Genetics (Current Issue)

Subscribe to Genetics (Current Issue) feed Genetics (Current Issue)
Genetics RSS feed -- current issue
Updated: 2 days 11 hours ago

Genomes of the Mouse Collaborative Cross [Investigations]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

The Collaborative Cross (CC) is a multiparent panel of recombinant inbred (RI) mouse strains derived from eight founder laboratory strains. RI panels are popular because of their long-term genetic stability, which enhances reproducibility and integration of data collected across time and conditions. Characterization of their genomes can be a community effort, reducing the burden on individual users. Here we present the genomes of the CC strains using two complementary approaches as a resource to improve power and interpretation of genetic experiments. Our study also provides a cautionary tale regarding the limitations imposed by such basic biological processes as mutation and selection. A distinct advantage of inbred panels is that genotyping only needs to be performed on the panel, not on each individual mouse. The initial CC genome data were haplotype reconstructions based on dense genotyping of the most recent common ancestors (MRCAs) of each strain followed by imputation from the genome sequence of the corresponding founder inbred strain. The MRCA resource captured segregating regions in strains that were not fully inbred, but it had limited resolution in the transition regions between founder haplotypes, and there was uncertainty about founder assignment in regions of limited diversity. Here we report the whole genome sequence of 69 CC strains generated by paired-end short reads at 30x coverage of a single male per strain. Sequencing leads to a substantial improvement in the fine structure and completeness of the genomes of the CC. Both MRCAs and sequenced samples show a significant reduction in the genome-wide haplotype frequencies from two wild-derived strains, CAST/EiJ and PWK/PhJ. In addition, analysis of the evolution of the patterns of heterozygosity indicates that selection against three wild-derived founder strains played a significant role in shaping the genomes of the CC. The sequencing resource provides the first description of tens of thousands of new genetic variants introduced by mutation and drift in the CC genomes. We estimate that new SNP mutations are accumulating in each CC strain at a rate of 2.4 ± 0.4 per gigabase per generation. The fixation of new mutations by genetic drift has introduced thousands of new variants into the CC strains. The majority of these mutations are novel compared to currently sequenced laboratory stocks and wild mice, and some are predicted to alter gene function. Approximately one-third of the CC inbred strains have acquired large deletions (>10 kb) many of which overlap known coding genes and functional elements. The sequence of these mice is a critical resource to CC users, increases threefold the number of mouse inbred strain genomes available publicly, and provides insight into the effect of mutation and drift on common resources.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Male Infertility Is Responsible for Nearly Half of the Extinction Observed in the Mouse Collaborative Cross [Investigations]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

