August 19, 2021  |  

Case Study: Diving Deep – Revealing the mysteries of marine life with SMRT Sequencing

Many scientists are using PacBio Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) Sequencing to explore the genomes and transcriptomes of a wide variety of marine species and ecosystems. These studies are already adding to our understanding of how marine species adapt and evolve, contributing to conservation efforts, and informing how we can optimize food production through efficient aquaculture.

April 21, 2020  |  

Hi-C guided assemblies reveal conserved regulatory topologies on X and autosomes despite extensive genome shuffling

Genome rearrangements that occur during evolution impose major challenges on regulatory mechanisms that rely on three-dimensional genome architecture. Here, we developed a scaffolding algorithm and generated chromosome-length assemblies from Hi-C data for studying genome topology in three distantly related Drosophila species. We observe extensive genome shuffling between these species with one synteny breakpoint after approximately every six genes. A/B compartments, a set of large gene-dense topologically associating domains (TADs) and spatial contacts between high-affinity sites (HAS) located on the X chromosome are maintained over 40 million years, indicating architectural conservation at various hierarchies. Evolutionary conserved genes cluster in the vicinity of HAS, while HAS locations appear evolutionarily flexible, thus uncoupling functional requirement of dosage compensation from individual positions on the linear X chromosome. Therefore, 3D architecture is preserved even in scenarios of thousands of rearrangements highlighting its relevance for essential processes such as dosage compensation of the X chromosome.

April 21, 2020  |  

Early Sex-chromosome Evolution in the Diploid Dioecious Plant Mercurialis annua.

Suppressed recombination allows divergence between homologous sex chromosomes and the functionality of their genes. Here, we reveal patterns of the earliest stages of sex-chromosome evolution in the diploid dioecious herb Mercurialis annua on the basis of cytological analysis, de novo genome assembly and annotation, genetic mapping, exome resequencing of natural populations, and transcriptome analysis. The genome assembly contained 34,105 expressed genes, of which 10,076 were assigned to linkage groups. Genetic mapping and exome resequencing of individuals across the species range both identified the largest linkage group, LG1, as the sex chromosome. Although the sex chromosomes of M. annua are karyotypically homomorphic, we estimate that about a third of the Y chromosome has ceased recombining, containing 568 transcripts and spanning 22.3 cM in the corresponding female map. Nevertheless, we found limited evidence for Y-chromosome degeneration in terms of gene loss and pseudogenization, and most X- and Y-linked genes appear to have diverged in the period subsequent to speciation between M. annua and its sister species M. huetii which shares the same sex-determining region. Taken together, our results suggest that the M. annua Y chromosome has at least two evolutionary strata: a small old stratum shared with M. huetii, and a more recent larger stratum that is probably unique to M. annua and that stopped recombining about one million years ago. Patterns of gene expression within the non-recombining region are consistent with the idea that sexually antagonistic selection may have played a role in favoring suppressed recombination.Copyright © 2019, Genetics.

April 21, 2020  |  

Recurrent gene co-amplification on Drosophila X and Y chromosomes.

Y chromosomes often contain amplified genes which can increase dosage of male fertility genes and counteract degeneration via gene conversion. Here we identify genes with increased copy number on both X and Y chromosomes in various species of Drosophila, a pattern that has previously been associated with sex chromosome drive involving the Slx and Sly gene families in mice. We show that recurrent X/Y co-amplification appears to be an important evolutionary force that has shaped gene content evolution of sex chromosomes in Drosophila. We demonstrate that convergent acquisition and amplification of testis expressed gene families are common on Drosophila sex chromosomes, and especially on recently formed ones, and we carefully characterize one putative novel X/Y co-amplification system. We find that co-amplification of the S-Lap1/GAPsec gene pair on both the X and the Y chromosome occurred independently several times in members of the D. obscura group, where this normally autosomal gene pair is sex-linked due to a sex chromosome-autosome fusion. We explore several evolutionary scenarios that would explain this pattern of co-amplification. Investigation of gene expression and short RNA profiles at the S-Lap1/GAPsec system suggest that, like Slx/Sly in mice, these genes may be remnants of a cryptic sex chromosome drive system, however additional transgenic experiments will be necessary to validate this model. Regardless of whether sex chromosome drive is responsible for this co-amplification, our findings suggest that recurrent gene duplications between X and Y sex chromosomes could have a widespread effect on genomic and evolutionary patterns, including the epigenetic regulation of sex chromosomes, the distribution of sex-biased genes, and the evolution of hybrid sterility.

