Using gene map science to evaluate the genetic map and eliminate disease

Genetic News


Lineage specification in early development is the basis for the exquisitely precise body plan of multicellular organisms. It is therefore critical to understand cell fate decisions in early development. Moreover, for regenerative medicine, the accurate specification of cell types to replace damaged/diseased tissue is strongly dependent on identifying determinants of cell identity. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been shown to regulate cellular plasticity, including pluripotency establishment and maintenance, differentiation and development, yet broad phenotypic analysis and the mechanistic basis of their function remains lacking. As components of molecular condensates, lncRNAs interact with almost all classes of cellular biomolecules, including proteins, DNA, mRNAs, and microRNAs. With functions ranging from controlling alternative splicing of mRNAs, to providing scaffolding upon which chromatin modifiers are assembled, it is clear that at least a subset of lncRNAs are far from the transcriptional noise they were once deemed. This review highlights the diversity of lncRNA interactions in the context of cell fate specification, and provides examples of each type of interaction in relevant developmental contexts. Also highlighted are experimental and computational approaches to study lncRNAs.


The Drosophila embryonic central nervous system (CNS) is a complex organ consisting of ~15,000 neurons and glia that is generated in ~1 day of development. For the past 40 years, Drosophila developmental neuroscientists have described each step of CNS development in precise molecular genetic detail. This has led to an understanding of how an intricate nervous system emerges from a single cell. These studies have also provided important, new concepts in developmental biology, and provided an essential model for understanding similar processes in other organisms. In this article, the key genes that guide Drosophila CNS development and how they function is reviewed. Features of CNS development covered in this review are neurogenesis, gliogenesis, cell fate specification, and differentiation.


Stem cell systems regulate tissue development and maintenance. The germline stem cell system is essential for animal reproduction, controlling both the timing and number of progeny through its influence on gamete production. In this review, we first draw general comparisons to stem cell systems in other organisms, and then present our current understanding of the germline stem cell system in Caenorhabditis elegans. In contrast to stereotypic somatic development and cell number stasis of adult somatic cells in C. elegans, the germline stem cell system has a variable division pattern, and the system differs between larval development, early adult peak reproduction and age-related decline. We discuss the cell and developmental biology of the stem cell system and the Notch regulated genetic network that controls the key decision between the stem cell fate and meiotic development, as it occurs under optimal laboratory conditions in adult and larval stages. We then discuss alterations of the stem cell system in response to environmental perturbations and aging. A recurring distinction is between processes that control stem cell fate and those that control cell cycle regulation. C. elegans is a powerful model for understanding germline stem cells and stem cell biology.


Model organisms are essential experimental platforms for discovering gene functions, defining protein and genetic networks, uncovering functional consequences of human genome variation, and for modeling human disease. For decades, researchers who use model organisms have relied on Model Organism Databases (MODs) and the Gene Ontology Consortium (GOC) for expertly curated annotations, and for access to integrated genomic and biological information obtained from the scientific literature and public data archives. Through the development and enforcement of data and semantic standards, these genome resources provide rapid access to the collected knowledge of model organisms in human readable and computation-ready formats that would otherwise require countless hours for individual researchers to assemble on their own. Since their inception, the MODs for the predominant biomedical model organisms [Mus sp. (laboratory mouse), Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, Danio rerio, and Rattus norvegicus] along with the GOC have operated as a network of independent, highly collaborative genome resources. In 2016, these six MODs and the GOC joined forces as the Alliance of Genome Resources (the Alliance). By implementing shared programmatic access methods and data-specific web pages with a unified "look and feel," the Alliance is tackling barriers that have limited the ability of researchers to easily compare common data types and annotations across model organisms. To adapt to the rapidly changing landscape for evaluating and funding core data resources, the Alliance is building a modern, extensible, and operationally efficient "knowledge commons" for model organisms using shared, modular infrastructure.