The goal of the Collaborative Cross (CC) project was to generate and distribute over 1000 independent mouse recombinant inbred strains derived from eight inbred founders. With inbreeding nearly complete, we estimated the extinction rate among CC lines at a remarkable 95%, which is substantially higher than in the derivation of other mouse recombinant inbred populations. Here, we report genome-wide allele frequencies in 347 extinct CC lines. Contrary to expectations, autosomes had equal allelic contributions from the eight founders, but chromosome X had significantly lower allelic contributions from the two inbred founders with underrepresented subspecific origins (PWK/PhJ and CAST/EiJ). By comparing extinct CC lines to living CC strains, we conclude that a complex genetic architecture is driving extinction, and selection pressures are different on the autosomes and chromosome X. Male infertility played a large role in extinction as 47% of extinct lines had males that were infertile. Males from extinct lines had high variability in reproductive organ size, low sperm counts, low sperm motility, and a high rate of vacuolization of seminiferous tubules. We performed QTL mapping and identified nine genomic regions associated with male fertility and reproductive phenotypes. Many of the allelic effects in the QTL were driven by the two founders with underrepresented subspecific origins, including a QTL on chromosome X for infertility that was driven by the PWK/PhJ haplotype. We also performed the first example of cross validation using complementary CC resources to verify the effect of sperm curvilinear velocity from the PWK/PhJ haplotype on chromosome 2 in an independent population across multiple generations. While selection typically constrains the examination of reproductive traits toward the more fertile alleles, the CC extinct lines provided a unique opportunity to study the genetic architecture of fertility in a widely genetically variable population. We hypothesize that incompatibilities between alleles with different subspecific origins is a key driver of infertility. These results help clarify the factors that drove strain extinction in the CC, reveal the genetic regions associated with poor fertility in the CC, and serve as a resource to further study mammalian infertility.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Increased Power To Dissect Adaptive Traits in Global Sorghum Diversity Using a Nested Association Mapping Population [Investigations]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Adaptation of domesticated species to diverse agroclimatic regions has led to abundant trait diversity. However, the resulting population structure and genetic heterogeneity confounds association mapping of adaptive traits. To address this challenge in sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench]—a widely adapted cereal crop—we developed a nested association mapping (NAM) population using 10 diverse global lines crossed with an elite reference line RTx430. We characterized the population of 2214 recombinant inbred lines at 90,000 SNPs using genotyping-by-sequencing. The population captures ~70% of known global SNP variation in sorghum, and 57,411 recombination events. Notably, recombination events were four- to fivefold enriched in coding sequences and 5' untranslated regions of genes. To test the power of the NAM population for trait dissection, we conducted joint linkage mapping for two major adaptive traits, flowering time and plant height. We precisely mapped several known genes for these two traits, and identified several additional QTL. Considering all SNPs simultaneously, genetic variation accounted for 65% of flowering time variance and 75% of plant height variance. Further, we directly compared NAM to genome-wide association mapping (using panels of the same size) and found that flowering time and plant height QTL were more consistently identified with the NAM population. Finally, for simulated QTL under strong selection in diversity panels, the power of QTL detection was up to three times greater for NAM vs. association mapping with a diverse panel. These findings validate the NAM resource for trait mapping in sorghum, and demonstrate the value of NAM for dissection of adaptive traits.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Genetic Dissection of Nutrition-Induced Plasticity in Insulin/Insulin-Like Growth Factor Signaling and Median Life Span in a Drosophila Multiparent Population [Investigations]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

The nutritional environments that organisms experience are inherently variable, requiring tight coordination of how resources are allocated to different functions relative to the total amount of resources available. A growing body of evidence supports the hypothesis that key endocrine pathways play a fundamental role in this coordination. In particular, the insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS) and target of rapamycin (TOR) pathways have been implicated in nutrition-dependent changes in metabolism and nutrient allocation. However, little is known about the genetic basis of standing variation in IIS/TOR or how diet-dependent changes in expression in this pathway influence phenotypes related to resource allocation. To characterize natural genetic variation in the IIS/TOR pathway, we used >250 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from a multiparental mapping population, the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource, to map transcript-level QTL of genes encoding 52 core IIS/TOR components in three different nutritional environments [dietary restriction (DR), control (C), and high sugar (HS)]. Nearly all genes, 87%, were significantly differentially expressed between diets, though not always in ways predicted by loss-of-function mutants. We identified cis (i.e., local) expression QTL (eQTL) for six genes, all of which are significant in multiple nutrient environments. Further, we identified trans (i.e., distant) eQTL for two genes, specific to a single nutrient environment. Our results are consistent with many small changes in the IIS/TOR pathways. A discriminant function analysis for the C and DR treatments identified a pattern of gene expression associated with the diet treatment. Mapping the composite discriminant function scores revealed a significant global eQTL within the DR diet. A correlation between the discriminant function scores and the median life span (r = 0.46) provides evidence that gene expression changes in response to diet are associated with longevity in these RILs.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Structural Variation Shapes the Landscape of Recombination in Mouse [Investigations]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Meiotic recombination is an essential feature of sexual reproduction that ensures faithful segregation of chromosomes and redistributes genetic variants in populations. Multiparent populations such as the Diversity Outbred (DO) mouse stock accumulate large numbers of crossover (CO) events between founder haplotypes, and thus present a unique opportunity to study the role of genetic variation in shaping the recombination landscape. We obtained high-density genotype data from $$6886$$ DO mice, and localized 2.2 million CO events to intervals with a median size of 28 kb. The resulting sex-averaged genetic map of the DO population is highly concordant with large-scale (order 10 Mb) features of previously reported genetic maps for mouse. To examine fine-scale (order 10 kb) patterns of recombination in the DO, we overlaid putative recombination hotspots onto our CO intervals. We found that CO intervals are enriched in hotspots compared to the genomic background. However, as many as $$26\%$$ of CO intervals do not overlap any putative hotspots, suggesting that our understanding of hotspots is incomplete. We also identified coldspots encompassing 329 Mb, or $$12\%$$ of observable genome, in which there is little or no recombination. In contrast to hotspots, which are a few kilobases in size, and widely scattered throughout the genome, coldspots have a median size of 2.1 Mb and are spatially clustered. Coldspots are strongly associated with copy-number variant (CNV) regions, especially multi-allelic clusters, identified from whole-genome sequencing of 228 DO mice. Genes in these regions have reduced expression, and epigenetic features of closed chromatin in male germ cells, which suggests that CNVs may repress recombination by altering chromatin structure in meiosis. Our findings demonstrate how multiparent populations, by bridging the gap between large-scale and fine-scale genetic mapping, can reveal new features of the recombination landscape.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Epistatic Networks Jointly Influence Phenotypes Related to Metabolic Disease and Gene Expression in Diversity Outbred Mice [Investigations]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Genetic studies of multidimensional phenotypes can potentially link genetic variation, gene expression, and physiological data to create multi-scale models of complex traits. The challenge of reducing these data to specific hypotheses has become increasingly acute with the advent of genome-scale data resources. Multi-parent populations derived from model organisms provide a resource for developing methods to understand this complexity. In this study, we simultaneously modeled body composition, serum biomarkers, and liver transcript abundances from 474 Diversity Outbred mice. This population contained both sexes and two dietary cohorts. Transcript data were reduced to functional gene modules with weighted gene coexpression network analysis (WGCNA), which were used as summary phenotypes representing enriched biological processes. These module phenotypes were jointly analyzed with body composition and serum biomarkers in a combined analysis of pleiotropy and epistasis (CAPE), which inferred networks of epistatic interactions between quantitative trait loci that affect one or more traits. This network frequently mapped interactions between alleles of different ancestries, providing evidence of both genetic synergy and redundancy between haplotypes. Furthermore, a number of loci interacted with sex and diet to yield sex-specific genetic effects and alleles that potentially protect individuals from the effects of a high-fat diet. Although the epistatic interactions explained small amounts of trait variance, the combination of directional interactions, allelic specificity, and high genomic resolution provided context to generate hypotheses for the roles of specific genes in complex traits. Our approach moves beyond the cataloging of single loci to infer genetic networks that map genetic etiology by simultaneously modeling all phenotypes.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

