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Concept: Polyploidy


Polyploidy poses challenges for phylogenetic reconstruction because of the need to identify and distinguish between homoeologous loci. This can be addressed by use of low copy nuclear markers. Panicum s.s. is a genus of about 100 species in the grass tribe Paniceae, subfamily Panicoideae, and is divided into five sections. Many of the species are known to be polyploids. The most well-known of the Panicum polyploids are switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and common or Proso millet (P. miliaceum). Switchgrass is in section Virgata, along with P. tricholaenoides, P. amarum, and P. amarulum, whereas P. miliaceum is in sect. Panicum. We have generated sequence data from five low copy nuclear loci and two chloroplast loci and have clarified the origin of P. virgatum. We find that all members of sects. Virgata and Urvilleana are the result of diversification after a single allopolyploidy event. The closest diploid relatives of switchgrass are in sect. Rudgeana, native to Central and South America. Within sections Virgata and Urvilleana, P. tricholaenoides is sister to the remaining species. Panicum racemosum and P. urvilleanum form a clade, which may be sister to P. chloroleucum. Panicum amarum, P. amarulum, and the lowland and upland ecotypes of P. virgatum together form a clade, within which relationships are complex. Hexaploid and octoploid plants are likely allopolyploids, with P. amarum and P. amarulum sharing genomes with P. virgatum. Octoploid P. virgatum plants are formed via hybridization between disparate tetraploids. We show that polyploidy precedes diversification in a complex set of polyploids; our data thus suggest that polyploidy could provide the raw material for diversification. In addition, we show two rounds of allopolyploidization in the ancestry of switchgrass, and identify additional species that may be part of its broader gene pool. This may be relevant for development of the crop for biofuels.

Concepts: Evolution, Species, Wheat, Polyploidy, Speciation, Panicum, Proso millet, Underutilized crops


Twelve of the 13 bushcricket species of the Saga genus are bisexuals and diploids, except the parthenogenetic and tetraploid bush cricket, Saga pedo. Despite a continuous research effort stretching through the 1900s, the taxonomic relationships of the Saga species are still disputed. In this study, our primary aim was to reveal natural relationships of the European Saga species and three of their Asian relatives, with special attention to the problematic taxonomy of two subspecies: S. campbelli campbelli and S. c. gracilis. Following a phylogenetic analysis of eight species, a comprehensive study was carried out on the above three taxa by using acoustic and morphometric approaches in parallel. Our phylogenetic data showed that European Saga species evolved from a monophyletic lineage. The geographical transitional species S. cappadocica was positioned between European and Asian lineages supporting the idea that the European Saga lineage originated phylogeographically from the Asian clade. The above results showed better agreement with the morphological data than with earlier ones based either on karyology or acoustic information only. After reviewing our data, we concluded that Saga pedo has most likely evolved from S. c. gracilis and not from S. rammei or S. ephippigera, as proposed by earlier studies. S. c. gracilis shares the same ITS2 haplotype with S. pedo, indicating that the latter could have evolved from populations of the former, probably through whole genome duplication. Based on acoustic and morphometric differences, we propose to elevate the two subspecies, S. campbelli campbelli and S. c. gracilis, to species level status, as Saga gracilis Kis 1962, and Saga campbelli Uvarov 1921. The present work sets the stage for future genetic and experimental investigations of Saginae and highlights the need for additional comprehensive analysis involving more Asian Saga species.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Species, Gene duplication, Phylogenetics, Polyploidy, Binomial nomenclature, Taxonomic rank


Many species, including humans, have emerged via complex reticulate processes involving hybridisation. Under certain circumstances, hybridisation can cause distinct lineages to collapse into a single lineage with an admixed mosaic genome. Most known cases of such ‘speciation reversal’ or ‘lineage fusion’ involve recently diverged lineages and anthropogenic perturbation. Here, we show that in western North America, Common Ravens (Corvus corax) have admixed mosaic genomes formed by the fusion of non-sister lineages (‘California’ and ‘Holarctic’) that diverged ~1.5 million years ago. Phylogenomic analyses and concordant patterns of geographic structuring in mtDNA, genome-wide SNPs and nuclear introns demonstrate long-term admixture and random interbreeding between the non-sister lineages. In contrast, our genomic data support reproductive isolation between Common Ravens and Chihuahuan Ravens (C. cryptoleucus) despite extensive geographic overlap and a sister relationship between Chihuahuan Ravens and the California lineage. These data suggest that the Common Raven genome was formed by secondary lineage fusion and most likely represents a case of ancient speciation reversal that occurred without anthropogenic causes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Polyploidy, Speciation, Corvidae, Corvus, Common Raven, Chihuahuan Raven


