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Inference of Gene Flow in the Process of Speciation: An Efficient Maximum-Likelihood Method for the Isolation-with-Initial-Migration Model [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

The isolation-with-migration (IM) model is commonly used to make inferences about gene flow during speciation, using polymorphism data. However, it has been reported that the parameter estimates obtained by fitting the IM model are very sensitive to the model’s assumptions—including the assumption of constant gene flow until the present. This article is concerned with the isolation-with-initial-migration (IIM) model, which drops precisely this assumption. In the IIM model, one ancestral population divides into two descendant subpopulations, between which there is an initial period of gene flow and a subsequent period of isolation. We derive a very fast method of fitting an extended version of the IIM model, which also allows for asymmetric gene flow and unequal population sizes. This is a maximum-likelihood method, applicable to data on the number of segregating sites between pairs of DNA sequences from a large number of independent loci. In addition to obtaining parameter estimates, our method can also be used, by means of likelihood-ratio tests, to distinguish between alternative models representing the following divergence scenarios: (a) divergence with potentially asymmetric gene flow until the present, (b) divergence with potentially asymmetric gene flow until some point in the past and in isolation since then, and (c) divergence in complete isolation. We illustrate the procedure on pairs of Drosophila sequences from ~30,000 loci. The computing time needed to fit the most complex version of the model to this data set is only a couple of minutes. The R code to fit the IIM model can be found in the supplementary files of this article.

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Role of Ectopic Gene Conversion in the Evolution of a Candida krusei Pleiotropic Drug Resistance Transporter Family [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Gene duplications enable the evolution of novel gene function, but strong positive selection is required to preserve advantageous mutations in a population. This is because frequent ectopic gene conversions (EGCs) between highly similar, tandem-duplicated, sequences, can rapidly remove fate-determining mutations by replacing them with the neighboring parent gene sequences. Unfortunately, the high sequence similarities between tandem-duplicated genes severely hamper empirical studies of this important evolutionary process, because deciphering their correct sequences is challenging. In this study, we employed the eukaryotic model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae to clone and functionally characterize all 30 alleles of an important pair of tandem-duplicated multidrug efflux pump genes, ABC1 and ABC11, from seven strains of the diploid pathogenic yeast Candida krusei. Discovery and functional characterization of their closest ancestor, C. krusei ABC12, helped elucidate the evolutionary history of the entire gene family. Our data support the proposal that the pleiotropic drug resistance (PDR) transporters Abc1p and Abc11p have evolved by concerted evolution for ~134 MY. While >90% of their sequences remained identical, very strong purifying selection protected six short DNA patches encoding just 18 core amino acid (aa) differences in particular trans membrane span (TMS) regions causing two distinct efflux pump functions. A proline-kink change at the bottom of Abc11p TMS3 was possibly fate determining. Our data also enabled the first empirical estimates for key parameters of eukaryotic gene evolution, they provided rare examples of intron loss, and PDR transporter phylogeny confirmed that C. krusei belongs to a novel, yet unnamed, third major Saccharomycotina lineage.

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Mobile Introns Shape the Genetic Diversity of Their Host Genes [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Self-splicing introns populate several highly conserved protein-coding genes in fungal and plant mitochondria. In fungi, many of these introns have retained their ability to spread to intron-free target sites, often assisted by intron-encoded endonucleases that initiate the homing process. Here, leveraging population genomic data from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and Lachancea kluyveri, we expose nonrandom patterns of genetic diversity in exons that border self-splicing introns. In particular, we show that, in all three species, the density of single nucleotide polymorphisms increases as one approaches a mobile intron. Through multiple lines of evidence, we rule out relaxed purifying selection as the cause of uneven nucleotide diversity. Instead, our findings implicate intron mobility as a direct driver of host gene diversity. We discuss two mechanistic scenarios that are consistent with the data: either endonuclease activity and subsequent error-prone repair have left a mutational footprint on the insertion environment of mobile introns or nonrandom patterns of genetic diversity are caused by exonic coconversion, which occurs when introns spread to empty target sites via homologous recombination. Importantly, however, we show that exonic coconversion can only explain diversity gradients near intron–exon boundaries if the conversion template comes from outside the population. In other words, there must be pervasive and ongoing horizontal gene transfer of self-splicing introns into extant fungal populations.