April 21, 2020  |  

Heterochromatin-enriched assemblies reveal the sequence and organization of the Drosophila melanogaster Y chromosome.

Heterochromatic regions of the genome are repeat-rich and poor in protein coding genes, and are therefore underrepresented in even the best genome assemblies. One of the most difficult regions of the genome to assemble are sex-limited chromosomes. The Drosophila melanogaster Y chromosome is entirely heterochromatic, yet has wide-ranging effects on male fertility, fitness, and genome-wide gene expression. The genetic basis of this phenotypic variation is difficult to study, in part because we do not know the detailed organization of the Y chromosome. To study Y chromosome organization in D. melanogaster, we develop an assembly strategy involving the in silico enrichment of heterochromatic long single-molecule reads and use these reads to create targeted de novo assemblies of heterochromatic sequences. We assigned contigs to the Y chromosome using Illumina reads to identify male-specific sequences. Our pipeline extends the D. melanogaster reference genome by 11.9 Mb, closes 43.8% of the gaps, and improves overall contiguity. The addition of 10.6 MB of Y-linked sequence permitted us to study the organization of repeats and genes along the Y chromosome. We detected a high rate of duplication to the pericentric regions of the Y chromosome from other regions in the genome. Most of these duplicated genes exist in multiple copies. We detail the evolutionary history of one sex-linked gene family, crystal-Stellate While the Y chromosome does not undergo crossing over, we observed high gene conversion rates within and between members of the crystal-Stellate gene family, Su(Ste), and PCKR, compared to genome-wide estimates. Our results suggest that gene conversion and gene duplication play an important role in the evolution of Y-linked genes. Copyright © 2019 Chang and Larracuente.

April 21, 2020  |  

Short communication: Identification of the pseudoautosomal region in the Hereford bovine reference genome assembly ARS-UCD1.2.

In cattle, the X chromosome accounts for approximately 3 and 6% of the genome in bulls and cows, respectively. In spite of the large size of this chromosome, very few studies report analysis of the X chromosome in genome-wide association studies and genomic selection. This lack of genetic interrogation is likely due to the complexities of undertaking these studies given the hemizygous state of some, but not all, of the X chromosome in males. The first step in facilitating analysis of this gene-rich chromosome is to accurately identify coordinates for the pseudoautosomal boundary (PAB) to split the chromosome into a region that may be treated as autosomal sequence (pseudoautosomal region) and a region that requires more complex statistical models. With the recent release of ARS-UCD1.2, a more complete and accurate assembly of the cattle genome than was previously available, it is timely to fine map the PAB for the first time. Here we report the use of SNP chip genotypes, short-read sequences, and long-read sequences to fine map the PAB (X chromosome:133,300,518) and simultaneously determine the neighboring regions of reduced homology and true pseudoautosomal region. These results greatly facilitate the inclusion of the X chromosome in genome-wide association studies, genomic selection, and other genetic analysis undertaken on this reference genome.The Authors. Published by FASS Inc. and Elsevier Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

April 21, 2020  |  

Construction of a Genomic Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) Library for the Prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii and Initial Analysis of ZW Chromosome-Derived BAC Inserts.

