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Concept: Phenotype


Whereas domestication of livestock, pets, and crops is well documented, it is still unclear to what extent microbes associated with the production of food have also undergone human selection and where the plethora of industrial strains originates from. Here, we present the genomes and phenomes of 157 industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts. Our analyses reveal that today’s industrial yeasts can be divided into five sublineages that are genetically and phenotypically separated from wild strains and originate from only a few ancestors through complex patterns of domestication and local divergence. Large-scale phenotyping and genome analysis further show strong industry-specific selection for stress tolerance, sugar utilization, and flavor production, while the sexual cycle and other phenotypes related to survival in nature show decay, particularly in beer yeasts. Together, these results shed light on the origins, evolutionary history, and phenotypic diversity of industrial yeasts and provide a resource for further selection of superior strains. PAPERCLIP.

Concepts: Gene, Natural selection, Evolution, Genome, Fungus, Phenotype, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Brewing


Assessing the impact of the social environment on health and disease is challenging. As social effects are in part determined by the genetic makeup of social partners, they can be studied from associations between genotypes of one individual and phenotype of another (social genetic effects, SGE, also called indirect genetic effects). For the first time we quantified the contribution of SGE to more than 100 organismal phenotypes and genome-wide gene expression measured in laboratory mice. We find that genetic variation in cage mates (i.e. SGE) contributes to variation in organismal and molecular measures related to anxiety, wound healing, immune function, and body weight. Social genetic effects explained up to 29% of phenotypic variance, and for several traits their contribution exceeded that of direct genetic effects (effects of an individual’s genotypes on its own phenotype). Importantly, we show that ignoring SGE can severely bias estimates of direct genetic effects (heritability). Thus SGE may be an important source of “missing heritability” in studies of complex traits in human populations. In summary, our study uncovers an important contribution of the social environment to phenotypic variation, sets the basis for using SGE to dissect social effects, and identifies an opportunity to improve studies of direct genetic effects.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Genotype, Evolution, Phenotype, Heredity


The metabolic phenotype varies widely due to external factors such as diet and gut microbiome composition, among others. Despite these temporal fluctuations, urine metabolite profiling studies have suggested that there are highly individual phenotypes that persist over extended periods of time. This hypothesis was tested by analyzing the exhaled breath of a group of subjects during nine days by mass spectrometry. Consistent with previous metabolomic studies based on urine, we conclude that individual signatures of breath composition exist. The confirmation of the existence of stable and specific breathprints may contribute to strengthen the inclusion of breath as a biofluid of choice in metabolomic studies. In addition, the fact that the method is rapid and totally non-invasive, yet individualized profiles can be tracked, makes it an appealing approach.

Concepts: Scientific method, Natural selection, Evolution, Metabolism, Mass spectrometry, Phenotype, Metabolomics, Metabolome


Inter-individual variation in facial shape is one of the most noticeable phenotypes in humans, and it is clearly under genetic regulation; however, almost nothing is known about the genetic basis of normal human facial morphology. We therefore conducted a genome-wide association study for facial shape phenotypes in multiple discovery and replication cohorts, considering almost ten thousand individuals of European descent from several countries. Phenotyping of facial shape features was based on landmark data obtained from three-dimensional head magnetic resonance images (MRIs) and two-dimensional portrait images. We identified five independent genetic loci associated with different facial phenotypes, suggesting the involvement of five candidate genes-PRDM16, PAX3, TP63, C5orf50, and COL17A1-in the determination of the human face. Three of them have been implicated previously in vertebrate craniofacial development and disease, and the remaining two genes potentially represent novel players in the molecular networks governing facial development. Our finding at PAX3 influencing the position of the nasion replicates a recent GWAS of facial features. In addition to the reported GWA findings, we established links between common DNA variants previously associated with NSCL/P at 2p21, 8q24, 13q31, and 17q22 and normal facial-shape variations based on a candidate gene approach. Overall our study implies that DNA variants in genes essential for craniofacial development contribute with relatively small effect size to the spectrum of normal variation in human facial morphology. This observation has important consequences for future studies aiming to identify more genes involved in the human facial morphology, as well as for potential applications of DNA prediction of facial shape such as in future forensic applications.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Genotype, Evolution, Phenotype, Francis Crick


