Advances in microscopy and fluorescent reporters have allowed us to detect the onset of gene expression on a cell-by-cell basis in a systemic fashion. This information, however, is often encoded in large repositories of images, and developing ways to extract this spatiotemporal expression data is a difficult problem that often uses complex domain-specific methods for each individual data set. We present a more unified approach that incorporates general previous information into a hierarchical probabilistic model to extract spatiotemporal gene expression from 4D confocal microscopy images of developing Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. This approach reduces the overall error rate of our automated lineage tracing pipeline by 3.8-fold, allowing us to routinely follow the C. elegans lineage to later stages of development, where individual neuronal subspecification becomes apparent. Unlike previous methods that often use custom approaches that are organism specific, our method uses generalized linear models and extensions of standard reversible jump Markov chain Monte Carlo methods that can be readily extended to other organisms for a variety of biological inference problems relating to cell fate specification. This modeling approach is flexible and provides tractable avenues for incorporating additional previous information into the model for similar difficult high-fidelity/low error tolerance image analysis problems for systematically applied genomic experiments.
C. elegans; cell fate; gene expression; image analysis; lineage
Robenacoxib is a novel and highly selective inhibitor of COX-2 in dogs and cats and because of its acidic nature is regarded as being tissue-selective. Thirty four dogs with stifle osteoarthritis secondary to failure of the cranial cruciate ligament were recruited into this study. Lameness, radiographic features, synovial cytology and C-reactive protein concentrations in serum and synovial fluid were assessed before and 28 days after commencing a course of Robenacoxib at a dose of 1 mg/kg SID.
There was a significant reduction in the lameness score (P < 0.01) and an increase in the radiographic score (P < 0.05) between pre- and post-treatment assessments. There was no difference between pre- (median 1.49 mg/l; Q1-Q3 0.56-4.24 mg/L) and post – (1.10 mg/L; 0.31-1.78 mg/L) treatment serum C-reactive protein levels although synovial fluid levels were significantly reduced (pre- : 0.44 mg/L; 0.23-1.62 mg/L; post- : 0.17 mg/L; 0.05-0.49 mg/L) (P < 0.05). There was no correlation between C-reactive protein concentrations in serum and matched synovial fluid samples.
Robenacoxib proved effective in reducing lameness in dogs with failure of the cranial cruciate ligament and osteoarthritis of the stifle joint. The drug also reduced levels of C-reactive protein in the synovial fluid taken from the affected stifle joint. Robenacoxib appears to reduce articular inflammation as assessed by C-reactive protein which supports the concept that Robenacoxib is a tissue-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Stifle; Osteoarthritis; Cruciate disease; C-reactive protein; Synovial fluid; Robenacoxib
Many animal species use a chromosome-based mechanism of sex determination, which has led to the coordinate evolution of dosage-compensation systems. Dosage compensation not only corrects the imbalance in the number of X chromosomes between the sexes but also is hypothesized to correct dosage imbalance within cells that is due to monoallelic X-linked expression and biallelic autosomal expression, by upregulating X-linked genes twofold (termed ‘Ohno’s hypothesis’). Although this hypothesis is well supported by expression analyses of individual X-linked genes and by microarray-based transcriptome analyses, it was challenged by a recent study using RNA sequencing and proteomics. We obtained new, independent RNA-seq data, measured RNA polymerase distribution and reanalyzed published expression data in mammals, C. elegans and Drosophila. Our analyses, which take into account the skewed gene content of the X chromosome, support the hypothesis of upregulation of expressed X-linked genes to balance expression of the genome.
The nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae is an excellent model organism for the comparative analysis of gene function and developmental mechanisms. To study the evolutionary conservation and divergence of genetic pathways mediating vulva formation, we screened for mutations in C. briggsae that cause the egg-laying defective (Egl) phenotype. Here, we report the characterization of 13 genes, including three that are orthologs of Caenorhabditis elegans unc-84 (SUN domain), lin-39 (Dfd/Scr-related homeobox), and lin-11 (LIM homeobox). Based on the morphology and cell fate changes, the mutants were placed into four different categories. Class 1 animals have normal-looking vulva and vulva-uterine connections, indicating defects in other components of the egg-laying system. Class 2 animals frequently lack some or all of the vulval precursor cells (VPCs) due to defects in the migration of P-cell nuclei into the ventral hypodermal region. Class 3 animals show inappropriate fusion of VPCs to the hypodermal syncytium, leading to a reduced number of vulval progeny. Finally, class 4 animals exhibit abnormal vulval invagination and morphology. Interestingly, we did not find mutations that affect VPC induction and fates. Our work is the first study involving the characterization of genes in C. briggsae vulva formation, and it offers a basis for future investigations of these genes in C. elegans.