Knowledge on sex determination has proven valuable for commercial production of the prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii due to sex dimorphism of the male and female individuals. Previous studies indicated that prawn sex is determined by a ZW-ZZ chromosomal system, but no genomic information is available for the sex chromosome. Herein, we constructed a genomic bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library and identified the ZW-derived BAC clones for initial analysis of the sex chromosomal DNA sequence. The arrayed BAC library contains 200,448 clones with average insert size of 115.4 kb, corresponding to ~?4× coverage of the estimated 5.38 Gb genome. Based on a short female-specific marker, a Z- and a W-fragment were retrieved with the genomic walking method. Screening the BAC library using a ZW-specific marker as probe resulted in 12 positive clones. From these, a Z-derived (P331M17) and a W-derived (P122G2) BAC clones were randomly selected and sequenced by PacBio method. We report the construction of a large insert, deep-coverage, and high-quality BAC library for M. rosenbergii that provides a useful resource for positional cloning of target genes, genomic organization, and comparative genomics analysis. Our study not only confirmed the ZW/ZZ system but also discovered sex-linked genes on ZW chromosomes for the first time, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the genomic structure of sex chromosomes in M. rosenbergii.

October 23, 2019  |  

A high quality assembly of the Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) genome reveals the structure of two sex determination regions.

Tilapias are the second most farmed fishes in the world and a sustainable source of food. Like many other fish, tilapias are sexually dimorphic and sex is a commercially important trait in these fish. In this study, we developed a significantly improved assembly of the tilapia genome using the latest genome sequencing methods and show how it improves the characterization of two sex determination regions in two tilapia species.A homozygous clonal XX female Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was sequenced to 44X coverage using Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) SMRT sequencing. Dozens of candidate de novo assemblies were generated and an optimal assembly (contig NG50 of 3.3Mbp) was selected using principal component analysis of likelihood scores calculated from several paired-end sequencing libraries. Comparison of the new assembly to the previous O. niloticus genome assembly reveals that recently duplicated portions of the genome are now well represented. The overall number of genes in the new assembly increased by 27.3%, including a 67% increase in pseudogenes. The new tilapia genome assembly correctly represents two recent vasa gene duplication events that have been verified with BAC sequencing. At total of 146Mbp of additional transposable element sequence are now assembled, a large proportion of which are recent insertions. Large centromeric satellite repeats are assembled and annotated in cichlid fish for the first time. Finally, the new assembly identifies the long-range structure of both a ~9Mbp XY sex determination region on LG1 in O. niloticus, and a ~50Mbp WZ sex determination region on LG3 in the related species O. aureus.This study highlights the use of long read sequencing to correctly assemble recent duplications and to characterize repeat-filled regions of the genome. The study serves as an example of the need for high quality genome assemblies and provides a framework for identifying sex determining genes in tilapia and related fish species.

September 22, 2019  |  

Genomic imprinting mediates dosage compensation in a young plant XY system.

Sex chromosomes have repeatedly evolved from a pair of autosomes. Consequently, X and Y chromosomes initially have similar gene content, but ongoing Y degeneration leads to reduced expression and eventual loss of Y genes1. The resulting imbalance in gene expression between Y genes and the rest of the genome is expected to reduce male fitness, especially when protein networks have components from both autosomes and sex chromosomes. A diverse set of dosage compensating mechanisms that alleviates these negative effects has been described in animals2-4. However, the early steps in the evolution of dosage compensation remain unknown, and dosage compensation is poorly understood in plants5. Here, we describe a dosage compensation mechanism in the evolutionarily young XY sex determination system of the plant Silene latifolia. Genomic imprinting results in higher expression from the maternal X chromosome in both males and females. This compensates for reduced Y expression in males, but results in X overexpression in females and may be detrimental. It could represent a transient early stage in the evolution of dosage compensation. Our finding has striking resemblance to the first stage proposed by Ohno6 for the evolution of X inactivation in mammals.

September 22, 2019  |  

A new standard for crustacean genomes: The highly contiguous, annotated genome assembly of the clam shrimp Eulimnadia texana reveals HOX gene order and identifies the sex chromosome.