Genetic reporters such as the green fluorescent protein (GFP) can facilitate measurement of promoter activity and gene expression. However, animal autofluorescence limits the sensitivity of GFP and other fluorescent reporters in whole-animal settings like in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we present a highly sensitive Nanoluciferase (NanoLuc)-based method in a multiwell format to detect constitutive and inducible gene expression in C. elegans. We optimize detection of bioluminescent signals from NanoLuc in C. elegans and show that it can be detected at 400,000-fold over background in a population of 100 animals expressing intestinal NanoLuc driven by the vha-6 promoter. We can reliably detect signal in single vha-6p::Nanoluc-expressing worms from all developmental stages. Furthermore, we can detect signal from a 1/100 dilution of lysate from a single vha-6p::Nanoluc-expressing adult and from a single vha-6p::Nanoluc-expressing adult "hidden" in a pool of 5000 N2 wild-type animals. We also optimize various steps of this protocol, which involves a lysis step that can be performed in minutes. As a proof-of-concept, we used NanoLuc to monitor the promoter activity of the pals-5 stress/immune reporter and were able to measure 300- and 50-fold increased NanoLuc activity after proteasome blockade and infection with microsporidia, respectively. Altogether, these results indicate that NanoLuc provides a highly sensitive genetic reporter for rapidly monitoring whole-animal gene expression in C. elegans.


Gaussian process (GP)-based automatic relevance determination (ARD) is known to be an efficient technique for identifying determinants of gene-by-gene interactions important to trait variation. However, the estimation of GP models is feasible only for low-dimensional datasets (~200 variables), which severely limits application of the GP-based ARD method for high-throughput sequencing data. In this paper, we provide a nonparametric prescreening method that preserves virtually all the major benefits of the GP-based ARD method and extends its scalability to the typical high-dimensional datasets used in practice. In several simulated test scenarios, the proposed method compared favorably with existing nonparametric dimension reduction/prescreening methods suitable for higher-order interaction searches. As a real-data example, the proposed method was applied to a high-throughput dataset downloaded from the cancer genome atlas (TCGA) with measured expression levels of 16,976 genes (after preprocessing) from patients diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.


Longitudinal phenotypes have been increasingly available in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and electronic health record-based studies for identification of genetic variants that influence complex traits over time. For longitudinal binary data, there remain significant challenges in gene mapping, including misspecification of the model for phenotype distribution due to ascertainment. Here, we propose L-BRAT (Longitudinal Binary-trait Retrospective Association Test), a retrospective, generalized estimating equation-based method for genetic association analysis of longitudinal binary outcomes. We also develop RGMMAT, a retrospective, generalized linear mixed model-based association test. Both tests are retrospective score approaches in which genotypes are treated as random conditional on phenotype and covariates. They allow both static and time-varying covariates to be included in the analysis. Through simulations, we illustrated that retrospective association tests are robust to ascertainment and other types of phenotype model misspecification, and gain power over previous association methods. We applied L-BRAT and RGMMAT to a genome-wide association analysis of repeated measures of cocaine use in a longitudinal cohort. Pathway analysis implicated association with opioid signaling and axonal guidance signaling pathways. Lastly, we replicated important pathways in an independent cocaine dependence case-control GWAS. Our results illustrate that L-BRAT is able to detect important loci and pathways in a genome scan and to provide insights into genetic architecture of cocaine use.