Progress in regenerative medicine requires reverse-engineering cellular control networks to infer perturbations with desired systems-level outcomes. Such dynamic models allow phenotypic predictions for novel perturbations to be rapidly assessed in silico. Here, we analyzed a Xenopus model of conversion of melanocytes to a metastatic-like phenotype only previously observed in an all-or-none manner. Prior in vivo genetic and pharmacological experiments showed that individual animals either fully convert or remain normal, at some characteristic frequency after a given perturbation. We developed a Machine Learning method which inferred a model explaining this complex, stochastic all-or-none dataset. We then used this model to ask how a new phenotype could be generated: animals in which only some of the melanocytes converted. Systematically performing in silico perturbations, the model predicted that a combination of altanserin (5HTR2 inhibitor), reserpine (VMAT inhibitor), and VP16-XlCreb1 (constitutively active CREB) would break the all-or-none concordance. Remarkably, applying the predicted combination of three reagents in vivo revealed precisely the expected novel outcome, resulting in partial conversion of melanocytes within individuals. This work demonstrates the capability of automated analysis of dynamic models of signaling networks to discover novel phenotypes and predictively identify specific manipulations that can reach them.

Concepts: Scientific method, Gene, Genotype, Evolution, In vivo, Phenotype, Logic, Heredity


Male-pattern baldness (MPB) is a common and highly heritable trait characterized by androgen-dependent, progressive hair loss from the scalp. Here, we carry out the largest GWAS meta-analysis of MPB to date, comprising 10,846 early-onset cases and 11,672 controls from eight independent cohorts. We identify 63 MPB-associated loci (P<5 × 10(-8), METAL) of which 23 have not been reported previously. The 63 loci explain ∼39% of the phenotypic variance in MPB and highlight several plausible candidate genes (FGF5, IRF4, DKK2) and pathways (melatonin signalling, adipogenesis) that are likely to be implicated in the key-pathophysiological features of MPB and may represent promising targets for the development of novel therapeutic options. The data provide molecular evidence that rather than being an isolated trait, MPB shares a substantial biological basis with numerous other human phenotypes and may deserve evaluation as an early prognostic marker, for example, for prostate cancer, sudden cardiac arrest and neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Genotype, Evolution, Phenotype, Heredity, Wilhelm Johannsen


Why evolvability appears to have increased over evolutionary time is an important unresolved biological question. Unlike most candidate explanations, this paper proposes that increasing evolvability can result without any pressure to adapt. The insight is that if evolvability is heritable, then an unbiased drifting process across genotypes can still create a distribution of phenotypes biased towards evolvability, because evolvable organisms diffuse more quickly through the space of possible phenotypes. Furthermore, because phenotypic divergence often correlates with founding niches, niche founders may on average be more evolvable, which through population growth provides a genotypic bias towards evolvability. Interestingly, the combination of these two mechanisms can lead to increasing evolvability without any pressure to out-compete other organisms, as demonstrated through experiments with a series of simulated models. Thus rather than from pressure to adapt, evolvability may inevitably result from any drift through genotypic space combined with evolution’s passive tendency to accumulate niches.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Genotype, Evolution, Biology, Phenotype


Biologists have devoted much attention to assortative mating or homogamy, the tendency for sexual species to mate with similar others. In contrast, there has been little theoretical work on the broader phenomenon of homophily, the tendency for individuals to interact with similar others. Yet this behaviour is also widely observed in nature. Here, we model how natural selection can give rise to homophily when individuals engage in social interaction in a population with multiple observable phenotypes. Payoffs to interactions depend on whether or not individuals have the same or different phenotypes, and each individual has a preference that determines how likely they are to interact with others of their own phenotype (homophily) or of opposite phenotypes (heterophily). The results show that homophily tends to evolve under a wide variety of conditions, helping to explain its ubiquity in nature.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Biology, Phenotype, Observation, Nature, Assortative mating, Richard Dawkins