A Physicists Quest in Biology: Max Delbruck and "Complementarity" [Perspectives]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Max Delbrück was trained as a physicist but made his major contribution in biology and ultimately shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He was the acknowledged leader of the founders of molecular biology, yet he failed to achieve his key scientific goals. His ultimate scientific aim was to find evidence for physical laws unique to biology: so-called "complementarity." He never did. The specific problem he initially wanted to solve was the nature of biological replication but the discovery of the mechanism of replication was made by others, in large part because of his disdain for the details of biochemistry. His later career was spent investigating the effect of light on the fungus Phycomyces, a topic that turned out to be of limited general interest. He was known both for his informality but also for his legendary displays of devastating criticism. His life and that of some of his closest colleagues was acted out against a background of a world in conflict. This essay describes the man and his career and searches for an explanation of his profound influence.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

The Mouse Lemur, a Genetic Model Organism for Primate Biology, Behavior, and Health [Genetic Toolbox Review]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Systematic genetic studies of a handful of diverse organisms over the past 50 years have transformed our understanding of biology. However, many aspects of primate biology, behavior, and disease are absent or poorly modeled in any of the current genetic model organisms including mice. We surveyed the animal kingdom to find other animals with advantages similar to mice that might better exemplify primate biology, and identified mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.) as the outstanding candidate. Mouse lemurs are prosimian primates, roughly half the genetic distance between mice and humans. They are the smallest, fastest developing, and among the most prolific and abundant primates in the world, distributed throughout the island of Madagascar, many in separate breeding populations due to habitat destruction. Their physiology, behavior, and phylogeny have been studied for decades in laboratory colonies in Europe and in field studies in Malagasy rainforests, and a high quality reference genome sequence has recently been completed. To initiate a classical genetic approach, we developed a deep phenotyping protocol and have screened hundreds of laboratory and wild mouse lemurs for interesting phenotypes and begun mapping the underlying mutations, in collaboration with leading mouse lemur biologists. We also seek to establish a mouse lemur gene "knockout" library by sequencing the genomes of thousands of mouse lemurs to identify null alleles in most genes from the large pool of natural genetic variants. As part of this effort, we have begun a citizen science project in which students across Madagascar explore the remarkable biology around their schools, including longitudinal studies of the local mouse lemurs. We hope this work spawns a new model organism and cultivates a deep genetic understanding of primate biology and health. We also hope it establishes a new and ethical method of genetics that bridges biological, behavioral, medical, and conservation disciplines, while providing an example of how hands-on science education can help transform developing countries.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