Introgression of alleles from wild relatives has often been adaptive in plant breeding. However, the significance of historical hybridization events in modern breeding is often not clear. Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is among the most important staple foods in the world, sustaining hundreds of millions of people in the tropics, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Widespread genotyping makes cassava a model for clonally propagated root and tuber crops in the developing world, and provides an opportunity to study the modern benefits and consequences of historical introgression. We detected large introgressed Manihot glaziovii genome-segments in a collection of 2742 modern cassava landraces and elite germplasm, the legacy of a 1930s era breeding to combat disease epidemics. African landraces and improved varieties were, on average, 3.8% (max 13.6%) introgressed. Introgressions accounted for a significant (mean 20%, max 56%) portion of the heritability of tested traits. M. glaziovii alleles on the distal 10 Mb of chr. 1 increased dry matter and root number. On chr. 4, introgressions in a 20 Mb region improved harvest index and brown streak disease tolerance. We observed the introgression frequency on chr. 1 double over three cycles of selection, and that later stage trials selectively excluded homozygotes from consideration as varieties. This indicates a heterozygous advantage of introgressions. However, we also found that maintaining large recombination-suppressed introgressions in the heterozygous state allowed the accumulation of deleterious mutations. We conclude that targeted recombination of introgressions would increase the efficiency of cassava breeding by allowing simultaneous fixation of beneficial alleles and purging of genetic load.


The number and distribution of meiotic crossovers (COs) are highly regulated, reflecting the requirement for COs during the first round of meiotic chromosome segregation. CO control includes CO assurance and CO interference, which promote at least one CO per chromosome bivalent and evenly-spaced COs, respectively. Previous studies revealed a role for the DNA damage response (DDR) clamp and the clamp loader in CO formation by promoting interfering COs and interhomolog recombination, and also by suppressing ectopic recombination. In this study, we use classical tetrad analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to show that a mutant defective in RAD24, which encodes the DDR clamp loader (RAD17 in other organisms), displayed reduced CO frequencies on two shorter chromosomes (III and V), but not on a long chromosome (chromosome VII). The residual COs in the rad24 mutant do not show interference. In contrast to rad24, mutants defective in the ATR kinase homolog Mec1, including a mec1 null and a mec1 kinase-dead mutant, show slight or few defects in CO frequency. On the other hand, mec1 COs show defects in interference, similar to the rad24 mutant. Our results support a model in which the DDR clamp and clamp-loader proteins promote interfering COs by recruiting pro-CO Zip, Mer, and Msh proteins to recombination sites, while the Mec1 kinase regulates CO distribution by a distinct mechanism. Moreover, CO formation and its control are implemented in a chromosome-specific manner, which may reflect a role for chromosome size in regulation.



Transvection is an epigenetic phenomenon wherein regulatory elements communicate between different chromosomes in trans, and is thereby dependent upon the three-dimensional organization of the genome. Transvection is best understood in Drosophila, where homologous chromosomes are closely paired in most somatic nuclei, although similar phenomena have been observed in other species. Previous data have supported that the Drosophila genome is generally permissive to enhancer action in trans, a form of transvection where an enhancer on one homolog activates gene expression from a promoter on a paired homolog. However, the capacity of different genomic positions to influence the quantitative output of transvection has yet to be addressed. To investigate this question, we employed a transgenic system that assesses and compares enhancer action in cis and in trans at defined chromosomal locations. Using the strong synthetic eye-specific enhancer GMR, we show that loci supporting strong cis-expression tend to support robust enhancer action in trans, whereas locations with weaker cis-expression show reduced transvection in a fluorescent reporter assay. Our subsequent analysis is consistent with a model wherein the chromatin state of the transgenic insertion site is a primary determinant of the degree to which enhancer action in trans will be supported, whereas other factors such as locus-specific variation in somatic homolog pairing are of less importance in influencing position effects on transvection.



Anti-Müllerian hormone (Amh, or Müllerian-inhibiting substance, Mis), a member of TGF-β superfamily, has been well documented in some vertebrates as initiator or key regulator in sexual development, and particularly in fish. However, its functional role has not yet been identified in reptiles. Here, we characterized the Amh gene in the Chinese soft-shelled turtle Pelodiscus sinensis, a typical reptilian species exhibiting ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes. The messenger RNA of Amh was initially expressed in male embryonic gonads by stage 15, preceding gonadal sex differentiation, and exhibited a male-specific expression pattern throughout embryogenesis. Moreover, Amh was rapidly upregulated during female-to-male sex reversal induced by aromatase inhibitor letrozole. Most importantly, Amh loss of function by RNA interference led to complete feminization of genetic male (ZZ) gonads, suppression of the testicular marker Sox9, and upregulation of the ovarian regulator Cyp19a1. Conversely, overexpression of Amh in ZW embryos resulted in female-to-male sex reversal, characterized by the formation of a testis structure, ectopic activation of Sox9, and a remarkable decline in Cyp19a1. Collectively, these findings provide the first solid evidence that Amh is both necessary and sufficient to drive testicular development in a reptilian species, P. sinensis, highlighting the significance of the TGF-β pathway in reptilian sex determination.


