Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters are ancient cofactors present in all kingdoms of life. Both the Fe-S cluster assembly machineries and target apoproteins are distributed across different subcellular compartments. The essential function of Fe-S clusters in nuclear enzymes is particularly difficult to study. The base excision repair (BER) pathway guards the integrity of DNA; enzymes from the DEMETER family of DNA glycosylases in plants are Fe-S cluster-dependent and extend the BER repertowere to excision of 5-methylcytosine (5mC). Recent studies in plants genetically link the majority of proteins from the cytosolic Fe-S cluster biogenesis (CIA) pathway with 5mC BER and DNA repair. This link can now be further explored. First, it opens new possibilities for understanding how Fe-S clusters participate in 5mC BER and related processes. I describe DNA-mediated charge transfer, an Fe-S cluster-based mechanism for locating base lesions with high efficiency, which is used by bacterial DNA glycosylases encoding Fe-S cluster binding domains that are also conserved in the DEMETER family. Second, because detailed analysis of the mutant phenotype of CIA proteins relating to 5mC BER revealed that they formed two groups, we may also gain new insights into both the composition of the Fe-S assembly pathway and the biological contexts of Fe-S proteins.
Hybrid incompatibility is important in speciation as it prevents gene flow between closely related populations. Reduced fitness from hybrid incompatibility may also reinforce prezygotic reproductive isolation between sympatric populations. However, the genetic and developmental basis of hybrid incompatibility in higher vertebrates remains poorly understood. Mammals and birds, both amniotes, have similar developmental processes, but marked differences in development such as the XY/ZW sex determination systems and the presence or absence of genomic imprinting. Here, we review the sterile phenotype of hybrids between the Phodopus dwarf hamsters P. campbelli and P. sungorus, and the inviable phenotype of hybrids between two birds of the family Phasianidae, chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) and Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). We propose hypotheses for developmental defects that are associated with these hybrid incompatibilities. In addition, we discuss the genetic and developmental basis for these defects in conjunction with recent findings from mouse and avian models of genetics, reproductive biology and genomics. We suggest that these hybrids are ideal animal models for studying the genetic and developmental basis of hybrid incompatibility in amniotes.
Stickleback fishes have been established as a leading model system for studying the genetic mechanisms that underlie naturally occurring phenotypic diversification. Because of the tremendous diversification achieved by stickleback species in various environments, different geographical populations have unique phenotypes and genotypes, which provide us with unique opportunities for evolutionary genetic research. Among sticklebacks, Japanese species have several unique characteristics that have not been found in other populations. The sympatric marine threespine stickleback species Gasterosteus aculeatus and G. nipponicus (Japan Sea stickleback) are a good system for speciation research. Gasterosteus nipponicus also has several unique characteristics, such as neo-sex chromosomes and courtship behaviors, that differ from those of G. aculeatus. Several freshwater populations derived from G. aculeatus (Hariyo threespine stickleback) inhabit spring-fed ponds and streams in central Honshu and exhibit year-round reproduction, which has never been observed in other stickleback populations. Four species of ninespine stickleback, including Pungitius tymensis and the freshwater, brackish water and Omono types of the P. pungitius-P. sinensis complex, are also excellent model systems for speciation research. Anthropogenic alteration of environments, however, has exposed several Japanese stickleback populations to the risk of extinction and has actually led to extinction of several populations and species. Pungitius kaibarae, which is endemic to East Asia, used to inhabit Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, but is now extinct. Causes of extinction include depletion of spring water, landfill of habitats, and construction of river-mouth weirs. Here, we review the importance of Japanese sticklebacks as genetic resources, the status of several endangered stickleback populations and species, and the factors putting these populations at risk.