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X-Chromosome Control of Genome-Scale Recombination Rates in House Mice [Genetics of Complex Traits]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Sex differences in recombination are widespread in mammals, but the causes of this pattern are poorly understood. Previously, males from two interfertile subspecies of house mice, Mus musculus musculus and M. m. castaneus, were shown to exhibit a ~30% difference in their global crossover frequencies. Much of this crossover rate divergence is explained by six autosomal loci and a large-effect locus on the X chromosome. Intriguingly, the allelic effects at this X-linked locus are transgressive, with the allele conferring increased crossover rate being transmitted by the low crossover rate M. m. castaneus parent. Despite the pronounced divergence between males, females from these subspecies exhibit similar crossover rates, raising the question of how recombination is genetically controlled in this sex. Here, I analyze publicly available genotype data from early generations of the Collaborative Cross, an eight-way panel of recombinant inbred strains, to estimate crossover frequencies in female mice with sex-chromosome genotypes of diverse subspecific origins. Consistent with the transgressive influence of the X chromosome in males, I show that females inheriting an M. m. castaneus X possess higher average crossover rates than females lacking the M. m. castaneus X chromosome. The differential inheritance of the X chromosome in males and females provides a simple genetic explanation for sex-limited evolution of this trait. Further, the presence of X-linked and autosomal crossover rate modifiers with antagonistic effects hints at an underlying genetic conflict fueled by selection for distinct crossover rate optima in males and females.

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Wheat Landrace Genome Diversity [Genetics of Complex Traits]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Understanding the genomic complexity of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is a cornerstone in the quest to unravel the processes of domestication and the following adaptation of domesticated wheat to a wide variety of environments across the globe. Additionally, it is of importance for future improvement of the crop, particularly in the light of climate change. Focusing on the adaptation after domestication, a nested association mapping (NAM) panel of 60 segregating biparental populations was developed, mainly involving landrace accessions from the core set of the Watkins hexaploid wheat collection optimized for genetic diversity. A modern spring elite variety, "Paragon," was used as common reference parent. Genetic maps were constructed following identical rules to make them comparable. In total, 1611 linkage groups were identified, based on recombination from an estimated 126,300 crossover events over the whole NAM panel. A consensus map, named landrace consensus map (LRC), was constructed and contained 2498 genetic loci. These newly developed genetics tools were used to investigate the rules underlying genome fluidity or rigidity, e.g., by comparing marker distances and marker orders. In general, marker order was highly correlated, which provides support for strong synteny between bread wheat accessions. However, many exceptional cases of incongruent linkage groups and increased marker distances were also found. Segregation distortion was detected for many markers, sometimes as hot spots present in different populations. Furthermore, evidence for translocations in at least 36 of the maps was found. These translocations fell, in general, into many different translocation classes, but a few translocation classes were found in several accessions, the most frequent one being the well-known T5B:7B translocation. Loci involved in recombination rate, which is an interesting trait for plant breeding, were identified by QTL analyses using the crossover counts as a trait. In total, 114 significant QTL were detected, nearly half of them with increasing effect from the nonreference parents.

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Elevated Rate of Genome Rearrangements in Radiation-Resistant Bacteria [Genome and Systems Biology]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

A number of bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic species are known for their resistance to ionizing radiation. One of the challenges these species face is a potent environmental source of DNA double-strand breaks, potential drivers of genome structure evolution. Efficient and accurate DNA double-strand break repair systems have been demonstrated in several unrelated radiation-resistant species and are putative adaptations to the DNA damaging environment. Such adaptations are expected to compensate for the genome-destabilizing effect of environmental DNA damage and may be expected to result in a more conserved gene order in radiation-resistant species. However, here we show that rates of genome rearrangements, measured as loss of gene order conservation with time, are higher in radiation-resistant species in multiple, phylogenetically independent groups of bacteria. Comparison of indicators of selection for genome organization between radiation-resistant and phylogenetically matched, nonresistant species argues against tolerance to disruption of genome structure as a strategy for radiation resistance. Interestingly, an important mechanism affecting genome rearrangements in prokaryotes, the symmetrical inversions around the origin of DNA replication, shapes genome structure of both radiation-resistant and nonresistant species. In conclusion, the opposing effects of environmental DNA damage and DNA repair result in elevated rates of genome rearrangements in radiation-resistant bacteria.