Ribosomes of Archaea and Eukarya share higher homology with each other than with bacterial ribosomes. For example, there is a set of 35 r-proteins that are specific only for archaeal and eukaryotic ribosomes. Three of these proteins—eL19, eL24, and eL41—participate in interactions between ribosomal subunits. The eukaryote-specific extensions of r-proteins eL19 and eL24 form two intersubunit bridges eB12 and eB13, which are present only in eukaryotic ribosomes. The third r-protein, eL41, forms bridge eB14. Notably, eL41 is found in all eukaryotes but only in some Archaea. It has been shown that bridges eB12 and eB13 are needed for efficient translation, while r-protein eL41 plays a minor role in ribosome function. Here, the functional interactions between intersubunit bridges were studied using budding yeast strains lacking different combinations of the abovementioned bridges/proteins. The growth phenotypes, levels of in vivo translation, ribosome–polysome profiles, and in vitro association of ribosomal subunits were analyzed. The results show a genetic interaction between r-protein eL41 and the eB12 bridge-forming region of eL19, and between r-proteins eL41 and eL24. It was possible to construct viable yeast strains with Archaea-like ribosomes lacking two or three eukaryote-specific bridges. These strains display slow growth and a poor translation phenotype. In addition, bridges eB12 and eB13 appear to cooperate during ribosome subunit association. These results indicate that nonessential structural elements of r-proteins become highly important in the context of disturbed subunit interactions. Therefore, eukaryote-specific bridges may contribute to the evolutionary success of eukaryotic translation machinery.


Cdc42, a Rho-family GTPase, is a master regulator of cell polarity. Recently, it has been shown that Cdc42 also facilitates proper cytokinesis in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Cdc42 is activated by two partially redundant GEFs, Gef1 and Scd1. Although both GEFs activate Cdc42, their deletion mutants display distinct phenotypes, indicating that they are differentially regulated by an unknown mechanism. During cytokinesis, Gef1 localizes to the division site and activates Cdc42 to initiate ring constriction and septum ingression. Here, we report that the F-BAR protein Cdc15 promotes Gef1 localization to its functional sites. We show that cdc15 promotes Gef1 association with cortical puncta at the incipient division site to activate Cdc42 during ring assembly. Moreover, cdc15 phospho-mutants phenocopy the polarity phenotypes of gef1 mutants. In a hypermorphic cdc15 mutant, Gef1 localizes precociously to the division site and is readily detected at the cortical patches and the cell cortex. Correspondingly, the hypermorphic cdc15 mutant shows increased bipolarity during interphase and precocious Cdc42 activation at the division site during cytokinesis. Finally, loss of gef1 in hypermorphic cdc15 mutants abrogates the increased bipolarity and precocious Cdc42 activation phenotype. We did not see any change in the localization of the other GEF Scd1 in a Cdc15-dependent manner. Our data indicate that Cdc15 facilitates Cdc42 activation at the division site during cytokinesis at the cell cortex to promote bipolarity and this is mediated by promoting Gef1 localization to these sites.