Comprehensive reverse genetic resources, which have been key to understanding gene function in diploid model organisms, are missing in many polyploid crops. Young polyploid species such as wheat, which was domesticated less than 10,000 y ago, have high levels of sequence identity among subgenomes that mask the effects of recessive alleles. Such redundancy reduces the probability of selection of favorable mutations during natural or human selection, but also allows wheat to tolerate high densities of induced mutations. Here we exploited this property to sequence and catalog more than 10 million mutations in the protein-coding regions of 2,735 mutant lines of tetraploid and hexaploid wheat. We detected, on average, 2,705 and 5,351 mutations per tetraploid and hexaploid line, respectively, which resulted in 35-40 mutations per kb in each population. With these mutation densities, we identified an average of 23-24 missense and truncation alleles per gene, with at least one truncation or deleterious missense mutation in more than 90% of the captured wheat genes per population. This public collection of mutant seed stocks and sequence data enables rapid identification of mutations in the different copies of the wheat genes, which can be combined to uncover previously hidden variation. Polyploidy is a central phenomenon in plant evolution, and many crop species have undergone recent genome duplication events. Therefore, the general strategy and methods developed herein can benefit other polyploid crops.

Concepts: DNA, Mutation, Evolution, Genome, Species, Wheat, Gene duplication, Polyploidy


Bananas (Musa spp.), including dessert and cooking types, are giant perennial monocotyledonous herbs of the order Zingiberales, a sister group to the well-studied Poales, which include cereals. Bananas are vital for food security in many tropical and subtropical countries and the most popular fruit in industrialized countries. The Musa domestication process started some 7,000 years ago in Southeast Asia. It involved hybridizations between diverse species and subspecies, fostered by human migrations, and selection of diploid and triploid seedless, parthenocarpic hybrids thereafter widely dispersed by vegetative propagation. Half of the current production relies on somaclones derived from a single triploid genotype (Cavendish). Pests and diseases have gradually become adapted, representing an imminent danger for global banana production. Here we describe the draft sequence of the 523-megabase genome of a Musa acuminata doubled-haploid genotype, providing a crucial stepping-stone for genetic improvement of banana. We detected three rounds of whole-genome duplications in the Musa lineage, independently of those previously described in the Poales lineage and the one we detected in the Arecales lineage. This first monocotyledon high-continuity whole-genome sequence reported outside Poales represents an essential bridge for comparative genome analysis in plants. As such, it clarifies commelinid-monocotyledon phylogenetic relationships, reveals Poaceae-specific features and has led to the discovery of conserved non-coding sequences predating monocotyledon-eudicotyledon divergence.

Concepts: Genetics, Species, Fruit, Polyploidy, Monocotyledon, Banana, Bananas, Plantain


The Cucurbita genus contains several economically important species in the Cucurbitaceae family. Here we report high-quality genome sequences of C. maxima and C. moschata and provide evidence supporting an allotetraploidization event in Cucurbita. We are able to partition the genome into two homoeologous subgenomes based on different genetic distances to melon, cucumber and watermelon in the Benincaseae tribe. We estimate that the two diploid progenitors successively diverged from Benincaseae around 31 and 26 million years ago (Mya), and the allotetraploidization happened at some point between 26 Mya and 3 Mya, the estimated date when C. maxima and C. moschata diverged. The subgenomes have largely maintained the chromosome structures of their diploid progenitors. Such long-term karyotype stability after polyploidization has not been commonly observed in plant polyploids. The two subgenomes have retained similar numbers of genes, and neither subgenome is globally dominant in gene expression. Allele-specific expression analysis in the C. maxima × C. moschata interspecific F1 hybrid and the two parents indicates the predominance of trans-regulatory effects underlying expression divergence of the parents, and detects transgressive gene expression changes in the hybrid correlated with heterosis in important agronomic traits. Our study provides insights into polyploid genome evolution and valuable resources for genetic improvement of cucurbit crops.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Bacteria, Organism, Polyploidy, Cucurbitaceae