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Corrigendum [Corrigendum]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm
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ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS [Issue Highlights]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm
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The Evolving Definition of the Term "Gene" [Perspectives]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

This paper presents a history of the changing meanings of the term "gene," over more than a century, and a discussion of why this word, so crucial to genetics, needs redefinition today. In this account, the first two phases of 20th century genetics are designated the "classical" and the "neoclassical" periods, and the current molecular-genetic era the "modern period." While the first two stages generated increasing clarity about the nature of the gene, the present period features complexity and confusion. Initially, the term "gene" was coined to denote an abstract "unit of inheritance," to which no specific material attributes were assigned. As the classical and neoclassical periods unfolded, the term became more concrete, first as a dimensionless point on a chromosome, then as a linear segment within a chromosome, and finally as a linear segment in the DNA molecule that encodes a polypeptide chain. This last definition, from the early 1960s, remains the one employed today, but developments since the 1970s have undermined its generality. Indeed, they raise questions about both the utility of the concept of a basic "unit of inheritance" and the long implicit belief that genes are autonomous agents. Here, we review findings that have made the classic molecular definition obsolete and propose a new one based on contemporary knowledge.

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Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy: Are Mito-nuclear Interactions Likely To Be a Problem? [Review]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

It has been suggested that deleterious interactions between the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes could pose a problem for mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT). This is because the mitochondrial genome is placed in a novel nuclear environment using this technique. In contrast, it is inherited with half the mother’s genome during normal reproduction, a genome that it is relatively compatible with, since the mother is alive. Here, I review the evidence of whether mito-nuclear interactions are likely to pose a problem for MRT. The majority of the available experimental evidence, both in humans and other species, suggests that MRT is not harmful. These results are consistent with population genetic theory, which predicts that deleterious mito-nuclear interactions are unlikely to be much more prevalent in individuals born to MRT than normal reproduction, particularly in a species such as humans with low population differentiation. This is because selection is unlikely to be strong enough to establish significant linkage disequilibrium between the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. These results are supported by a meta-analysis of 231 cases, from a variety of animals, in which the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from one strain has been introgressed into the nuclear background of another strain of the same species. Overall, there is little tendency for introgression of mtDNA to be harmful.

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Circadian Rhythms and Sleep in Drosophila melanogaster [Nervous System and Behaviour]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

The advantages of the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, including low genetic redundancy, functional simplicity, and the ability to conduct large-scale genetic screens, have been essential for understanding the molecular nature of circadian (~24 hr) rhythms, and continue to be valuable in discovering novel regulators of circadian rhythms and sleep. In this review, we discuss the current understanding of these interrelated biological processes in Drosophila and the wider implications of this research. Clock genes period and timeless were first discovered in large-scale Drosophila genetic screens developed in the 1970s. Feedback of period and timeless on their own transcription forms the core of the molecular clock, and accurately timed expression, localization, post-transcriptional modification, and function of these genes is thought to be critical for maintaining the circadian cycle. Regulators, including several phosphatases and kinases, act on different steps of this feedback loop to ensure strong and accurately timed rhythms. Approximately 150 neurons in the fly brain that contain the core components of the molecular clock act together to translate this intracellular cycling into rhythmic behavior. We discuss how different groups of clock neurons serve different functions in allowing clocks to entrain to environmental cues, driving behavioral outputs at different times of day, and allowing flexible behavioral responses in different environmental conditions. The neuropeptide PDF provides an important signal thought to synchronize clock neurons, although the details of how PDF accomplishes this function are still being explored. Secreted signals from clock neurons also influence rhythms in other tissues. SLEEP is, in part, regulated by the circadian clock, which ensures appropriate timing of sleep, but the amount and quality of sleep are also determined by other mechanisms that ensure a homeostatic balance between sleep and wake. Flies have been useful for identifying a large set of genes, molecules, and neuroanatomic loci important for regulating sleep amount. Conserved aspects of sleep regulation in flies and mammals include wake-promoting roles for catecholamine neurotransmitters and involvement of hypothalamus-like regions, although other neuroanatomic regions implicated in sleep in flies have less clear parallels. Sleep is also subject to regulation by factors such as food availability, stress, and social environment. We are beginning to understand how the identified molecules and neurons interact with each other, and with the environment, to regulate sleep. Drosophila researchers can also take advantage of increasing mechanistic understanding of other behaviors, such as learning and memory, courtship, and aggression, to understand how sleep loss impacts these behaviors. Flies thus remain a valuable tool for both discovery of novel molecules and deep mechanistic understanding of sleep and circadian rhythms.