A Short History and Description of Drosophila melanogaster Classical Genetics: Chromosome Aberrations, Forward Genetic Screens, and the Nature of Mutations [Methods]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

The purpose of this chapter in FlyBook is to acquaint the reader with the Drosophila genome and the ways in which it can be altered by mutation. Much of what follows will be familiar to the experienced Fly Pusher but hopefully will be useful to those just entering the field and are thus unfamiliar with the genome, the history of how it has been and can be altered, and the consequences of those alterations. I will begin with the structure, content, and organization of the genome, followed by the kinds of structural alterations (karyotypic aberrations), how they affect the behavior of chromosomes in meiotic cell division, and how that behavior can be used. Finally, screens for mutations as they have been performed will be discussed. There are several excellent sources of detailed information on Drosophila husbandry and screening that are recommended for those interested in further expanding their familiarity with Drosophila as a research tool and model organism. These are a book by Ralph Greenspan and a review article by John Roote and Andreas Prokop, which should be required reading for any new student entering a fly lab for the first time.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Experimental Evolution with Caenorhabditis Nematodes [Evolution and Ecology]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

The hermaphroditic nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been one of the primary model systems in biology since the 1970s, but only within the last two decades has this nematode also become a useful model for experimental evolution. Here, we outline the goals and major foci of experimental evolution with C. elegans and related species, such as C. briggsae and C. remanei, by discussing the principles of experimental design, and highlighting the strengths and limitations of Caenorhabditis as model systems. We then review three exemplars of Caenorhabditis experimental evolution studies, underlining representative evolution experiments that have addressed the: (1) maintenance of genetic variation; (2) role of natural selection during transitions from outcrossing to selfing, as well as the maintenance of mixed breeding modes during evolution; and (3) evolution of phenotypic plasticity and its role in adaptation to variable environments, including host–pathogen coevolution. We conclude by suggesting some future directions for which experimental evolution with Caenorhabditis would be particularly informative.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Genome Diversity and Evolution in the Budding Yeasts (Saccharomycotina) [Genome Organization and Integrity]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Considerable progress in our understanding of yeast genomes and their evolution has been made over the last decade with the sequencing, analysis, and comparisons of numerous species, strains, or isolates of diverse origins. The role played by yeasts in natural environments as well as in artificial manufactures, combined with the importance of some species as model experimental systems sustained this effort. At the same time, their enormous evolutionary diversity (there are yeast species in every subphylum of Dikarya) sparked curiosity but necessitated further efforts to obtain appropriate reference genomes. Today, yeast genomes have been very informative about basic mechanisms of evolution, speciation, hybridization, domestication, as well as about the molecular machineries underlying them. They are also irreplaceable to investigate in detail the complex relationship between genotypes and phenotypes with both theoretical and practical implications. This review examines these questions at two distinct levels offered by the broad evolutionary range of yeasts: inside the best-studied Saccharomyces species complex, and across the entire and diversified subphylum of Saccharomycotina. While obviously revealing evolutionary histories at different scales, data converge to a remarkably coherent picture in which one can estimate the relative importance of intrinsic genome dynamics, including gene birth and loss, vs. horizontal genetic accidents in the making of populations. The facility with which novel yeast genomes can now be studied, combined with the already numerous available reference genomes, offer privileged perspectives to further examine these fundamental biological questions using yeasts both as eukaryotic models and as fungi of practical importance.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Alternative Polyadenylation Directs Tissue-Specific miRNA Targeting in Caenorhabditis elegans Somatic Tissues [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

