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  |  

The mutation rate and the age of the sex chromosomes in Silene latifolia.

Many aspects of sex chromosome evolution are common to both plants and animals [1], but the process of Y chromosome degeneration, where genes on the Y become non-functional over time, may be much slower in plants due to purifying selection against deleterious mutations in the haploid gametophyte [2, 3]. Testing for differences in Y degeneration between the kingdoms has been hindered by the absence of accurate age estimates for plant sex chromosomes. Here, we used genome resequencing to estimate the spontaneous mutation rate and the age of the sex chromosomes in white campion (Silene latifolia). Screening of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in parents and 10 F1 progeny identified 39 de novo mutations and yielded a rate of 7.31 × 10-9 (95% confidence interval: 5.20 × 10-9 – 8.00 × 10-9) mutations per site per haploid genome per generation. Applying this mutation rate to the synonymous divergence between homologous X- and Y-linked genes (gametologs) gave age estimates of 11.00 and 6.32 million years for the old and young strata, respectively. Based on SNP segregation patterns, we inferred which genes were Y-linked and found that at least 47% are already dysfunctional. Applying our new estimates for the age of the sex chromosomes indicates that the rate of Y degeneration in S. latifolia is nearly 2-fold slower when compared to animal sex chromosomes of a similar age. Our revised estimates support Y degeneration taking place more slowly in plants, a discrepancy that may be explained by differences in the life cycles of animals and plants. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

N6-methyladenine DNA modification in the human genome.

DNA N6-methyladenine (6mA) modification is the most prevalent DNA modification in prokaryotes, but whether it exists in human cells and whether it plays a role in human diseases remain enigmatic. Here, we showed that 6mA is extensively present in the human genome, and we cataloged 881,240 6mA sites accounting for ~0.051% of the total adenines. [G/C]AGG[C/T] was the most significantly associated motif with 6mA modification. 6mA sites were enriched in the coding regions and mark actively transcribed genes in human cells. DNA 6mA and N6-demethyladenine modification in the human genome were mediated by methyltransferase N6AMT1 and demethylase ALKBH1, respectively. The abundance of 6mA was significantly lower in cancers, accompanied by decreased N6AMT1 and increased ALKBH1 levels, and downregulation of 6mA modification levels promoted tumorigenesis. Collectively, our results demonstrate that DNA 6mA modification is extensively present in human cells and the decrease of genomic DNA 6mA promotes human tumorigenesis. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

npInv: accurate detection and genotyping of inversions using long read sub-alignment.

Detection of genomic inversions remains challenging. Many existing methods primarily target inzversions with a non repetitive breakpoint, leaving inverted repeat (IR) mediated non-allelic homologous recombination (NAHR) inversions largely unexplored.We present npInv, a novel tool specifically for detecting and genotyping NAHR inversion using long read sub-alignment of long read sequencing data. We benchmark npInv with other tools in both simulation and real data. We use npInv to generate a whole-genome inversion map for NA12878 consisting of 30 NAHR inversions (of which 15 are novel), including all previously known NAHR mediated inversions in NA12878 with flanking IR less than 7kb. Our genotyping accuracy on this dataset was 94%. We used PCR to confirm the presence of two of these novel inversions. We show that there is a near linear relationship between the length of flanking IR and the minimum inversion size, without inverted repeats.The application of npInv shows high accuracy in both simulation and real data. The results give deeper insight into understanding inversion.


September 22, 2019  |  

Analysis of the draft genome of the red seaweed Gracilariopsis chorda provides insights into genome size evolution in Rhodophyta.

Red algae (Rhodophyta) underwent two phases of large-scale genome reduction during their early evolution. The red seaweeds did not attain genome sizes or gene inventories typical of other multicellular eukaryotes. We generated a high-quality 92.1 Mb draft genome assembly from the red seaweed Gracilariopsis chorda, including methylation and small (s)RNA data. We analyzed these and other Archaeplastida genomes to address three questions: 1) What is the role of repeats and transposable elements (TEs) in explaining Rhodophyta genome size variation, 2) what is the history of genome duplication and gene family expansion/reduction in these taxa, and 3) is there evidence for TE suppression in red algae? We find that the number of predicted genes in red algae is relatively small (4,803-13,125 genes), particularly when compared with land plants, with no evidence of polyploidization. Genome size variation is primarily explained by TE expansion with the red seaweeds having the largest genomes. Long terminal repeat elements and DNA repeats are the major contributors to genome size growth. About 8.3% of the G. chorda genome undergoes cytosine methylation among gene bodies, promoters, and TEs, and 71.5% of TEs contain methylated-DNA with 57% of these regions associated with sRNAs. These latter results suggest a role for TE-associated sRNAs in RNA-dependent DNA methylation to facilitate silencing. We postulate that the evolution of genome size in red algae is the result of the combined action of TE spread and the concomitant emergence of its epigenetic suppression, together with other important factors such as changes in population size.