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Second-Generation Drosophila Chemical Tags: Sensitivity, Versatility, and Speed [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Labeling and visualizing cells and subcellular structures within thick tissues, whole organs, and even intact animals is key to studying biological processes. This is particularly true for studies of neural circuits where neurons form submicron synapses but have arbors that may span millimeters in length. Traditionally, labeling is achieved by immunofluorescence; however, diffusion of antibody molecules (>100 kDa) is slow and often results in uneven labeling with very poor penetration into the center of thick specimens; these limitations can be partially addressed by extending staining protocols to over a week (Drosophila brain) and months (mice). Recently, we developed an alternative approach using genetically encoded chemical tags CLIP, SNAP, Halo, and TMP for tissue labeling; this resulted in >100-fold increase in labeling speed in both mice and Drosophila, at the expense of a considerable drop in absolute sensitivity when compared to optimized immunofluorescence staining. We now present a second generation of UAS- and LexA-responsive CLIPf, SNAPf, and Halo chemical labeling reagents for flies. These multimerized tags, with translational enhancers, display up to 64-fold increase in sensitivity over first-generation reagents. In addition, we developed a suite of conditional reporters (4xSNAPf tag and CLIPf-SNAPf-Halo2) that are activated by the DNA recombinase Bxb1. Our new reporters can be used with weak and strong GAL4 and LexA drivers and enable stochastic, intersectional, and multicolor Brainbow labeling. These improvements in sensitivity and experimental versatility, while still retaining the substantial speed advantage that is a signature of chemical labeling, should significantly increase the scope of this technology.

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The Predicted Cross Value for Genetic Introgression of Multiple Alleles [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

We consider the plant genetic improvement challenge of introgressing multiple alleles from a homozygous donor to a recipient. First, we frame the project as an algorithmic process that can be mathematically formulated. We then introduce a novel metric for selecting breeding parents that we refer to as the predicted cross value (PCV). Unlike estimated breeding values, which represent predictions of general combining ability, the PCV predicts specific combining ability. The PCV takes estimates of recombination frequencies as an input vector and calculates the probability that a pair of parents will produce a gamete with desirable alleles at all specified loci. We compared the PCV approach with existing estimated-breeding-value approaches in two simulation experiments, in which 7 and 20 desirable alleles were to be introgressed from a donor line into a recipient line. Results suggest that the PCV is more efficient and effective for multi-allelic trait introgression. We also discuss how operations research can be used for other crop genetic improvement projects and suggest several future research directions.

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Genomic Rearrangements in Arabidopsis Considered as Quantitative Traits [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

To understand the population genetics of structural variants and their effects on phenotypes, we developed an approach to mapping structural variants that segregate in a population sequenced at low coverage. We avoid calling structural variants directly. Instead, the evidence for a potential structural variant at a locus is indicated by variation in the counts of short-reads that map anomalously to that locus. These structural variant traits are treated as quantitative traits and mapped genetically, analogously to a gene expression study. Association between a structural variant trait at one locus, and genotypes at a distant locus indicate the origin and target of a transposition. Using ultra-low-coverage (0.3x) population sequence data from 488 recombinant inbred Arabidopsis thaliana genomes, we identified 6502 segregating structural variants. Remarkably, 25% of these were transpositions. While many structural variants cannot be delineated precisely, we validated 83% of 44 predicted transposition breakpoints by polymerase chain reaction. We show that specific structural variants may be causative for quantitative trait loci for germination and resistance to infection by the fungus Albugo laibachii, isolate Nc14. Further we show that the phenotypic heritability attributable to read-mapping anomalies differs from, and, in the case of time to germination and bolting, exceeds that due to standard genetic variation. Genes within structural variants are also more likely to be silenced or dysregulated. This approach complements the prevalent strategy of structural variant discovery in fewer individuals sequenced at high coverage. It is generally applicable to large populations sequenced at low-coverage, and is particularly suited to mapping transpositions.

