Evolution of toll-like receptors in the context of terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans diversification uri icon

abstract

  • Background: Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are the frontline actors in the innate immune response to various pathogens and are expected to be targets of natural selection in species adapted to habitats with contrasting pathogen burdens. The recent publication of genome sequences of giraffe and okapi together afforded the opportunity to examine the evolution of selected TLRs in broad range of terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans during their complex habitat diversification. Through direct sequence comparisons and standard evolutionary approaches, the extent of nucleotide and protein sequence diversity in seven Toll-like receptors (TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR5, TLR7, TLR9 and TLR10) between giraffe and closely related species was determined. In addition, comparison of the patterning of key TLR motifs and domains between giraffe and related species was performed. The quantification of selection pressure and divergence on TLRs among terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans was also performed.
  • Conclusion: There is overall structural conservation in TLRs among giraffe, okapi and cattle indicating that the mechanism for innate immune response utilizing TLR pathways may not have changed very much during the evolution of these species. However, a broader phylogenetic analysis revealed signatures of adaptive evolution among terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans, including the observed selection divergence in TLR3. This suggests that long term ecological dynamics has led to species-specific innovation and functional variation in the mechanisms mediating innate immunity in terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans.
  • Results: Sequence analysis shows that giraffe has 94-99% nucleotide identity with okapi and cattle for all TLRs analyzed. Variations in the number of Leucine-rich repeats were observed in some of TLRs between giraffe, okapi and cattle. Patterning of key TLR domains did not reveal any significant differences in the domain architecture among giraffe, okapi and cattle. Molecular evolutionary analysis for selection pressure identifies positive selection on key sites for all TLRs examined suggesting that pervasive evolutionary pressure has taken place during the evolution of terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans. Analysis of positively selected sites showed some site to be part of Leucine-rich motifs suggesting functional relevance in species-specific recognition of pathogen associated molecular patterns. Notably, clade analysis reveals significant selection divergence between terrestrial ungulates and cetaceans in viral sensing TLR3. Mapping of giraffe TLR3 key substitutions to the structure of the receptor indicates that at least one of giraffe altered sites coincides with TLR3 residue known to play a critical role in receptor signaling activity.

publication date

  • 2017
  • 2017