September 22, 2019  |  

A synthetic-diploid benchmark for accurate variant-calling evaluation.

Existing benchmark datasets for use in evaluating variant-calling accuracy are constructed from a consensus of known short-variant callers, and they are thus biased toward easy regions that are accessible by these algorithms. We derived a new benchmark dataset from the de novo PacBio assemblies of two fully homozygous human cell lines, which provides a relatively more accurate and less biased estimate of small-variant-calling error rates in a realistic context.


September 22, 2019  |  

Creating a functional single-chromosome yeast.

Eukaryotic genomes are generally organized in multiple chromosomes. Here we have created a functional single-chromosome yeast from a Saccharomyces cerevisiae haploid cell containing sixteen linear chromosomes, by successive end-to-end chromosome fusions and centromere deletions. The fusion of sixteen native linear chromosomes into a single chromosome results in marked changes to the global three-dimensional structure of the chromosome due to the loss of all centromere-associated inter-chromosomal interactions, most telomere-associated inter-chromosomal interactions and 67.4% of intra-chromosomal interactions. However, the single-chromosome and wild-type yeast cells have nearly identical transcriptome and similar phenome profiles. The giant single chromosome can support cell life, although this strain shows reduced growth across environments, competitiveness, gamete production and viability. This synthetic biology study demonstrates an approach to exploration of eukaryote evolution with respect to chromosome structure and function.


September 22, 2019  |  

The hpRNA/RNAi pathway is essential to resolve intragenomic conflict in the Drosophila male germline.

Intragenomic conflicts are fueled by rapidly evolving selfish genetic elements, which induce selective pressures to innovate opposing repressive mechanisms. This is patently manifest in sex-ratio (SR) meiotic drive systems, in which distorter and suppressor factors bias and restore equal transmission of X and Y sperm. Here, we reveal that multiple SR suppressors in Drosophila simulans (Nmy and Tmy) encode related hairpin RNAs (hpRNAs), which generate endo-siRNAs that repress the paralogous distorters Dox and MDox. All components in this drive network are recently evolved and largely testis restricted. To connect SR hpRNA function to the RNAi pathway, we generated D. simulans null mutants of Dcr-2 and AGO2. Strikingly, these core RNAi knockouts massively derepress Dox and MDox and are in fact completely male sterile and exhibit highly defective spermatogenesis. Altogether, our data reveal how the adaptive capacity of hpRNAs is critically deployed to restrict selfish gonadal genetic systems that can exterminate a species. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genus-wide sequencing supports a two-locus model for sex-determination in Phoenix.

The date palm tree is a commercially important member of the genus Phoenix whose 14 species are dioecious with separate male and female individuals. To identify sex determining genes we sequenced the genomes of 15 female and 13 male Phoenix trees representing all 14 species. We identified male-specific sequences and extended them using phased single-molecule sequencing or BAC clones. We observed that only four genes contained sequences conserved in all analyzed Phoenix males. Most of these sequences showed similarity to a single genomic locus in the closely related monoecious oil palm. CYP703 and GPAT3, two single copy genes present in males and critical for male flower development in other monocots, were absent in females. A LOG-like gene appears translocated into the Y-linked region and is suggested to play a role in suppressing female flowers. Our data are consistent with a two-mutation model for the evolution of dioecy in Phoenix.


September 22, 2019  |  

Repeated inversions within a pannier intron drive diversification of intraspecific colour patterns of ladybird beetles.

How genetic information is modified to generate phenotypic variation within a species is one of the central questions in evolutionary biology. Here we focus on the striking intraspecific diversity of >200 aposematic elytral (forewing) colour patterns of the multicoloured Asian ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis, which is regulated by a tightly linked genetic locus h. Our loss-of-function analyses, genetic association studies, de novo genome assemblies, and gene expression data reveal that the GATA transcription factor gene pannier is the major regulatory gene located at the h locus, and suggest that repeated inversions and cis-regulatory modifications at pannier led to the expansion of colour pattern variation in H. axyridis. Moreover, we show that the colour-patterning function of pannier is conserved in the seven-spotted ladybird beetle, Coccinella septempunctata, suggesting that H. axyridis’ extraordinary intraspecific variation may have arisen from ancient modifications in conserved elytral colour-patterning mechanisms in ladybird beetles.


September 22, 2019  |  

De novo assembly, delivery and expression of a 101 kb human gene in mouse cells

Design and large-scale synthesis of DNA has been applied to the functional study of viral and microbial genomes. New and expanded technology development is required to unlock the transformative potential of such bottom-up approaches to the study of larger, mammalian genomes. Two major challenges include assembling and delivering long DNA sequences. Here we describe a pipeline for de novo DNA assembly and delivery that enables functional evaluation of mammalian genes on the length scale of 100 kb. The DNA assembly step is supported by an integrated robotic workcell. We assemble the 101 kb human HPRT1 gene in yeast, deliver it to mouse cells, and show expression of the human protein from its full-length gene. This pipeline provides a framework for producing systematic, designer variants of any mammalian gene locus for functional evaluation in cells.


