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1.  On the Origin of De Novo Genes in Arabidopsis thaliana Populations 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2016;8(7):2190-2202.
De novo genes, which originate from ancestral nongenic sequences, are one of the most important sources of protein-coding genes. This origination process is crucial for the adaptation of organisms. However, how de novo genes arise and become fixed in a population or species remains largely unknown. Here, we identified 782 de novo genes from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and divided them into three types based on the availability of translational evidence, transcriptional evidence, and neither transcriptional nor translational evidence for their origin. Importantly, by integrating multiple types of omics data, including data from genomes, epigenomes, transcriptomes, and translatomes, we found that epigenetic modifications (DNA methylation and histone modification) play an important role in the origination process of de novo genes. Intriguingly, using the transcriptomes and methylomes from the same population of 84 accessions, we found that de novo genes that are transcribed in approximately half of the total accessions within the population are highly methylated, with lower levels of transcription than those transcribed at other frequencies within the population. We hypothesized that, during the origin of de novo gene alleles, those neutralized to low expression states via DNA methylation have relatively high probabilities of spreading and becoming fixed in a population. Our results highlight the process underlying the origin of de novo genes at the population level, as well as the importance of DNA methylation in this process.
PMCID: PMC4987118  PMID: 27401176
de novo genes; DNA methylation; origin; process; protein-coding genes
2.  The Arabidopsis lyrata genome sequence and the basis of rapid genome size change 
Nature genetics  2011;43(5):476-481.
We present the 207 Mb genome sequence of the outcrosser Arabidopsis lyrata, which diverged from the self-fertilizing species A. thaliana about 10 million years ago. It is generally assumed that the much smaller A. thaliana genome, which is only 125 Mb, constitutes the derived state for the family. Apparent genome reduction in this genus can be partially attributed to the loss of DNA from large-scale rearrangements, but the main cause lies in the hundreds of thousands of small deletions found throughout the genome. These occurred primarily in non-coding DNA and transposons, but protein-coding multi-gene families are smaller in A. thaliana as well. Analysis of deletions and insertions still segregating in A. thaliana indicates that the process of DNA loss is ongoing, suggesting pervasive selection for a smaller genome.
PMCID: PMC3083492  PMID: 21478890
3.  The FANTASTIC FOUR proteins influence shoot meristem size in Arabidopsis thaliana 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:285.
Throughout their lives plants produce new organs from groups of pluripotent cells called meristems, located at the tips of the shoot and the root. The size of the shoot meristem is tightly controlled by a feedback loop, which involves the homeodomain transcription factor WUSCHEL (WUS) and the CLAVATA (CLV) proteins. This regulatory circuit is further fine-tuned by morphogenic signals such as hormones and sugars.
Here we show that a family of four plant-specific proteins, encoded by the FANTASTIC FOUR (FAF) genes, has the potential to regulate shoot meristem size in Arabidopsis thaliana. FAF2 and FAF4 are expressed in the centre of the shoot meristem, overlapping with the site of WUS expression. Consistent with a regulatory interaction between the FAF gene family and WUS, our experiments indicate that the FAFs can repress WUS, which ultimately leads to an arrest of meristem activity in FAF overexpressing lines. The finding that meristematic expression of FAF2 and FAF4 is under negative control by CLV3 further supports the hypothesis that the FAFs are modulators of the genetic circuit that regulates the meristem.
This study reports the initial characterization of the Arabidopsis thaliana FAF gene family. Our data indicate that the FAF genes form a plant specific gene family, the members of which have the potential to regulate the size of the shoot meristem by modulating the CLV3-WUS feedback loop.
PMCID: PMC3023791  PMID: 21176196
4.  Independent FLC Mutations as Causes of Flowering-Time Variation in Arabidopsis thaliana and Capsella rubella 
Genetics  2012;192(2):729-739.
Capsella rubella is an inbreeding annual forb closely related to Arabidopsis thaliana, a model species widely used for studying natural variation in adaptive traits such as flowering time. Although mutations in dozens of genes can affect flowering of A. thaliana in the laboratory, only a handful of such genes vary in natural populations. Chief among these are FRIGIDA (FRI) and FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). Common and rare FRI mutations along with rare FLC mutations explain a large fraction of flowering-time variation in A. thaliana. Here we document flowering time under different conditions in 20 C. rubella accessions from across the species’ range. Similar to A. thaliana, vernalization, long photoperiods and elevated ambient temperature generally promote flowering. In this collection of C. rubella accessions, we did not find any obvious loss-of-function FRI alleles. Using mapping-by-sequencing with two strains that have contrasting flowering behaviors, we identified a splice-site mutation in FLC as the likely cause of early flowering in accession 1408. However, other similarly early C. rubella accessions did not share this mutation. We conclude that the genetic basis of flowering-time variation in C. rubella is complex, despite this very young species having undergone an extreme genetic bottleneck when it split from C. grandiflora a few tens of thousands of years ago.
PMCID: PMC3454893  PMID: 22865739
flowering time; mapping-by-sequencing; Arabidopsis thaliana; Capsella rubella; FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC)

Results 1-4 (4)