During the last several years, high-density genotyping SNP arrays have facilitated genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that successfully identified common genetic variants associated with a variety of phenotypes. However, each of the identified genetic variants only explains a very small fraction of the underlying genetic contribution to the studied phenotypic trait. Moreover, discordance observed in results between independent GWAS indicates the potential for Type I and II errors. High reliability of genotyping technology is needed to have confidence in using SNP data and interpreting GWAS results. Therefore, reproducibility of two widely genotyping technology platforms from Affymetrix and Illumina was assessed by analyzing four technical replicates from each of the six individuals in five laboratories. Genotype concordance of 99.40% to 99.87% within a laboratory for the sample platform, 98.59% to 99.86% across laboratories for the same platform, and 98.80% across genotyping platforms was observed. Moreover, arrays with low quality data were detected when comparing genotyping data from technical replicates, but they could not be detected according to venders' quality control (QC) suggestions. Our results demonstrated the technical reliability of currently available genotyping platforms but also indicated the importance of incorporating some technical replicates for genotyping QC in order to improve the reliability of GWAS results. The impact of discordant genotypes on association analysis results was simulated and could explain, at least in part, the irreproducibility of some GWAS findings when the effect size (i.e. the odds ratio) and the minor allele frequencies are low.

Concepts: Scientific method, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Allele, Evolution, Phenotype, Genotype-phenotype distinction


BACKGROUND: Accurate interpretation of HIV drug resistance (HIVDR) testing is challenging, yet important for patient care. We compared genotyping interpretation, based on the Stanford University HIV Drug Resistance Database (Stanford HIVdb), and virtual phenotyping, based on the Janssen Diagnostics BVBA’s vircoTYPETM HIV-1, and investigated their level of agreement in antiretroviral (ARV) naive patients in Asia, where non-B subtypes predominate. METHODS: Sequences from 1301 ARV-naive patients enrolled in the TREAT Asia Studies to Evaluate Resistance – Monitoring Study (TASER-M) were analysed by both interpreting systems. Interpretations from both Stanford HIVdb and vircoTYPETM HIV-1 were initially grouped into 2 levels: susceptible and non-susceptible. Discrepancy was defined as a discordant result between the susceptible and non-susceptible interpretations from the two systems for the same ARV. Further analysis was performed when interpretations from both systems were categorised into 3 levels: susceptible, intermediate and resistant; whereby discrepancies could be categorised as major discrepancies and minor discrepancies. Major discrepancy was defined as having a susceptible result from one system and resistant from the other. Minor discrepancy corresponded to having an intermediate interpretation in one system, with a susceptible or resistant result in the other. The level of agreement was analysed using the prevalence adjusted bias adjusted kappa (PABAK). RESULTS: Overall, the agreement was high, with each ARV being in “almost perfect agreement”, using Landis and Koch’s categorisation. Highest discordance was observed for efavirenz (75/1301, 5.8 %), all arising from susceptible Stanford HIVdb versus non-susceptible vircoTYPETM HIV-1 predictions. Protease Inhibitors had highest level of concordance with PABAKs all above 0.99, followed by Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors with PABAKs above 0.97 and non-NRTIs with the lowest PABAK of 0.88. The 68/75 patients with discordant efavirenz results harboured the V179D/E mutations compared to 7/1226 with no efavirenz discrepancy (p-value <0.001). In the 3-level comparison, all but one of the discrepancies was minor. CONCLUSIONS: The two systems agreed well with lowest concordance observed for efavirenz. When interpreting HIVDR, especially in non-B subtypes, clinical correlation is crucial, in particular when efavirenz resistance is interpreted based on V179D/E.

Concepts: Antiretroviral drug, HIV, Reverse transcriptase inhibitor, Phenotype, Subtypes of HIV, Reverse transcriptase, Interpretation, HIV Drug Resistance Database