Transporters are transmembrane proteins that mediate the selective translocation of solutes across biological membranes. Recently, we have shown that specific interactions with plasma membrane phospholipids are essential for the formation and/or stability of functional dimers of the purine transporter UapA, a prototypic eukaryotic member of the ubiquitous nucleobase ascorbate transporter (NAT) family. Here, we provide strong evidence that distinct interactions of UapA with membrane lipids are essential for ab initio formation of functional dimers in the ER, or ER exit and further subcellular trafficking. Through genetic screens, we identify mutations that restore defects in dimer formation and/or trafficking. Suppressors of defective dimerization restore ab initio formation of UapA dimers in the ER. Most of these suppressors are located in the movable core domain, but also in the core-dimerization interface and in residues of the dimerization domain exposed to lipids. Molecular dynamics suggest that the majority of suppressors stabilize interhelical interactions in the core domain and thus assist the formation of functional UapA dimers. Among suppressors restoring dimerization, a specific mutation, T401P, was also isolated independently as a suppressor restoring trafficking, suggesting that stabilization of the core domain restores function by sustaining structural defects caused by the abolishment of essential interactions with specific lipids. Importantly, the introduction of mutations topologically equivalent to T401P into a rat homolog of UapA, namely rSNBT1, permitted the functional expression of a mammalian NAT in Aspergillus nidulans. Thus, our results provide a potential route for the functional expression and manipulation of mammalian transporters in the model Aspergillus system.


Under conditions in which budding yeast form colonies and then undergo meiosis/sporulation, the resulting colonies are organized such that a sharply defined layer of meiotic cells overlays a layer of unsporulated cells termed "feeder cells." This differentiation pattern requires activation of both the Rlm1/cell-wall integrity pathway and the Rim101/alkaline-response pathway. In the current study, we analyzed the connection between these two signaling pathways in regulating colony development by determining expression patterns and cell-autonomy relationships. We present evidence that two parallel cell-nonautonomous positive-feedback loops are active in colony patterning, an Rlm1-Slt2 loop active in feeder cells and an Rim101-Ime1 loop active in meiotic cells. The Rlm1-Slt2 loop is expressed first and subsequently activates the Rim101-Ime1 loop through a cell-nonautonomous mechanism. Once activated, each feedback loop activates the cell fate specific to its colony region. At the same time, cell-autonomous mechanisms inhibit ectopic fates within these regions. In addition, once the second loop is active, it represses the first loop through a cell-nonautonomous mechanism. Linked cell-nonautonomous positive-feedback loops, by amplifying small differences in microenvironments, may be a general mechanism for pattern formation in yeast and other organisms.


Nonself recognition following cell fusion between genetically distinct individuals of the same species in filamentous fungi often results in a programmed cell death (PCD) reaction, where the heterokaryotic fusion cell is compartmentalized and rapidly killed. The allorecognition process plays a key role as a defense mechanism that restricts genome exploitation, resource plundering, and the spread of deleterious senescence plasmids and mycoviruses. Although a number of incompatibility systems have been described that function in mature hyphae, less is known about the PCD pathways in asexual spores, which represent the main infectious unit in various human and plant fungal pathogens. Here, we report the identification of regulator of cell death-1 (rcd-1), a novel allorecognition gene, controlling PCD in germinating asexual spores of Neurospora crassa; rcd-1 is one of the most polymorphic genes in the genomes of wild N. crassa isolates. The coexpression of two antagonistic rcd-1-1 and rcd-1-2 alleles was necessary and sufficient to trigger cell death in fused germlings and in hyphae. Based on analysis of wild populations of N. crassa and N. discreta, rcd-1 alleles appeared to be under balancing selection and associated with trans-species polymorphisms. We shed light on genomic rearrangements that could have led to the emergence of the incompatibility system in Neurospora and show that rcd-1 belongs to a much larger gene family in fungi. Overall, our work contributes toward a better understanding of allorecognition and PCD in an underexplored developmental stage of filamentous fungi.