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A Bayesian Approach for Analysis of Whole-Genome Bisulfite Sequencing Data Identifies Disease-Associated Changes in DNA Methylation [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

DNA methylation is a key epigenetic modification involved in gene regulation whose contribution to disease susceptibility remains to be fully understood. Here, we present a novel Bayesian smoothing approach (called ABBA) to detect differentially methylated regions (DMRs) from whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS). We also show how this approach can be leveraged to identify disease-associated changes in DNA methylation, suggesting mechanisms through which these alterations might affect disease. From a data modeling perspective, ABBA has the distinctive feature of automatically adapting to different correlation structures in CpG methylation levels across the genome while taking into account the distance between CpG sites as a covariate. Our simulation study shows that ABBA has greater power to detect DMRs than existing methods, providing an accurate identification of DMRs in the large majority of simulated cases. To empirically demonstrate the method’s efficacy in generating biological hypotheses, we performed WGBS of primary macrophages derived from an experimental rat system of glomerulonephritis and used ABBA to identify >1000 disease-associated DMRs. Investigation of these DMRs revealed differential DNA methylation localized to a 600 bp region in the promoter of the Ifitm3 gene. This was confirmed by ChIP-seq and RNA-seq analyses, showing differential transcription factor binding at the Ifitm3 promoter by JunD (an established determinant of glomerulonephritis), and a consistent change in Ifitm3 expression. Our ABBA analysis allowed us to propose a new role for Ifitm3 in the pathogenesis of glomerulonephritis via a mechanism involving promoter hypermethylation that is associated with Ifitm3 repression in the rat strain susceptible to glomerulonephritis.

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Mismatch Repair Incompatibilities in Diverse Yeast Populations [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

An elevated mutation rate can provide cells with a source of mutations to adapt to changing environments. We identified a negative epistatic interaction involving naturally occurring variants in the MLH1 and PMS1 mismatch repair (MMR) genes of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We hypothesized that this MMR incompatibility, created through mating between divergent S. cerevisiae, yields mutator progeny that can rapidly but transiently adapt to an environmental stress. Here we analyzed the MLH1 and PMS1 genes across 1010 S. cerevisiae natural isolates spanning a wide range of ecological sources (tree exudates, Drosophila, fruits, and various fermentation and clinical isolates) and geographical sources (Europe, America, Africa, and Asia). We identified one homozygous clinical isolate and 18 heterozygous isolates containing the incompatible MMR genotype. The MLH1–PMS1 gene combination isolated from the homozygous clinical isolate conferred a mutator phenotype when expressed in the S288c laboratory background. Using a novel reporter to measure mutation rates, we showed that the overall mutation rate in the homozygous incompatible background was similar to that seen in compatible strains, indicating the presence of suppressor mutations in the clinical isolate that lowered its mutation rate. This observation and the identification of 18 heterozygous isolates, which can lead to MMR incompatible genotypes in the offspring, are consistent with an elevated mutation rate rapidly but transiently facilitating adaptation. To avoid long-term fitness costs, the incompatibility is apparently buffered by mating or by acquiring suppressors. These observations highlight effective strategies in eukaryotes to avoid long-term fitness costs associated with elevated mutation rates.

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Reliance of Wolbachia on High Rates of Host Proteolysis Revealed by a Genome-Wide RNAi Screen of Drosophila Cells [Cellular Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Wolbachia are gram-negative, obligate, intracellular bacteria carried by a majority of insect species worldwide. Here we use a Wolbachia-infected Drosophila cell line and genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screening to identify host factors that influence Wolbachia titer. By screening an RNAi library targeting 15,699 transcribed host genes, we identified 36 candidate genes that dramatically reduced Wolbachia titer and 41 that increased Wolbachia titer. Host gene knockdowns that reduced Wolbachia titer spanned a broad array of biological pathways including genes that influenced mitochondrial function and lipid metabolism. In addition, knockdown of seven genes in the host ubiquitin and proteolysis pathways significantly reduced Wolbachia titer. To test the in vivo relevance of these results, we found that drug and mutant inhibition of proteolysis reduced levels of Wolbachia in the Drosophila oocyte. The presence of Wolbachia in either cell lines or oocytes dramatically alters the distribution and abundance of ubiquitinated proteins. Functional studies revealed that maintenance of Wolbachia titer relies on an intact host Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)-associated protein degradation pathway (ERAD). Accordingly, electron microscopy studies demonstrated that Wolbachia is intimately associated with the host ER and dramatically alters the morphology of this organelle. Given Wolbachia lack essential amino acid biosynthetic pathways, the reliance of Wolbachia on high rates of host proteolysis via ubiquitination and the ERAD pathways may be a key mechanism for provisioning Wolbachia with amino acids. In addition, the reliance of Wolbachia on the ERAD pathway and disruption of ER morphology suggests a previously unsuspected mechanism for Wolbachias potent ability to prevent RNA virus replication.