Vernal pool clam shrimp (Eulimnadia texana) are a promising model system due to their ease of lab culture, short generation time, modest sized genome, a somewhat rare stable androdioecious sex determination system, and a requirement to reproduce via desiccated diapaused eggs. We generated a highly contiguous genome assembly using 46× of PacBio long read data and 216× of Illumina short reads, and annotated using Illumina RNAseq obtained from adult males or hermaphrodites. Of the 120?Mb genome 85% is contained in the largest eight contigs, the smallest of which is 4.6?Mb. The assembly contains 98% of transcripts predicted via RNAseq. This assembly is qualitatively different from scaffolded Illumina assemblies: It is produced from long reads that contain sequence data along their entire length, and is thus gap free. The contiguity of the assembly allows us to order the HOX genes within the genome, identifying two loci that contain HOX gene orthologs, and which approximately maintain the order observed in other arthropods. We identified a partial duplication of the Antennapedia complex adjacent to the few genes homologous to the Bithorax locus. Because the sex chromosome of an androdioecious species is of special interest, we used existing allozyme and microsatellite markers to identify the E. texana sex chromosome, and find that it comprises nearly half of the genome of this species. Linkage patterns indicate that recombination is extremely rare and perhaps absent in hermaphrodites, and as a result the location of the sex determining locus will be difficult to refine using recombination mapping.© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

September 22, 2019  |  

The African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) genome unites the two ancestral ingredients for making vertebrate sex chromosomes

Heteromorphic sex chromosomes have evolved repeatedly among vertebrate lineages despite largely deleterious reductions in gene dose. Understanding how this gene dose problem is overcome is hampered by the lack of genomic information at the base of tetrapods and comparisons across the evolutionary history of vertebrates. To address this problem, we produced a chromosome-level genome assembly for the African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)–an amphibian with heteromorphic ZW sex chromosomes–and discovered that the Bullfrog Z is surprisingly homologous to substantial portions of the human X. Using this new reference genome, we identified ancestral synteny among the sex chromosomes of major vertebrate lineages, showing that non-mammalian sex chromosomes are strongly associated with a single vertebrate ancestral chromosome, while mammals are associated with another that displays increased haploinsufficiency. The sex chromosomes of the African Bullfrog however, share genomic blocks with both humans and non-mammalian vertebrates, connecting the two ancestral chromosome sequences that repeatedly characterize vertebrate sex chromosomes. Our results highlight the consistency of sex-linked sequences despite sex determination system lability and reveal the repeated use of two major genomic sequence blocks during vertebrate sex chromosome evolution.

September 22, 2019  |  

Evolutionary conservation of Y Chromosome ampliconic gene families despite extensive structural variation.

Despite claims that the mammalian Y Chromosome is on a path to extinction, comparative sequence analysis of primate Y Chromosomes has shown the decay of the ancestral single-copy genes has all but ceased in this eutherian lineage. The suite of single-copy Y-linked genes is highly conserved among the majority of eutherian Y Chromosomes due to strong purifying selection to retain dosage-sensitive genes. In contrast, the ampliconic regions of the Y Chromosome, which contain testis-specific genes that encode the majority of the transcripts on eutherian Y Chromosomes, are rapidly evolving and are thought to undergo species-specific turnover. However, ampliconic genes are known from only a handful of species, limiting insights into their long-term evolutionary dynamics. We used a clone-based sequencing approach employing both long- and short-read sequencing technologies to assemble ~2.4 Mb of representative ampliconic sequence dispersed across the domestic cat Y Chromosome, and identified the major ampliconic gene families and repeat units. We analyzed fluorescence in situ hybridization, qPCR, and whole-genome sequence data from 20 cat species and revealed that ampliconic gene families are conserved across the cat family Felidae but show high transcript diversity, copy number variation, and structural rearrangement. Our analysis of ampliconic gene evolution unveils a complex pattern of long-term gene content stability despite extensive structural variation on a nonrecombining background.© 2018 Brashear et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

July 19, 2019  |  

Chaos of rearrangements in the mating-type chromosomes of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae.