PRC2 genes were analyzed for their number of gene duplications, dN/dS ratios and expression patterns among Brassicaceae and Gramineae species. Although both amino acid sequences and copy number of the PRC2 genes were generally well conserved in both Brassicaceae and Gramineae species, we observed that some rapidly evolving genes experienced duplications and expression pattern changes. After multiple duplication events, all but one or two of the duplicated copies tend to be silenced. Silenced copies were reactivated in the endosperm and showed ectopic expression in developing seeds. The results indicated that rapid evolution of some PRC2 genes is initially caused by a relaxation of selective constraint following the gene duplication events. Several loci could become maternally expressed imprinted genes and acquired functional roles in the endosperm.
Plants subjected to abiotic stress can regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally by means of small RNAs such as microRNAs. Cool-temperature stress causes abnormal tapetum hypertrophy in rice anthers, leading to pollen sterility. As a first step toward understanding the molecular mechanisms of cool tolerance in developing anthers of rice, we report here a comprehensive comparative analysis of microRNAs between cool-sensitive Sasanishiki and cool-tolerant Hitomebore cultivars. High-throughput Illumina sequencing revealed 241 known and 46 novel microRNAs. Interestingly, 15 of these microRNAs accumulated differentially in the two cultivars at the uninucleate microspore stage under cool conditions. Inverse correlations between expression patterns of microRNAs and their target genes were confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR analysis, and cleavage sites of some of the target genes were determined by 5’ RNA ligase-mediated RACE experiments. Thus, our data are useful resources to elucidate microRNA-mediated mechanism(s) of cool tolerance in rice anthers at the booting stage.
In quantitative gene expression analysis, normalization using a reference gene as an internal control is frequently performed for appropriate interpretation of the results. Efforts have been devoted to exploring superior novel reference genes using microarray transcriptomic data and to evaluating commonly used reference genes by targeting analysis. However, because the number of specifically detectable genes is totally dependent on probe design in the microarray analysis, exploration using microarray data may miss some of the best choices for the reference genes. Recently emerging RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) provides an ideal resource for comprehensive exploration of reference genes since this method is capable of detecting all expressed genes, in principle including even unknown genes. We report the results of a comprehensive exploration of reference genes using public RNA-seq data from plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis), Glycine max (soybean), Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) and Oryza sativa (rice). To select reference genes suitable for the broadest experimental conditions possible, candidates were surveyed by the following four steps: (1) evaluation of the basal expression level of each gene in each experiment; (2) evaluation of the expression stability of each gene in each experiment; (3) evaluation of the expression stability of each gene across the experiments; and (4) selection of top-ranked genes, after ranking according to the number of experiments in which the gene was expressed stably. Employing this procedure, 13, 10, 12 and 21 top candidates for reference genes were proposed in Arabidopsis, soybean, tomato and rice, respectively. Microarray expression data confirmed that the expression of the proposed reference genes under broad experimental conditions was more stable than that of commonly used reference genes. These novel reference genes will be useful for analyzing gene expression profiles across experiments carried out under various experimental conditions.
Molecular mechanisms underlying standing genetic variation of an ecologically relevant trait such as pigmentation trait variation in a model insect, Drosophila melanogaster, are relevant to our understanding of different kinds of intergenomic interactions. In this study, we focused on the association between body pigmentation and stress resistance, and on genotype-by-environment interaction, both of which are likely to contribute to the persistence of phenotypic variation in a natural population. First, we detected a significant association between pigmentation traits in females and starvation resistance (darker strains were weaker) and a weak association between pigmentation and chill coma recovery time (darker strains showed shorter recovery time) among 20 inbred strains from the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP), which originated from a natural population in North America. These associations revealed a complex relationship between body pigmentation and physiological traits that may give rise to balanced selective forces acting on the traits under fluctuating environmental conditions. Second, using four of the DGRP strains, a substantial degree of genotype (strain) × environment (rearing temperature) interaction was detected among expression levels of the genes encoding effector enzymes in the melanin biosynthesis pathway. These interactions can potentially reduce the efficiency of purifying selection on the pigmentation traits over a wide range of temperature conditions. Finally, we discuss possible mechanisms that contribute to the maintenance of the standing pigmentation variation in this species.