Long Interspersed Nuclear Element-1 (LINE-1, L1) is the only autonomous active transposable element in the human genome. The L1-encoded proteins ORF1p and ORF2p enable the element to jump from one locus to another via a "copy-and-paste" mechanism. ORF1p is an RNA-binding protein, and ORF2p has endonuclease and reverse transcriptase activities. The huge number of truncated L1 remnants in the human genome suggests that the host has likely evolved mechanisms to prevent full L1 replication, and thereby decrease the proliferation of active elements and reduce the mutagenic potential of L1. In turn, L1 appears to have a minimized length to increase the probability of successful full-length replication. This streamlining would be expected to lead to high information density. Here, we describe the construction and initial characterization of a library of 538 consecutive trialanine substitutions that scan along ORF1p and ORF2p to identify functionally important regions. In accordance with the streamlining hypothesis, retrotransposition was overall very sensitive to mutations in ORF1p and ORF2p; only 16% of trialanine mutants retained near-wild-type (WT) activity. All ORF1p mutants formed near-WT levels of mRNA transcripts and 75% formed near-WT levels of protein. Two ORF1p mutants presented a unique nucleolar-relocalization phenotype. Regions of ORF2p that are sensitive to mutagenesis but lack phylogenetic conservation were also identified. We provide comprehensive information on the regions most critical to retrotransposition. This resource will guide future studies of intermolecular interactions that form with RNA, proteins, and target DNA throughout the L1 life cycle.


Neurexins are neuronal adhesion molecules important for synapse maturation, function, and plasticity. Neurexins have been genetically associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia, but can have variable penetrance and phenotypic severity. Heritability studies indicate that a significant percentage of risk for ASD and schizophrenia includes environmental factors, highlighting a poorly understood interplay between genetic and environmental factors. The singular Caenorhabditis elegans ortholog of human neurexins, nrx-1, controls experience-dependent morphologic remodeling of a GABAergic neuron in adult males. Here, I show remodeling of this neuron’s morphology in response to each of three environmental stressors (nutritional, heat, or genotoxic stress) when applied specifically during sexual maturation. Increased outgrowth of axon-like neurites following adolescent stress is the result of an altered morphologic plasticity in adulthood. Despite remodeling being induced by each of the three stressors, only nutritional stress affects downstream behavior and is dependent on neurexin/nrx-1. Heat or genotoxic stress in adolescence does not alter behavior despite inducing GABAergic neuron remodeling, in a neurexin/nrx-1 independent fashion. Starvation-induced remodeling is also dependent on neuroligin/nlg-1, the canonical binding partner for neurexin/nrx-1, and the transcription factors FOXO/daf-16 and HSF1/hsf-1. hsf-1 and daf-16, in addition, each have unique roles in remodeling induced by heat and UV stress. The differential molecular mechanisms underlying GABAergic neuron remodeling in response to different stressors, and the disparate effects of stressors on downstream behavior, are a paradigm for understanding how genetics, environmental exposures, and plasticity may contribute to brain dysfunction in ASDs and schizophrenia.



Correct scaling of body and organ size is crucial for proper development, and the survival of all organisms. Perturbations in circulating hormones, including insulins and steroids, are largely responsible for changing body size in response to both genetic and environmental factors. Such perturbations typically produce adults whose organs and appendages scale proportionately with final size. The identity of additional factors that might contribute to scaling of organs and appendages with body size is unknown. Here, we report that loss-of-function mutations in Drosophila Activinβ (Actβ), a member of the TGF-β superfamily, lead to the production of small larvae/pupae and undersized rare adult escapers. Morphometric measurements of escaper adult appendage size (wings and legs), as well as heads, thoraxes, and abdomens, reveal a disproportional reduction in abdominal size compared to other tissues. Similar size measurements of selected Actβ mutant larval tissues demonstrate that somatic muscle size is disproportionately smaller when compared to the fat body, salivary glands, prothoracic glands, imaginal discs, and brain. We also show that Actβ control of body size is dependent on canonical signaling through the transcription-factor dSmad2 and that it modulates the growth rate, but not feeding behavior, during the third-instar period. Tissue- and cell-specific knockdown, and overexpression studies, reveal that motoneuron-derived Actβ is essential for regulating proper body size and tissue scaling. These studies suggest that, unlike in vertebrates, where Myostatin and certain other Activin-like factors act as systemic negative regulators of muscle mass, in Drosophila, Actβ is a positive regulator of muscle mass that is directly delivered to muscles by motoneurons. We discuss the importance of these findings in coordinating proportional scaling of insect muscle mass to appendage size.



