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Publications: Publications


July 20, 2021

Whole-genome duplications yield varied chromosomal pairing patterns, ranging from strictly bivalent to multivalent, resulting in disomic and polysomic inheritance modes. In the bivalent case, homeologous chromosomes form pairs, where in a multivalent pattern all copies are homologous and are therefore free to pair and recombine. As sufficient sequencing data is more readily available than high-quality cytological assessments of meiotic behavior or population genetic assessment of allelic segregation, especially for non-model organisms, here we describe two bioinformatics approaches to infer origins and inheritance modes of polyploids using short-read sequencing data. The first approach is based on distributions of allelic read depth at the heterozygous sites within an individual, as the expectations of such distributions are different for disomic and polysomic inheritance modes. The second approach is more laborious and based on a phylogenetic assessment of partially phased haplotypes of a polyploid in comparison to the closest diploid relatives. We discuss the sources of deviations from expected inheritance patterns, advantages and pitfalls of both methods, effects of mating types on the performance of the methods, and possible future developments.

The majority of diploid organisms have polyploid ancestors. The evolutionary process of polyploidization (and subsequent re-diploidization) is poorly understood, but has frequently been conjectured to involve some form of “genome shock” — partly inspired by studies in crops, many of which are polyploid, and in which polyploidy has frequently been linked to dramatic genomic changes such as subgenome expression dominance and genome reorganization. It is unclear, however, whether domesticated polyploids are representative of natural ones. Here, we study polyploidization in Arabidopsis suecica (n = 13), a post-glacial allopolyploid species formed via hybridization of A. thaliana (n = 5) and A. arenosa (n = 8). We generated a chromosome-level genome assembly of A. suecica and complemented it with polymorphism and transcriptome data from multiple individuals of all species. Despite a divergence of ~6 Mya between the two ancestral species and appreciable differences in their genome composition, we see no evidence of a genome shock: the A. suecica genome is highly colinear with the ancestral genomes, there is no subgenome dominance in expression, and transposable element dynamics appear to be stable. We do, however, find strong evidence for changes suggesting gradual adaptation to polyploidy. In particular, the A. thaliana subgenome shows upregulation of meiosis-related genes, possibly in order to prevent aneuploidy and undesirable homeologous exchanges that are frequently observed in experimentally generated A. suecica, and the A. arenosa subgenome shows upregulation of cyto-nuclear related processes, possibly in response to the new cytoplasmic environment of A. suecica, with plastids maternally inherited from A. thaliana.

May 11, 2020

Polyploidy has played an important role in evolution across the tree of life but it is still unclear how polyploid lineages may persist after their initial formation. While both common and well-studied in plants, polyploidy is rare in animals and generally less understood. The Australian burrowing frog genus Neobatrachus is comprised of six diploid and three polyploid species and offers a powerful animal polyploid model system. We generated exome-capture sequence data from 87 individuals representing all nine species of Neobatrachus to investigate species-level relationships, the origin and inheritance mode of polyploid species, and the population genomic effects of polyploidy on genus-wide demography. We describe rapid speciation of diploid Neobatrachus species and show that the three independently originated polyploid species have tetrasomic or mixed inheritance. We document higher genetic diversity in tetraploids, resulting from widespread gene flow between the tetraploids, asymmetric inter-ploidy gene flow directed from sympatric diploids to tetraploids, and isolation of diploid species from each other. We also constructed models of ecologically suitable areas for each species to investigate the impact of climate on differing ploidy levels. These models suggest substantial change in suitable areas compared to past climate, which correspond to population genomic estimates of demographic histories. We propose that Neobatrachus diploids may be suffering the early genomic impacts of climate-induced habitat loss, while tetraploids appear to be avoiding this fate, possibly due to widespread gene flow. Finally, we demonstrate that Neobatrachus is an attractive model to study the effects of ploidy on the evolution of adaptation in animals.

