Spore killers in fungi are selfish genetic elements that distort Mendelian segregation in their favor. It remains unclear how many species harbor them and how diverse their mechanisms are. Here, we discover two spore killers from a natural isolate of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Both killers belong to the previously uncharacterized wtf gene family with 25 members in the reference genome. These two killers act in strain-background-independent and genome-location-independent manners to perturb the maturation of spores not inheriting them. Spores carrying one killer are protected from its killing effect but not that of the other killer. The killing and protecting activities can be uncoupled by mutation. The numbers and sequences of wtf genes vary considerably between S. pombe isolates, indicating rapid divergence. We propose that wtf genes contribute to the extensive intraspecific reproductive isolation in S. pombe, and represent ideal models for understanding how segregation-distorting elements act and evolve.
We have developed a high-throughput sequencing approach that enables us to determine terminal telomere sequences from tens of thousands of individual Schizosaccharomyces pombe telomeres. This method provides unprecedented coverage of telomeric sequence complexity in fission yeast. S. pombe telomeres are composed of modular degenerate repeats that can be explained by variation in usage of the TER1 RNA template during reverse transcription. Taking advantage of this deep sequencing approach, we find that ‘like’ repeat modules are highly correlated within individual telomeres. Moreover, repeat module preference varies with telomere length, suggesting that existing repeats promote the incorporation of like repeats and/or that specific conformations of the telomerase holoenzyme efficiently and/or processively add repeats of like nature. After the loss of telomerase activity, this sequencing and analysis pipeline defines a population of telomeres with altered sequence content. This approach will be adaptable to study telomeric repeats in other organisms and also to interrogate repetitive sequences throughout the genome that are inaccessible to other sequencing methods.© 2016 Federation of European Biochemical Societies.