. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Department of Plant Sciences, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Gene families, which encode toxins, are found in many poisonous animals, yet there is limited understanding of their evolution at the nucleotide level. The release of the genome draft sequence for the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis enabled a comprehensive study of a gene family whose neurotoxin products affect voltage-gated sodium channels. All gene family members are clustered in a highly repetitive approximately 30-kb genomic region and encode a single toxin, Nv1. These genes exhibit extreme conservation at the nucleotide level which cannot be explained by purifying selection. This conservation greatly differs from the toxin gene families of other animals (e.g., snakes, scorpions, and cone snails), whose evolution was driven by diversifying selection, thereby generating a high degree of genetic diversity. The low nucleotide diversity at the Nv1 genes is reminiscent of that reported for DNA encoding ribosomal RNA (rDNA) and 2 hsp70 genes from Drosophila, which have evolved via concerted evolution. This evolutionary pattern was experimentally demonstrated in yeast rDNA and was shown to involve unequal crossing-over. Through sequence analysis of toxin genes from multiple N. vectensis populations and 2 other anemone species, Anemonia viridis and Actinia equina, we observed that the toxin genes for each sea anemone species are more similar to one another than to those of other species, suggesting they evolved by manner of concerted evolution. Furthermore, in 2 of the species (A. viridis and A. equina) we found genes that evolved under diversifying selection, suggesting that concerted evolution and accelerated evolution may occur simultaneously.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msn021DOI Listing
April 2008