Replacement and parallel simplification of non-homologous proteinases maintain venom phenotypes in rear-fanged snakes

Novel phenotypes are commonly associated with gene duplications and neofunctionalization, less documented are the cases of phenotypic maintenance through the recruitment of novel genes. Proteolysis is the primary toxic character of many snake venoms, and ADAM metalloproteinases, named Snake Venom Metalloproteinases (SVMPs), are largely recognized as the major effectors of this phenotype. However, by investigating original transcriptomes from 58 species of advanced snakes (Caenophidia) across their phylogeny, we discovered that a different enzyme, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), is actually the dominant venom component in three tribes (Tachymenini, Xenodontini, and Conophiini) of rear-fanged snakes (Dipsadidae). Proteomic and functional analyses of these venoms further indicate that MMPs are likely playing an ‘SVMP-like’ function in the proteolytic phenotype. A detailed look into the venom-specific sequences revealed a new highly expressed MMP subtype, named snake venom MMP (svMMP), which originated independently on at least three occasions from an endogenous MMP-9. We further show that by losing ancillary non-catalytic domains present in its ancestors, svMMPs followed an evolutionary path toward a simplified structure during their expansion in the genomes, thus paralleling what has been proposed for the evolution of their Viperidae counterparts, the SVMPs. Moreover, we inferred an inverse relationship between the expression of svMMPs and SVMPs along the evolutionary history of Xenodontinae, pointing out that one type of enzyme may be substituting for the other, while the general (metallo)proteolytic phenotype is maintained. These results provide rare evidence on how relevant phenotypic traits can be optimized via natural selection on non-homologous genes, yielding alternate biochemical components.
Keywords
matrix metalloproteinase;  protein family evolution;  genotype-phenotype link;  gene co-option;  venom;  snake

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Bayona-Serrano JD, Viala VL, Rautsaw RM, Schramer TD, Carvalho GAB, Nishiyama Junior MY, et al. Replacement and parallel simplification of non-homologous proteinases maintain venom phenotypes in rear-fanged snakes. Mol. Biol. Evol.. 2020 Jul;. doi:10.1093/molbev/msaa192.
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