April 21, 2020  |  

Lateral transfers of large DNA fragments spread functional genes among grasses.

A fundamental tenet of multicellular eukaryotic evolution is that vertical inheritance is paramount, with natural selection acting on genetic variants transferred from parents to offspring. This lineal process means that an organism’s adaptive potential can be restricted by its evolutionary history, the amount of standing genetic variation, and its mutation rate. Lateral gene transfer (LGT) theoretically provides a mechanism to bypass many of these limitations, but the evolutionary importance and frequency of this process in multicellular eukaryotes, such as plants, remains debated. We address this issue by assembling a chromosome-level genome for the grass Alloteropsis semialata, a species surmised to exhibit two LGTs, and screen it for other grass-to-grass LGTs using genomic data from 146 other grass species. Through stringent phylogenomic analyses, we discovered 57 additional LGTs in the A. semialata nuclear genome, involving at least nine different donor species. The LGTs are clustered in 23 laterally acquired genomic fragments that are up to 170 kb long and have accumulated during the diversification of Alloteropsis. The majority of the 59 LGTs in A. semialata are expressed, and we show that they have added functions to the recipient genome. Functional LGTs were further detected in the genomes of five other grass species, demonstrating that this process is likely widespread in this globally important group of plants. LGT therefore appears to represent a potent evolutionary force capable of spreading functional genes among distantly related grass species. Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic sequence and copy number evolution during hybrid crop development in sunflowers.

Hybrid crops, an important part of modern agriculture, rely on the development of male and female heterotic gene pools. In sunflowers, heterotic gene pools were developed through the use of crop-wild relatives to produce cytoplasmic male sterile female and branching, fertility restoring male lines. Here, we use genomic data from a diversity panel of male, female, and open-pollinated lines to explore the genetic changes brought during modern improvement. We find the male lines have diverged most from their open-pollinated progenitors and that genetic differentiation is concentrated in chromosomes, 8, 10 and 13, due to introgressions from wild relatives. Ancestral variation from open-pollinated varieties almost universally evolved in parallel for both male and female lines suggesting little or no selection for heterotic overdominance. Furthermore, we show that gene content differs between the male and female lines and that differentiation in gene content is concentrated in high FST regions. This means that the introgressions that brought branching and fertility restoration to the male lines, brought with them different gene content from the ancestral haplotypes, including the removal of some genes. Although we find no evidence that gene complementation genomewide is responsible for heterosis between male and female lines, several of the genes that are largely absent in either the male or female lines are associated with pathogen defense, suggesting complementation may be functionally relevant for crop breeders.

April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic variation and strain-specific functional adaptation in the human gut microbiome during early life.

The human gut microbiome matures towards the adult composition during the first years of life and is implicated in early immune development. Here, we investigate the effects of microbial genomic diversity on gut microbiome development using integrated early childhood data sets collected in the DIABIMMUNE study in Finland, Estonia and Russian Karelia. We show that gut microbial diversity is associated with household location and linear growth of children. Single nucleotide polymorphism- and metagenomic assembly-based strain tracking revealed large and highly dynamic microbial pangenomes, especially in the genus Bacteroides, in which we identified evidence of variability deriving from Bacteroides-targeting bacteriophages. Our analyses revealed functional consequences of strain diversity; only 10% of Finnish infants harboured Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis, a subspecies specialized in human milk metabolism, whereas Russian infants commonly maintained a probiotic Bifidobacterium bifidum strain in infancy. Groups of bacteria contributing to diverse, characterized metabolic pathways converged to highly subject-specific configurations over the first two years of life. This longitudinal study extends the current view of early gut microbial community assembly based on strain-level genomic variation.

April 21, 2020  |  

Strain-level metagenomic assignment and compositional estimation for long reads with MetaMaps.

Metagenomic sequence classification should be fast, accurate and information-rich. Emerging long-read sequencing technologies promise to improve the balance between these factors but most existing methods were designed for short reads. MetaMaps is a new method, specifically developed for long reads, capable of mapping a long-read metagenome to a comprehensive RefSeq database with >12,000 genomes in <16?GB or RAM on a laptop computer. Integrating approximate mapping with probabilistic scoring and EM-based estimation of sample composition, MetaMaps achieves >94% accuracy for species-level read assignment and r2?>?0.97 for the estimation of sample composition on both simulated and real data when the sample genomes or close relatives are present in the classification database. To address novel species and genera, which are comparatively harder to predict, MetaMaps outputs mapping locations and qualities for all classified reads, enabling functional studies (e.g. gene presence/absence) and detection of incongruities between sample and reference genomes.

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