Understanding the evolutionary capacity of populations to adapt to novel environments is one of the major pursuits in genetics. Moreover, for plant breeding, maladaptation is the foremost barrier to capitalizing on intraspecific variation in order to develop new breeds for future climate scenarios in agriculture. Using a unique study design, we simultaneously dissected the population and quantitative genomic basis of short-term evolution in a tropical landrace of maize that was translocated to a temperate environment and phenotypically selected for adaptation in flowering time phenology. Underlying 10 generations of directional selection, which resulted in a 26-day mean decrease in female-flowering time, of the heritable variation mapped to of the genome, where, overall, alleles shifted in frequency beyond the boundaries of genetic drift in the expected direction given their flowering time effects. However, clustering these non-neutral alleles based on their profiles of frequency change revealed transient shifts underpinning a transition in genotype–phenotype relationships across generations. This was distinguished by initial reductions in the frequencies of few relatively large positive effect alleles and subsequent enrichment of many rare negative effect alleles, some of which appear to represent allelic series. With these genomic shifts, the population reached an adapted state while retaining of the standing molecular marker variation in the founding population. Robust selection and association mapping tests highlighted several key genes driving the phenotypic response to selection. Our results reveal the evolutionary dynamics of a finite polygenic architecture conditioning a capacity for rapid environmental adaptation in maize.


Chromosomal inversions are fundamental drivers of genome evolution. In the main Afrotropical malaria vector species, belonging to the Anopheles gambiae species complex, inversions play an important role in local adaptation and have a rich history of cytological study. Despite the importance and ubiquity of some chromosomal inversions across the species complex, inversion breakpoints are often challenging to map molecularly due to the presence of large repetitive regions. Here, we develop an approach that uses Hi-C sequencing data to molecularly fine-map the breakpoints of inversions. We demonstrate that this approach is robust and likely to be widely applicable for both identification and fine-mapping inversion breakpoints in species whose inversions have heretofore been challenging to characterize. We apply our method to interrogate the previously unknown inversion breakpoints of 2Rbc and 2Rd in An. coluzzii. We found that inversion breakpoints occur in large repetitive regions, and, strikingly, among three inversions analyzed, two breakpoints appear to be reused in two separate inversions. These breakpoint-adjacent regions are strongly enriched for the presence of a 30 bp satellite repeat sequence. Because low frequency inversion breakpoints are not correlated with genomic regions containing this satellite, we suggest that interrupting this particular repeat may result in arrangements with higher relative fitness. Additionally, we use heterozygous individuals to quantitatively investigate the impacts of somatic pairing in the regions immediately surrounding inversion breakpoints. Finally, we discuss important considerations for possible applications of this approach for inversion breakpoint identification in a range of organisms.