February 21, 2020

Independent or parallel evolution of similar traits is key to understanding the genetics and limitations of adaptation. Adaptation from the same genetic changes in different populations defines parallel evolution. Such genetic changes can derive from standing ancestral variation or de novo mutations and excludes instances of adaptive introgression. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Walden et al.(2020) investigate the scale of parallel climate adaptation from standing genetic variation between two North American Arabidopsis lyrata lineages, each formed by a distinct evolutionary history during the last glacial cycle. By identifying adaptive variants correlated with three ecologically significant climatic gradients, they show that instead of the same genetic variants or even genes, parallel evolution is only observed at the level of biological processes. The evolution of independent adaptive variants to climate in two genetically close lineages is explained by their different post‐glacial demographic histories. Separate glacial refugia and strong population bottlenecks were probably sufficient to change the landscape of shared allele frequencies, hindering the possibility of parallel evolution.

April 2, 2019

Crucihimalaya himalaica is a close relative of Arabidopsis with typical Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP) distribution. Here, by combining short- and long-read sequencing technologies, we provide a de novo genome sequence of C. himalaica. Our results suggest that the quick uplifting of the QTP coincided with the expansion of repeat elements. Gene families showing dramatic contractions and expansions, as well as genes showing clear signs of natural selection, were likely responsible for C. himalaica’s specific adaptation to the harsh environment of the QTP. We also show that the transition to self-pollination of C. himalaica might have enabled its occupation of the QTP. This study provides insights into how plants might adapt to extreme environmental conditions.

April 30, 2018

Polyploidy may provide adaptive advantages and is considered to be important for evolution and speciation. Polyploidy events are found throughout the evolutionary history of plants, however, they do not seem to be uniformly distributed along the time axis. For example, many of the detected ancient whole-genome duplications (WGDs) seem to cluster around the K/Pg boundary (∼66 Mya), which corresponds to a drastic climate change event and mass extinction. Here, we discuss more recent polyploidy events using Arabidopsis as the most developed plant model at the level of the entire genus. We review the history of the origin of allotetraploid species A. suecica and A. kamchatica, and tetraploid lineages of A. lyrataA. arenosa and A. thaliana, and discuss potential adaptive advantages. Also, we highlight an association between recent glacial maxima and estimated times of origins of polyploidy in Arabidopsis. Such association might further support a link between polyploidy and environmental challenge, which has been observed now for different time-scales and for both ancient and recent polyploids.

January 12, 2017

Polyploidy is an example of instantaneous speciation when it involves the formation of a new cytotype that is incompatible with the parental species. Because new polyploid individuals are likely to be rare, establishment of a new species is unlikely unless polyploids are able to reproduce through self-fertilization (selfing), or asexually. Conversely, selfing (or asexuality) makes it possible for polyploid species to originate from a single individual—a bona fide speciation event. The extent to which this happens is not known. Here, we consider the origin of Arabidopsis suecica, a selfing allopolyploid between Arabidopsis thaliana and Arabidopsis arenosa, which has hitherto been considered to be an example of a unique origin. Based on whole-genome re-sequencing of 15 natural A. suecica accessions, we identify ubiquitous shared polymorphism with the parental species, and hence conclusively reject a unique origin in favor of multiple founding individuals. We further estimate that the species originated after the last glacial maximum in Eastern Europe or central Eurasia (rather than Sweden, as the name might suggest). Finally, annotation of the self-incompatibility loci in A. suecica revealed that both loci carry non-functional alleles. The locus inherited from the selfing A. thaliana is fixed for an ancestral non-functional allele, whereas the locus inherited from the outcrossing A. arenosa is fixed for a novel loss-of-function allele. Furthermore, the allele inherited from A. thaliana is predicted to transcriptionally silence the allele inherited from A. arenosa, suggesting that loss of self-incompatibility may have been instantaneous.

July 18, 2016

The notion of species as reproductively isolated units related through a bifurcating tree implies that gene trees should generally agree with the species tree and that sister taxa should not share polymorphisms unless they diverged recently and should be equally closely related to outgroups. It is now possible to evaluate this model systematically. We sequenced multiple individuals from 27 described taxa representing the entire Arabidopsis genus. Cluster analysis identified seven groups, corresponding to described species that capture the structure of the genus. However, at the level of gene trees, only the separation of Arabidopsis thaliana from the remaining species was universally supported, and, overall, the amount of shared polymorphism demonstrated that reproductive isolation was considerably more recent than the estimated divergence times. We uncovered multiple cases of past gene flow that contradict a bifurcating species tree. Finally, we showed that the pattern of divergence differs between gene ontologies, suggesting a role for selection.

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