C. briggsae; C. elegans; vulva; development; cell proliferation; differentiation; morphogenesis; egg-laying defective
The syndrome of cerebellar ataxia with bilateral vestibulopathy was delineated in 2004. Sensory neuropathy was mentioned in 3 of the 4 patients described. We aimed to characterize and estimate the frequency of neuropathy in this condition, and determine its typical MRI features.
Retrospective review of 18 subjects (including 4 from the original description) who met the criteria for bilateral vestibulopathy with cerebellar ataxia.
The reported age at onset range was 39–71 years, and symptom duration was 3–38 years. The syndrome was identified in one sibling pair, suggesting that this may be a late-onset recessive disorder, although the other 16 cases were apparently sporadic. All 18 had sensory neuropathy with absent sensory nerve action potentials, although this was not apparent clinically in 2, and the presence of neuropathy was not a selection criterion. In 5, the loss of pinprick sensation was virtually global, mimicking a neuronopathy. However, findings in the other 11 with clinically manifest neuropathy suggested a length-dependent neuropathy. MRI scans showed cerebellar atrophy in 16, involving anterior and dorsal vermis, and hemispheric crus I, while 2 were normal. The inferior vermis and brainstem were spared.
Sensory neuropathy is an integral component of this syndrome. It may result in severe sensory loss, which contributes significantly to the disability. The MRI changes are nonspecific, but, coupled with loss of sensory nerve action potentials, may aid diagnosis. We propose a new name for the condition: cerebellar ataxia with neuropathy and bilateral vestibular areflexia syndrome (CANVAS). Neurology® 2011;76:1903–1910
We systematically generated large-scale data sets to improve genome annotation for the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a key model organism. These data sets include transcriptome profiling across a developmental time course, genome-wide identification of transcription factor–binding sites, and maps of chromatin organization. From this, we created more complete and accurate gene models, including alternative splice forms and candidate noncoding RNAs. We constructed hierarchical networks of transcription factor–binding and microRNA interactions and discovered chromosomal locations bound by an unusually large number of transcription factors. Different patterns of chromatin composition and histone modification were revealed between chromosome arms and centers, with similarly prominent differences between autosomes and the X chromosome. Integrating data types, we built statistical models relating chromatin, transcription factor binding, and gene expression. Overall, our analyses ascribed putative functions to most of the conserved genome.
While Caenorhabditis elegans specifically responds to infection by the up-regulation of certain genes, distinct pathogens trigger the expression of a common set of genes. We applied new methods to conduct a comprehensive and comparative study of the transcriptional response of C. elegans to bacterial and fungal infection. Using tiling arrays and/or RNA-sequencing, we have characterized the genome-wide transcriptional changes that underlie the host's response to infection by three bacterial (Serratia marcescens, Enterococcus faecalis and otorhabdus luminescens) and two fungal pathogens (Drechmeria coniospora and Harposporium sp.). We developed a flexible tool, the WormBase Converter (available at http://wormbasemanager.sourceforge.net/), to allow cross-study comparisons. The new data sets provided more extensive lists of differentially regulated genes than previous studies. Annotation analysis confirmed that genes commonly up-regulated by bacterial infections are related to stress responses. We found substantial overlaps between the genes regulated upon intestinal infection by the bacterial pathogens and Harposporium, and between those regulated by Harposporium and D. coniospora, which infects the epidermis. Among the fungus-regulated genes, there was a significant bias towards genes that are evolving rapidly and potentially encode small proteins. The results obtained using new methods reveal that the response to infection in C. elegans is determined by the nature of the pathogen, the site of infection and the physiological imbalance provoked by infection. They form the basis for future functional dissection of innate immune signaling. Finally, we also propose alternative methods to identify differentially regulated genes that take into account the greater variability in lowly expressed genes.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been found to regulate gene expression across eukaryotic species, but the function of most miRNA genes remains unknown. Here we describe how the analysis of the expression patterns of a well-conserved miRNA gene, mir-57, at cellular resolution for every minute during early development of Caenorhabditis elegans provided key insights in understanding its function. Remarkably, mir-57 expression shows strong positional bias but little tissue specificity, a pattern reminiscent of Hox gene function. Despite the minor defects produced by a loss of function mutation, overexpression of mir-57 causes dramatic posterior defects, which also mimic the phenotypes of mutant alleles of a posterior Hox gene, nob-1, an Abd homolog. More importantly, nob-1 expression is found in the same two posterior AB sublineages as those expressing mir-57 but with an earlier onset. Intriguingly, nob-1 functions as an activator for mir-57 expression; it is also a direct target of mir-57. In agreement with this, loss of mir-57 function partially rescues the nob-1 allele defects, indicating a negative feedback regulatory loop between the miRNA and Hox gene to provide positional cues. Given the conservation of the miRNA and Hox gene, the regulatory mechanism might be broadly used across species. The strategy used here to explore mir-57 function provides a path to dissect the regulatory relationship between genes.