Sex chromosomes in plants and animals and fungal mating-type chromosomes often show exceptional genome features, with extensive suppression of homologous recombination and cytological differentiation between members of the diploid chromosome pair. Despite strong interest in the genetics of these chromosomes, their large regions of suppressed recombination often are enriched in transposable elements and therefore can be challenging to assemble. Here we show that the latest improvements of the PacBio sequencing yield assembly of the whole genome of the anther-smut fungus, Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae (the pathogenic fungus causing anther-smut disease of Silene latifolia), into finished chromosomes or chromosome arms, even for the repeat-rich mating-type chromosomes and centromeres. Suppressed recombination of the mating-type chromosomes is revealed to span nearly 90% of their lengths, with extreme levels of rearrangements, transposable element accumulation, and differentiation between the two mating types. We observed no correlation between allelic divergence and physical position in the nonrecombining regions of the mating-type chromosomes. This may result from gene conversion or from rearrangements of ancient evolutionary strata, i.e., successive steps of suppressed recombination. Centromeres were found to be composed mainly of copia-like transposable elements and to possess specific minisatellite repeats identical between the different chromosomes. We also identified subtelomeric motifs. In addition, extensive signs of degeneration were detected in the nonrecombining regions in the form of transposable element accumulation and of hundreds of gene losses on each mating-type chromosome. Furthermore, our study highlights the potential of the latest breakthrough PacBio chemistry to resolve complex genome architectures. Copyright © 2015 by the Genetics Society of America.

July 19, 2019  |  

Birth of a new gene on the Y chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster.

Contrary to the pattern seen in mammalian sex chromosomes, where most Y-linked genes have X-linked homologs, the Drosophila X and Y chromosomes appear to be unrelated. Most of the Y-linked genes have autosomal paralogs, so autosome-to-Y transposition must be the main source of Drosophila Y-linked genes. Here we show how these genes were acquired. We found a previously unidentified gene (flagrante delicto Y, FDY) that originated from a recent duplication of the autosomal gene vig2 to the Y chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster. Four contiguous genes were duplicated along with vig2, but they became pseudogenes through the accumulation of deletions and transposable element insertions, whereas FDY remained functional, acquired testis-specific expression, and now accounts for ~20% of the vig2-like mRNA in testis. FDY is absent in the closest relatives of D. melanogaster, and DNA sequence divergence indicates that the duplication to the Y chromosome occurred ~2 million years ago. Thus, FDY provides a snapshot of the early stages of the establishment of a Y-linked gene and demonstrates how the Drosophila Y has been accumulating autosomal genes.

July 19, 2019  |  

Genomic changes following the reversal of a Y chromosome to an autosome in Drosophila pseudoobscura

Robertsonian translocations resulting in fusions between sex chromosomes and autosomes shape karyotype evolution by creating new sex chromosomes from autosomes. These translocations can also reverse sex chromosomes back into autosomes, which is especially intriguing given the dramatic differences between autosomes and sex chromosomes. To study the genomic events following a Y chromosome reversal, we investigated an autosome-Y translocation in Drosophila pseudoobscura. The ancestral Y chromosome fused to a small autosome (the dot chromosome) approximately 10–15 Mya. We used single molecule real-time sequencing reads to assemble the D. pseudoobscura dot chromosome, including this Y-to-dot translocation. We find that the intervening sequence between the ancestral Y and the rest of the dot chromosome is only ~78 Kb and is not repeat-dense, suggesting that the centromere now falls outside, rather than between, the fused chromosomes. The Y-to-dot region is 100 times smaller than the D. melanogaster Y chromosome, owing to changes in repeat landscape. However, we do not find a consistent reduction in intron sizes across the Y-to-dot region. Instead, deletions in intergenic regions and possibly a small ancestral Y chromosome size may explain the compact size of the Y-to-dot translocation.

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