Predictions about the effect of natural selection on patterns of linked neutral variation are largely based on models involving the rapid fixation of unconditionally beneficial mutations. However, when phenotypes adapt to a new optimum trait value, the strength of selection on individual mutations decreases as the population adapts. Here, I use explicit forward simulations of a single trait with additive-effect mutations adapting to an "optimum shift." Detectable "hitchhiking" patterns are only apparent if (i) the optimum shifts are large with respect to equilibrium variation for the trait, (ii) mutation rates to large-effect mutations are low, and (iii) large-effect mutations rapidly increase in frequency and eventually reach fixation, which typically occurs after the population reaches the new optimum. For the parameters simulated here, partial sweeps do not appreciably affect patterns of linked variation, even when the mutations are strongly selected. The contribution of new mutations vs. standing variation to fixation depends on the mutation rate affecting trait values. Given the fixation of a strongly selected variant, patterns of hitchhiking are similar on average for the two classes of sweeps because sweeps from standing variation involving large-effect mutations are rare when the optimum shifts. The distribution of effect sizes of new mutations has little effect on the time to reach the new optimum, but reducing the mutational variance increases the magnitude of hitchhiking patterns. In general, populations reach the new optimum prior to the completion of any sweeps, and the times to fixation are longer for this model than for standard models of directional selection. The long fixation times are due to a combination of declining selection pressures during adaptation and the possibility of interference among weakly selected sites for traits with high mutation rates.


Targeted identification and purging of deleterious genetic variants has been proposed as a novel approach to animal and plant breeding. This strategy is motivated, in part, by the observation that demographic events and strong selection associated with cultivated species pose a "cost of domestication." This includes an increase in the proportion of genetic variants that are likely to reduce fitness. Recent advances in DNA resequencing and sequence constraint-based approaches to predict the functional impact of a mutation permit the identification of putatively deleterious SNPs (dSNPs) on a genome-wide scale. Using exome capture resequencing of 21 barley lines, we identified 3855 dSNPs among 497,754 total SNPs. We generated whole-genome resequencing data of Hordeum murinum ssp. glaucum as a phylogenetic outgroup to polarize SNPs as ancestral vs. derived. We also observed a higher proportion of dSNPs per synonymous SNPs (sSNPs) in low-recombination regions of the genome. Using 5215 progeny from a genomic prediction experiment, we examined the fate of dSNPs over three breeding cycles. Adjusting for initial frequency, derived alleles at dSNPs reduced in frequency or were lost more often than other classes of SNPs. The highest-yielding lines in the experiment, as chosen by standard genomic prediction approaches, carried fewer homozygous dSNPs than randomly sampled lines from the same progeny cycle. In the final cycle of the experiment, progeny selected by genomic prediction had a mean of 5.6% fewer homozygous dSNPs relative to randomly chosen progeny from the same cycle.


Many filamentous ascomycetes develop three-dimensional fruiting bodies for production and dispersal of sexual spores. Fruiting bodies are among the most complex structures differentiated by ascomycetes; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this process are insufficiently understood. Previous comparative transcriptomics analyses of fruiting body development in different ascomycetes suggested that there might be a core set of genes that are transcriptionally regulated in a similar manner across species. Conserved patterns of gene expression can be indicative of functional relevance, and therefore such a set of genes might constitute promising candidates for functional analyses. In this study, we have sequenced the genome of the Pezizomycete Ascodesmis nigricans, and performed comparative transcriptomics of developing fruiting bodies of this fungus, the Pezizomycete Pyronema confluens, and the Sordariomycete Sordaria macrospora. With only 27 Mb, the A. nigricans genome is the smallest Pezizomycete genome sequenced to date. Comparative transcriptomics indicated that gene expression patterns in developing fruiting bodies of the three species are more similar to each other than to nonsexual hyphae of the same species. An analysis of 83 genes that are upregulated only during fruiting body development in all three species revealed 23 genes encoding proteins with predicted roles in vesicle transport, the endomembrane system, or transport across membranes, and 13 genes encoding proteins with predicted roles in chromatin organization or the regulation of gene expression. Among four genes chosen for functional analysis by deletion in S. macrospora, three were shown to be involved in fruiting body formation, including two predicted chromatin modifier genes.










 

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Genetic Diseases

When medical researchers want to investigate serious genetic diseases, they have to find ways to locate the corresponding risk genes. There are relatively few of these risk genes out of the 100,000 genes in the human cell, so it obviously is not an easy task...
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Gene

A hereditary unit that occupies a certain position on a chromosome; a unit that has one or more specific effects on the phenotype, and can mutate to various allelic forms.

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