staff

Athanasia Tzika

Senior Research Assistant in LANE

  • T: +41 22 379 67 75
  • office 4022a (Sciences III)
  • The SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics' resources: focus on curated databases. Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Jan 4;44(D1):D27-37. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv1310. Epub 2015 Nov 28

    abstract

    The SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (www.isb-sib.ch) provides world-class bioinformatics databases, software tools, services and training to the international life science community in academia and industry. These solutions allow life scientists to turn the exponentially growing amount of data into knowledge. Here, we provide an overview of SIB's resources and competence areas, with a strong focus on curated databases and SIB's most popular and widely used resources. In particular, SIB's Bioinformatics resource portal ExPASy features over 150 resources, including UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot, ENZYME, PROSITE, neXtProt, STRING, UniCarbKB, SugarBindDB, SwissRegulon, EPD, arrayMap, Bgee, SWISS-MODEL Repository, OMA, OrthoDB and other databases, which are briefly described in this article.

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  • Reptilian Transcriptomes v2.0: An Extensive Resource for Sauropsida Genomics and Transcriptomics. Genome Biol Evol 2015 Jun;7(6):1827-41. evv106. 10.1093/gbe/evv106. PMC4494049.

    abstract

    Despite the availability of deep-sequencing techniques, genomic and transcriptomic data remain unevenly distributed across phylogenetic groups. For example, reptiles are poorly represented in sequence databases, hindering functional evolutionary and developmental studies in these lineages substantially more diverse than mammals. In addition, different studies use different assembly and annotation protocols, inhibiting meaningful comparisons. Here, we present the "Reptilian Transcriptomes Database 2.0," which provides extensive annotation of transcriptomes and genomes from species covering the major reptilian lineages. To this end, we sequenced normalized complementary DNA libraries of multiple adult tissues and various embryonic stages of the leopard gecko and the corn snake and gathered published reptilian sequence data sets from representatives of the four extant orders of reptiles: Squamata (snakes and lizards), the tuatara, crocodiles, and turtles. The LANE runner 2.0 software was implemented to annotate all assemblies within a single integrated pipeline. We show that this approach increases the annotation completeness of the assembled transcriptomes/genomes. We then built large concatenated protein alignments of single-copy genes and inferred phylogenetic trees that support the positions of turtles and the tuatara as sister groups of Archosauria and Squamata, respectively. The Reptilian Transcriptomes Database 2.0 resource will be updated to include selected new data sets as they become available, thus making it a reference for differential expression studies, comparative genomics and transcriptomics, linkage mapping, molecular ecology, and phylogenomic analyses involving reptiles. The database is available at www.reptilian-transcriptomes.org and can be enquired using a wwwblast server installed at the University of Geneva.

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  • Two waves of anisotropic growth generate enlarged follicles in the spiny mouse. Evodevo 2014 ;5():33. 10.1186/2041-9139-5-33. 2041-9139-5-33. PMC4335386.

    abstract

    Mammals exhibit a remarkable variety of phenotypes and comparative studies using novel model species are needed to uncover the evolutionary developmental mechanisms generating this diversity. Here, we undertake a developmental biology and numerical modeling approach to investigate the development of skin appendages in the spiny mouse, Acomys dimidiatus.

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  • Retroviral envelope syncytin capture in an ancestrally diverged mammalian clade for placentation in the primitive Afrotherian tenrecs. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2014 Oct;111(41):E4332-41. 1412268111. 10.1073/pnas.1412268111. PMC4205661.

    abstract

    Syncytins are fusogenic envelope (env) genes of retroviral origin that have been captured for a function in placentation. Syncytins have been identified in Euarchontoglires (primates, rodents, Leporidae) and Laurasiatheria (Carnivora, ruminants) placental mammals. Here, we searched for similar genes in species that retained characteristic features of primitive mammals, namely the Malagasy and mainland African Tenrecidae. They belong to the superorder Afrotheria, an early lineage that diverged from Euarchotonglires and Laurasiatheria 100 Mya, during the Cretaceous terrestrial revolution. An in silico search for env genes with full coding capacity within a Tenrecidae genome identified several candidates, with one displaying placenta-specific expression as revealed by RT-PCR analysis of a large panel of Setifer setosus tissues. Cloning of this endogenous retroviral env gene demonstrated fusogenicity in an ex vivo cell-cell fusion assay on a panel of mammalian cells. Refined analysis of placental architecture and ultrastructure combined with in situ hybridization demonstrated specific expression of the gene in multinucleate cellular masses and layers at the materno-fetal interface, consistent with a role in syncytium formation. This gene, which we named "syncytin-Ten1," is conserved among Tenrecidae, with evidence of purifying selection and conservation of fusogenic activity. To our knowledge, it is the first syncytin identified to date within the ancestrally diverged Afrotheria superorder.