The current rate of yield gain in crops is insufficient to meet the predicted demands. Capturing the yield boost from heterosis is one of the few technologies that offers rapid gain. Hybrids are widely used for cereals, maize and rice, but it has been a challenge to develop a viable hybrid system for bread wheat due to the wheat genome complexity, which is both large and hexaploid. Wheat is our most widely grown crop providing 20% of the calories for humans. Here, we describe the identification of Ms1, a gene proposed for use in large-scale, low-cost production of male-sterile (ms) female lines necessary for hybrid wheat seed production. We show that Ms1 completely restores fertility to ms1d, and encodes a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored lipid transfer protein, necessary for pollen exine development. This represents a key step towards developing a robust hybridization platform in wheat.Heterosis can rapidly boost yield in crop species but development of hybrid-breeding systems for bread wheat remains a challenge. Here, Tucker et al. describe the molecular identification of the wheat Ms1 gene and discuss its potential for large-scale hybrid seed production in wheat.

Concepts: Gene, Wheat, Polyploidy, Maize, Rice, Hybrid, Crops, Staple food


The marbled crayfish Procambarus virginalis is a unique freshwater crayfish characterized by very recent speciation and parthenogenetic reproduction. Marbled crayfish also represent an emerging invasive species and have formed wild populations in diverse freshwater habitats. However, our understanding of marbled crayfish biology, evolution and invasive spread has been hampered by the lack of freshwater crayfish genome sequences. We have now established a de novo draft assembly of the marbled crayfish genome. We determined the genome size at approximately 3.5 gigabase pairs and identified >21,000 genes. Further analysis confirmed the close relationship to the genome of the slough crayfish, Procambarus fallax, and also established a triploid AA'B genotype with a high level of heterozygosity. Systematic fieldwork and genotyping demonstrated the rapid expansion of marbled crayfish on Madagascar and established the marbled crayfish as a potent invader of freshwater ecosystems. Furthermore, comparative whole-genome sequencing demonstrated the clonality of the population and their genetic identity with the oldest known stock from the German aquarium trade. Our study closes an important gap in the phylogenetic analysis of animal genomes and uncovers the unique evolutionary history of an emerging invasive species.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Genome, Polyploidy


Whole-genome duplications have shaped the genomes of several vertebrate, plant, and fungal lineages. Earlier studies have focused on establishing when these events occurred and on elucidating their functional and evolutionary consequences, but we still lack sufficient understanding of how genome duplications first originated. We used phylogenomics to study the ancient genome duplication occurred in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae lineage and found compelling evidence for the existence of a contemporaneous interspecies hybridization. We propose that the genome doubling was a direct consequence of this hybridization and that it served to provide stability to the recently formed allopolyploid. This scenario provides a mechanism for the origin of this ancient duplication and the lineage that originated from it and brings a new perspective to the interpretation of the origin and consequences of whole-genome duplications.

Concepts: Evolution, Genome, Fungus, Yeast, Cell cycle, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Gene duplication, Polyploidy


Polyploidy often confers emergent properties, such as the higher fibre productivity and quality of tetraploid cottons than diploid cottons bred for the same environments. Here we show that an abrupt five- to sixfold ploidy increase approximately 60 million years (Myr) ago, and allopolyploidy reuniting divergent Gossypium genomes approximately 1-2 Myr ago, conferred about 30-36-fold duplication of ancestral angiosperm (flowering plant) genes in elite cottons (Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium barbadense), genetic complexity equalled only by Brassica among sequenced angiosperms. Nascent fibre evolution, before allopolyploidy, is elucidated by comparison of spinnable-fibred Gossypium herbaceum A and non-spinnable Gossypium longicalyx F genomes to one another and the outgroup D genome of non-spinnable Gossypium raimondii. The sequence of a G. hirsutum A(t)D(t) (in which ’t' indicates tetraploid) cultivar reveals many non-reciprocal DNA exchanges between subgenomes that may have contributed to phenotypic innovation and/or other emergent properties such as ecological adaptation by polyploids. Most DNA-level novelty in G. hirsutum recombines alleles from the D-genome progenitor native to its New World habitat and the Old World A-genome progenitor in which spinnable fibre evolved. Coordinated expression changes in proximal groups of functionally distinct genes, including a nuclear mitochondrial DNA block, may account for clusters of cotton-fibre quantitative trait loci affecting diverse traits. Opportunities abound for dissecting emergent properties of other polyploids, particularly angiosperms, by comparison to diploid progenitors and outgroups.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Genome, Cotton, Polyploidy, Gossypium