mRNA expression dynamics promote and maintain the identity of somatic tissues in living organisms; however, their impact in post-transcriptional gene regulation in these processes is not fully understood. Here, we applied the PAT-Seq approach to systematically isolate, sequence, and map tissue-specific mRNA from five highly studied Caenorhabditis elegans somatic tissues: GABAergic and NMDA neurons, arcade and intestinal valve cells, seam cells, and hypodermal tissues, and studied their mRNA expression dynamics. The integration of these datasets with previously profiled transcriptomes of intestine, pharynx, and body muscle tissues, precisely assigns tissue-specific expression dynamics for 60% of all annotated C. elegans protein-coding genes, providing an important resource for the scientific community. The mapping of 15,956 unique high-quality tissue-specific polyA sites in all eight somatic tissues reveals extensive tissue-specific 3'untranslated region (3'UTR) isoform switching through alternative polyadenylation (APA) . Almost all ubiquitously transcribed genes use APA and harbor miRNA targets in their 3'UTRs, which are commonly lost in a tissue-specific manner, suggesting widespread usage of post-transcriptional gene regulation modulated through APA to fine tune tissue-specific protein expression. Within this pool, the human disease gene C. elegans orthologs rack-1 and tct-1 use APA to switch to shorter 3'UTR isoforms in order to evade miRNA regulation in the body muscle tissue, resulting in increased protein expression needed for proper body muscle function. Our results highlight a major positive regulatory role for APA, allowing genes to counteract miRNA regulation on a tissue-specific basis.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Facilitating Neuron-Specific Genetic Manipulations in Drosophila melanogaster Using a Split GAL4 Repressor [Methods, Technology, and Resources]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Efforts to map neural circuits have been galvanized by the development of genetic technologies that permit the manipulation of targeted sets of neurons in the brains of freely behaving animals. The success of these efforts relies on the experimenter’s ability to target arbitrarily small subsets of neurons for manipulation, but such specificity of targeting cannot routinely be achieved using existing methods. In Drosophila melanogaster, a widely-used technique for refined cell type-specific manipulation is the Split GAL4 system, which augments the targeting specificity of the binary GAL4-UAS (Upstream Activating Sequence) system by making GAL4 transcriptional activity contingent upon two enhancers, rather than one. To permit more refined targeting, we introduce here the "Killer Zipper" (KZip+), a suppressor that makes Split GAL4 targeting contingent upon a third enhancer. KZip+ acts by disrupting both the formation and activity of Split GAL4 heterodimers, and we show how this added layer of control can be used to selectively remove unwanted cells from a Split GAL4 expression pattern or to subtract neurons of interest from a pattern to determine their requirement in generating a given phenotype. To facilitate application of the KZip+ technology, we have developed a versatile set of LexAop-KZip+ fly lines that can be used directly with the large number of LexA driver lines with known expression patterns. KZip+ significantly sharpens the precision of neuronal genetic control available in Drosophila and may be extended to other organisms where Split GAL4-like systems are used.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Properties of Mitotic and Meiotic Recombination in the Tandemly-Repeated CUP1 Gene Cluster in the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am
Categories: Genetics News Feed

Correlation of Meiotic DSB Formation and Transcription Initiation Around Fission Yeast Recombination Hotspots [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

June 7, 2017 - 8:23am

Meiotic homologous recombination, a critical event for ensuring faithful chromosome segregation and creating genetic diversity, is initiated by programmed DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) formed at recombination hotspots. Meiotic DSB formation is likely to be influenced by other DNA-templated processes including transcription, but how DSB formation and transcription interact with each other has not been understood well. In this study, we used fission yeast to investigate a possible interplay of these two events. A group of hotspots in fission yeast are associated with sequences similar to the cyclic AMP response element and activated by the ATF/CREB family transcription factor dimer Atf1-Pcr1. We first focused on one of those hotspots, ade6-3049, and Atf1. Our results showed that multiple transcripts, shorter than the ade6 full-length messenger RNA, emanate from a region surrounding the ade6-3049 hotspot. Interestingly, we found that the previously known recombination-activation region of Atf1 is also a transactivation domain, whose deletion affected DSB formation and short transcript production at ade6-3049. These results point to a possibility that the two events may be related to each other at ade6-3049. In fact, comparison of published maps of meiotic transcripts and hotspots suggested that hotspots are very often located close to meiotically transcribed regions. These observations therefore propose that meiotic DSB formation in fission yeast may be connected to transcription of surrounding regions.

Categories: Genetics News Feed

Pages