Biology

Parallel Evolution of Complex Centipede Venoms Revealed by Comparative Proteotranscriptomic Analyses




Abstract

Centipedes are among the most ancient groups of venomous predatory arthropods. Extant species belong to five orders, but our understanding of the composition and evolution of centipede venoms is based almost exclusively on one order, Scolopendromorpha. To gain a broader and less biased understanding we performed a comparative proteotranscriptomic analysis of centipede venoms from all five orders, including the first venom profiles for the orders Lithobiomorpha, Craterostigmomorpha, and Geophilomorpha. Our results reveal an astonishing structural diversity of venom components, with 93 phylogenetically distinct protein and peptide families. Proteomically-annotated gene trees of these putative toxin families show that centipede venom composition is highly dynamic across macroevolutionary timescales, with numerous gene duplications as well as functional recruitments and losses of toxin gene families. Strikingly, not a single family is found in the venoms of representatives of all five orders, with 67 families being unique for single orders. Ancestral state reconstructions reveal that centipede venom originated as a simple cocktail comprising just four toxin families, with very little compositional evolution happening during the approximately 50 My before the living orders had diverged. Venom complexity then increased in parallel within the orders, with scolopendromorphs evolving particularly complex venoms. Our results show that even venoms composed of toxins evolving under the strong constraint of negative selection can have striking evolutionary plasticity on the compositional level. We show that the functional recruitments and losses of toxin families that shape centipede venom arsenals are not concentrated early in their evolutionary history, but happen frequently throughout.

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