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Editing of Mitochondrial Transcripts nad3 and cox2 by Dek10 Is Essential for Mitochondrial Function and Maize Plant Development [Cellular Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Respiration, the core of mitochondrial metabolism, depends on the function of five respiratory complexes. Many respiratory chain-related proteins are encoded by the mitochondrial genome and their RNAs undergo post-transcriptional modifications by nuclear genome-expressed factors, including pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins. Maize defective kernel 10 (dek10) is a classic mutant with small kernels and delayed development. Through positional cloning, we found that Dek10 encodes an E-subgroup PPR protein localized in mitochondria. Sequencing analysis indicated that Dek10 is responsible for the C-to-U editing at nad3-61, nad3-62, and cox2-550 sites, which are specific editing sites in monocots. The defects of these editing sites result in significant reduction of Nad3 and the loss of Cox2. Interestingly, the assembly of complex I was not reduced, but its NADH dehydrogenase activity was greatly decreased. The assembly of complex IV was significantly reduced. Transcriptome and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis revealed that proper editing of nad3 and cox2 is critical for mitochondrial functions, biogenesis, and morphology. These results indicate that the E-subgroup PPR protein Dek10 is responsible for multiple editing sites in nad3 and cox2, which are essential for mitochondrial functions and plant development in maize.

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Endogenous RNAi Pathways Are Required in Neurons for Dauer Formation in Caenorhabditis elegans [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

Animals can adapt to unfavorable environments through changes in physiology or behavior. In the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, environmental conditions perceived early in development determine whether the animal enters either the reproductive cycle, or enters into an alternative diapause stage named dauer. Here, we show that endogenous RNAi pathways play a role in dauer formation in crowding (high pheromone), starvation, and high temperature conditions. Disruption of the Mutator proteins or the nuclear Argonaute CSR-1 result in differential dauer-deficient phenotypes that are dependent upon the experienced environmental stress. We provide evidence that the RNAi pathways function in chemosensory neurons for dauer formation, upstream of the TGF-β and insulin signaling pathways. In addition, we show that Mutator MUT-16 expression in a subset of individual pheromone-sensing neurons is sufficient for dauer formation in high pheromone conditions, but not in starvation or high temperature conditions. Furthermore, we also show that MUT-16 and CSR-1 are required for expression of a subset of G proteins with functions in the detection of pheromone components. Together, our data suggest a model where Mutator-amplified siRNAs that associate with the CSR-1 pathway promote expression of genes required for the detection and signaling of environmental conditions to regulate development and behavior in C. elegans. This study highlights a mechanism whereby RNAi pathways mediate the link between environmental stress and adaptive phenotypic plasticity in animals.

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Studies of an Androgen-Binding Protein Knockout Corroborate a Role for Salivary ABP in Mouse Communication [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

March 30, 2017 - 12:52pm

The house mouse Androgen-binding protein (Abp) gene family is comprised of 64 paralogs, 30 Abpa and 34 Abpbg, encoding the alpha (ABPA) and beta-gamma (ABPBG) protein subunits that are disulfide-bridged to form dimers in secretions. Only 14 Abp genes are expressed in distinct patterns in the lacrimal (11) and submandibular glands (3). We created a knockout mouse line lacking two of the three genes expressed in submandibular glands, Abpa27 and Abpbg27, by replacing them with the neomycin resistance gene. The knockout genotype (–/–) showed no Abpa27 or Abpbg27 transcripts in submandibular gland complementary DNA (cDNA) libraries and there was a concomitant lack of protein expression of ABPA27 and ABPBG27 in the –/– genotype saliva, shown by elimination of these two proteins from the saliva proteome and the loss of cross-reactive material in the acinar cells of the submandibular glands. We also observed a decrease in BG26 protein in the –/– animals, suggesting monomer instability. Overall, we observed no major phenotypic changes in the –/– genotype, compared with their +/+ and +/– siblings raised in a laboratory setting, including normal growth curves, tissue histology, fecundity, and longevity. The only difference is that male and female C57BL/6 mice preferred saliva of the opposite sex containing ABP statistically significantly more than saliva of the opposite sex without ABP in a Y-maze test. These results show for the first time that mice can sense the presence of ABP between saliva targets with and without ABPs, and that they spend more time investigating the target containing ABP.

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