Keeping the blood flowing—plasminogen activator genes and feeding behavior in vampire bats
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The blood feeding vampire bats emerged from New World leaf-nosed bats that fed on fruit and insects. Plasminogen activator, a serine protease that regulates blood coagulation, is known to be expressed in the saliva of Desmodus rotundus (common vampire bat) and is thought to be a key enzyme for the emergence of blood feeding in vampire bats. To better understand the evolution of this biological function, we studied the plasminogen activator (PA) genes from all vampire bat species in light of their feeding transition to bird and subsequently mammalian blood. We include the rare species Diphylla ecaudata and Diaemus youngi, where plasminogen activator had not previously been studied and demonstrate that PA gene duplication observed in Desmodus is not essential to the vampire phenotype, but relates to the emergence of predominant mammalian blood feeding in this species. Plasminogen activator has evolved through gene duplication, domain loss, and sequence evolution leading to change in fibrin-specificity and susceptibility to plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. Before undertaking this study, only the four plasminogen activator isoforms from Desmodus were known. The evolution of vampire bat plasminogen activators can now be linked phylogenetically to the transition in feeding behavior among vampire bat species from bird to mammalian blood.
KeywordsSpecies adaptation Positive selection Domain evolution Gene duplication Ecological niche
We thank Don Jarvis and Christoph Geisler for materials, equipment, and technical assistance. Samples of Carollia perspicillata, Diphylla ecaudata, Desmodus rotundus, and Diaemus youngi were provided by: Uwe Schmidt at University of Bonn, Germany, The Field Museum (Bruce Patterson), Daniel Abrams at Rancho Transylvania, New Mexico, K. Harada at Osaka City University, and Texas Tech University Museum in addition to samples collected by the authors of this paper. Funding for this work has been provided by an INBRE (NIH) grant to University of Wyoming, the Carl Trygger Foundation, and FUGE. The experiments performed comply with the current laws of the United States, Norway, and Sweden, where this research was performed. Sequences were submitted to Genbank, with Carollia sequences under accession bankit1121506, Diphylla sequences under accession bankit1121509, and Diaemus sequences under accession bankit1121511.