Coprinopsis cinerea (also known as Coprinus cinereus) is a multicellular basidiomycete mushroom particularly suited to the study of meiosis due to its synchronous meiotic development and prolonged prophase. We examined the 15-hour meiotic transcriptional program of C. cinerea, encompassing time points prior to haploid nuclear fusion though tetrad formation, using a 70-mer oligonucleotide microarray. As with other organisms, a large proportion (∼20%) of genes are differentially regulated during this developmental process, with successive waves of transcription apparent in nine transcriptional clusters, including one enriched for meiotic functions. C. cinerea and the fungi Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe diverged ∼500–900 million years ago, permitting a comparison of transcriptional programs across a broad evolutionary time scale. Previous studies of S. cerevisiae and S. pombe compared genes that were induced upon entry into meiosis; inclusion of C. cinerea data indicates that meiotic genes are more conserved in their patterns of induction across species than genes not known to be meiotic. In addition, we found that meiotic genes are significantly more conserved in their transcript profiles than genes not known to be meiotic, which indicates a remarkable conservation of the meiotic process across evolutionarily distant organisms. Overall, meiotic function genes are more conserved in both induction and transcript profile than genes not known to be meiotic. However, of 50 meiotic function genes that were co-induced in all three species, 41 transcript profiles were well-correlated in at least two of the three species, but only a single gene (rad50) exhibited coordinated induction and well-correlated transcript profiles in all three species, indicating that co-induction does not necessarily predict correlated expression or vice versa. Differences may reflect differences in meiotic mechanisms or new roles for paralogs. Similarities in induction, transcript profiles, or both, should contribute to gene discovery for orthologs without currently characterized meiotic roles.
Meiosis is the part of the sexual reproduction process in which the number of chromosomes in an organism is halved. This occurs in most plants, animals, and fungi; and many of the proteins involved are the same in the different organisms that have been studied. We wanted to ask whether the genes involved in the meiotic process are turned on and off at the same stages of meiosis in organisms that separated a long time ago. To do this we looked at three fungal species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast), Schizosaccharomyces pombe (a very distantly related fungus of the same phylum), and Coprinopsis cinerea (a mushroom-forming fungus of a different phylum), which had a common ancestor 500–900 million years ago (in comparison, rats and mice separated ∼23 million years ago). We lined up meiotic stages and found that gene expression during the meiotic process was more conserved for meiotic genes than for non-meiotic genes, indicating ancient conservation of the meiotic process.