Evolutionary trajectories of snake genes and genomes revealed by comparative analyses of five-pacer viper

Nat Commun. 2016 Oct 6;7:13107. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13107.


Snakes have numerous features distinctive from other tetrapods and a rich history of genome evolution that is still obscure. Here, we report the high-quality genome of the five-pacer viper, Deinagkistrodon acutus, and comparative analyses with other representative snake and lizard genomes. We map the evolutionary trajectories of transposable elements (TEs), developmental genes and sex chromosomes onto the snake phylogeny. TEs exhibit dynamic lineage-specific expansion, and many viper TEs show brain-specific gene expression along with their nearby genes. We detect signatures of adaptive evolution in olfactory, venom and thermal-sensing genes and also functional degeneration of genes associated with vision and hearing. Lineage-specific relaxation of functional constraints on respective Hox and Tbx limb-patterning genes supports fossil evidence for a successive loss of forelimbs then hindlimbs during snake evolution. Finally, we infer that the ZW sex chromosome pair had undergone at least three recombination suppression events in the ancestor of advanced snakes. These results altogether forge a framework for our deep understanding into snakes' history of molecular evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Lineage
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Forelimb
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genome
  • Hindlimb
  • Lizards / genetics
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Sex Chromosomes
  • Snakes / anatomy & histology*
  • Snakes / genetics*
  • Transcriptome


  • DNA Transposable Elements