September 22, 2019  |  

Convergent evolution of complex genomic rearrangements in two fungal meiotic drive elements.

Meiotic drive is widespread in nature. The conflict it generates is expected to be an important motor for evolutionary change and innovation. In this study, we investigated the genomic consequences of two large multi-gene meiotic drive elements, Sk-2 and Sk-3, found in the filamentous ascomycete Neurospora intermedia. Using long-read sequencing, we generated the first complete and well-annotated genome assemblies of large, highly diverged, non-recombining regions associated with meiotic drive elements. Phylogenetic analysis shows that, even though Sk-2 and Sk-3 are located in the same chromosomal region, they do not form sister clades, suggesting independent origins or at least a long evolutionary separation. We conclude that they have in a convergent manner accumulated similar patterns of tandem inversions and dense repeat clusters, presumably in response to similar needs to create linkage between genes causing drive and resistance.


September 22, 2019  |  

Computational tools to unmask transposable elements.

A substantial proportion of the genome of many species is derived from transposable elements (TEs). Moreover, through various self-copying mechanisms, TEs continue to proliferate in the genomes of most species. TEs have contributed numerous regulatory, transcript and protein innovations and have also been linked to disease. However, notwithstanding their demonstrated impact, many genomic studies still exclude them because their repetitive nature results in various analytical complexities. Fortunately, a growing array of methods and software tools are being developed to cater for them. This Review presents a summary of computational resources for TEs and highlights some of the challenges and remaining gaps to perform comprehensive genomic analyses that do not simply ‘mask’ repeats.


September 22, 2019  |  

Growth factor gene IGF1 is associated with bill size in the black-bellied seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus.

Pyrenestes finches are unique among birds in showing a non-sex-determined polymorphism in bill size and are considered a textbook example of disruptive selection. Morphs breed randomly with respect to bill size, and differ in diet and feeding performance relative to seed hardness. Previous breeding experiments are consistent with the polymorphism being controlled by a single genetic factor. Here, we use genome-wide pooled sequencing to explore the underlying genetic basis of bill morphology and identify a single candidate region. Targeted resequencing reveals extensive linkage disequilibrium across a 300?Kb region containing the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) gene, with a single 5-million-year-old haplotype associating with phenotypic dominance of the large-billed morph. We find no genetic similarities controlling bill size in the well-studied Darwin’s finches (Geospiza). Our results show how a single genetic factor may control bill size and provide a foundation for future studies to examine this phenomenon within and among avian species.


September 22, 2019  |  

Unexpected patterns of segregation distortion at a selfish supergene in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta.

The Sb supergene in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta determines the form of colony social organization, with colonies whose inhabitants bear the element containing multiple reproductive queens and colonies lacking it containing only a single queen. Several features of this supergene – including suppressed recombination, presence of deleterious mutations, association with a large centromere, and “green-beard” behavior – suggest that it may be a selfish genetic element that engages in transmission ratio distortion (TRD), defined as significant departures in progeny allele frequencies from Mendelian inheritance ratios. We tested this possibility by surveying segregation ratios in embryo progenies of 101 queens of the “polygyne” social form (3512 embryos) using three supergene-linked markers and twelve markers outside the supergene.Significant departures from Mendelian ratios were observed at the supergene loci in 3-5 times more progenies than expected in the absence of TRD and than found, on average, among non-supergene loci. Also, supergene loci displayed the greatest mean deviations from Mendelian ratios among all study loci, although these typically were modest. A surprising feature of the observed inter-progeny variation in TRD was that significant deviations involved not only excesses of supergene alleles but also similarly frequent excesses of the alternate alleles on the homologous chromosome. As expected given the common occurrence of such “drive reversal” in this system, alleles associated with the supergene gain no consistent transmission advantage over their alternate alleles at the population level. Finally, we observed low levels of recombination and incomplete gametic disequilibrium across the supergene, including between adjacent markers within a single inversion.Our data confirm the prediction that the Sb supergene is a selfish genetic element capable of biasing its own transmission during reproduction, yet counterselection for suppressor loci evidently has produced an evolutionary stalemate in TRD between the variant homologous haplotypes on the “social chromosome”. Evidence implicates prezygotic segregation distortion as responsible for the TRD we document, with “true” meiotic drive the most likely mechanism. Low levels of recombination and incomplete gametic disequilibrium across the supergene suggest that selection does not preserve a single uniform supergene haplotype responsible for inducing polygyny.


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