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  • Two waves of anisotropic growth generate enlarged follicles in the spiny mouse EvoDevo 2014, 5:33

    abstract

    Background Mammals exhibit a remarkable variety of phenotypes and comparative studies using novel model species are needed to uncover the evolutionary developmental mechanisms generating this diversity. Here, we undertake a developmental biology and numerical modeling approach to investigate the development of skin appendages in the spiny mouse, Acomys dimidiatus. Results We demonstrate that Acomys spines, possibly involved in display and protection, are enlarged awl hairs with a concave morphology. The Acomys spines originate from enlarged placodes that are characterized by a rapid downwards growth which results in voluminous follicles. The dermal condensation (dermal papilla) at the core of the follicle is very large and exhibits a curved geometry. Given its off-centered position, the dermal papilla generates two waves of anisotropic proliferation, first of the posterior matrix, then of the anterior inner root sheath (IRS). Higher in the follicle, the posterior and anterior cortex cross-section areas substantially decrease due to cortex cell elongation and accumulation of keratin intermediate filaments. Milder keratinization in the medulla gives rise to a foamy material that eventually collapses under the combined compression of the anterior IRS and elongation of the cortex cells. Simulations, using linear elasticity theory and the finite-element method, indicate that these processes are sufficient to replicate the time evolution of the Acomys spine layers and the final shape of the emerging spine shaft. Conclusions Our analyses reveal how hair follicle morphogenesis has been altered during the evolution of the Acomys lineage, resulting in a shift from ancestral awl follicles to enlarged asymmetrical spines. This study contributes to a better understanding of the evolutionary developmental mechanisms that generated the great diversity of skin appendage phenotypes observed in mammals.

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  • Multiple enhancers regulate Hoxd genes and the Hotdog LncRNA during cecum budding. Cell Rep 2013 Oct;5(1):137-50. S2211-1247(13)00500-7. 10.1016/j.celrep.2013.09.002.

    abstract

    Hox genes are required for the development of the intestinal cecum, a major organ of plant-eating species. We have analyzed the transcriptional regulation of Hoxd genes in cecal buds and show that they are controlled by a series of enhancers located in a gene desert flanking the HoxD cluster. The start site of two opposite long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), Hotdog and Twin of Hotdog, selectively contacts the expressed Hoxd genes in the framework of a topological domain, coinciding with robust transcription of these genes during cecum budding. Both lncRNAs are specifically transcribed in the cecum, albeit bearing no detectable function in trans. Hedgehogs have kept this regulatory potential despite the absence of the cecum, suggesting that these mechanisms are used in other developmental situations. In this context, we discuss the implementation of a common "budding toolkit" between the cecum and the limbs.

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  • Reptilian-transcriptome v1.0, a glimpse in the brain transcriptome of five divergent Sauropsida lineages and the phylogenetic position of turtles. Evodevo 2011 ;2(1):19. 2041-9139-2-19. 10.1186/2041-9139-2-19. PMC3192992.

    abstract

    Reptiles are largely under-represented in comparative genomics despite the fact that they are substantially more diverse in many respects than mammals. Given the high divergence of reptiles from classical model species, next-generation sequencing of their transcriptomes is an approach of choice for gene identification and annotation.

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  • Escaping the mouse trap: the selection of new Evo-Devo model species. J. Exp. Zool. B Mol. Dev. Evol. 2007 Jul;308(4):337-46. 10.1002/jez.b.21180.

    abstract

    Among the many, sometimes contradictory, criteria that have been used for promoting model species, the most prominent has probably been their relevance for understanding human biology. Recently however, the debate has partly shifted from the search for evolutionary conservation (medicine-driven models) to a better understanding of the generative mechanisms underlying biological diversity (Evo-Devo-driven models). Integration of multiple disciplines, beyond developmental genetics and evolutionary molecular genetics, as well as of innovative technologies will help biologists to open the massive realm of living species to genome manipulation and phenotypic investigation. However, a consensual list of model species must still be reached for optimizing the interplay between in silico analyses and in vivo experiments, and we claim that the Evo-Devo community should play a more energetic role in this endeavor. We discuss here a few criteria and limitations of major relevance to the choice of model species for Evo-Devo studies, and promote the use of a pragmatic approach. Finally, given the difficulties related to manipulating and breeding model species, we suggest the development of Evo-Devo virtual zoos maintaining breeding colonies of a selected set of species and from which eggs or staged embryos are available on order.

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  • Evidence for male dispersal along the coasts but no migration in pelagic waters in dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus). Mol. Ecol. 2005 Jan;14(1):107-21. MEC2407. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2004.02407.x.

    abstract

    Using nine nuclear species-specific microsatellite loci and two mitochondrial gene fragments (cytochrome b and control region), we investigated the processes that have shaped the geographical distribution of genetic diversity exhibited by contemporary dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) populations. A total of 221 individuals from four locations (Peru, Argentina, southern Africa, and New Zealand) were assayed, covering most of the species' distribution range. Although our analyses identify a general demographic decline in the Peruvian dusky dolphin stock (recently affected by high natural and human-induced mortality levels), comparison between the different molecular markers hint at an ancient bottleneck that predates recent El Niño oscillations and human exploitation. Moreover, we find evidence of a difference in dispersal behaviour of dusky dolphins along the South American coast and across the Atlantic. While data in Peruvian and Argentine waters are best explained by male-specific gene flow between these two populations, our analyses suggest that dusky dolphins from Argentina and southern Africa recently separated from an ancestral Atlantic population and, since then, diverged without considerable gene flow. The inclusion of a few New Zealand samples further confirms the low levels of genetic differentiation among most dusky dolphin populations. Only the Peruvian dusky dolphin stock is highly differentiated, especially at mitochondrial loci, suggesting that major fluctuations in its population size have led to an increased rate of genetic drift.

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