miRNAs are small RNAs found in many multi-cellular species that inhibit gene expression. Many of them play important roles in cancer and cell fate determination, but the function of most miRNAs is uncertain. Using live cell imaging and automated expression analysis, we found a miRNA gene, mir-57, is expressed in a position rather than tissue dependent way. Hox genes also regulate cell fate patterning along anterior-posterior (a-p) axis across different tissues. By investigating interactions between genes of these classes expressed in mir-57 expressing cells, we demonstrated by both genetic analysis and gene expression assays that a negative feedback loop between a posterior Hox gene, nob-1, and mir-57 regulates posterior cell fate determination in C. elegans. On the one hand, the Hox gene is required for normal activation of mir-57 expression, and on the other, the Hox gene functions as a direct target of and is repressed by the miRNA. Given the conservation of the two genes, a negative feedback loop between Hox and miRNA genes might be broadly used across species to regulate cell fate along the a-p axis. Detailed expression analysis may provide a general way to dissect the regulatory role of miRNAs.
Tiling arrays have been the tool of choice for probing an organism's transcriptome without prior assumptions about the transcribed regions, but RNA-Seq is becoming a viable alternative as the costs of sequencing continue to decrease. Understanding the relative merits of these technologies will help researchers select the appropriate technology for their needs.
Here, we compare these two platforms using a matched sample of poly(A)-enriched RNA isolated from the second larval stage of C. elegans. We find that the raw signals from these two technologies are reasonably well correlated but that RNA-Seq outperforms tiling arrays in several respects, notably in exon boundary detection and dynamic range of expression. By exploring the accuracy of sequencing as a function of depth of coverage, we found that about 4 million reads are required to match the sensitivity of two tiling array replicates. The effects of cross-hybridization were analyzed using a "nearest neighbor" classifier applied to array probes; we describe a method for determining potential "black list" regions whose signals are unreliable. Finally, we propose a strategy for using RNA-Seq data as a gold standard set to calibrate tiling array data. All tiling array and RNA-Seq data sets have been submitted to the modENCODE Data Coordinating Center.
Tiling arrays effectively detect transcript expression levels at a low cost for many species while RNA-Seq provides greater accuracy in several regards. Researchers will need to carefully select the technology appropriate to the biological investigations they are undertaking. It will also be important to reconsider a comparison such as ours as sequencing technologies continue to evolve.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) at certain frequencies increases thresholds for motor-evoked potentials and phosphenes following stimulation of cortex. Consequently rTMS is often assumed to introduce a “virtual lesion” in stimulated brain regions, with correspondingly diminished behavioral performance.
Here we investigated the effects of rTMS to visual cortex on subjects' ability to perform visual psychophysical tasks. Contrary to expectations of a visual deficit, we find that rTMS often improves the discrimination of visual features. For coarse orientation tasks, discrimination of a static stimulus improved consistently following theta-burst stimulation of the occipital lobe. Using a reaction-time task, we found that these improvements occurred throughout the visual field and lasted beyond one hour post-rTMS. Low-frequency (1 Hz) stimulation yielded similar improvements. In contrast, we did not find consistent effects of rTMS on performance in a fine orientation discrimination task.
Overall our results suggest that rTMS generally improves or has no effect on visual acuity, with the nature of the effect depending on the type of stimulation and the task. We interpret our results in the context of an ideal-observer model of visual perception.
Despite the successes of genomics, little is known about how genetic information produces complex organisms. A look at the crucial functional elements of fly and worm genomes could change that.
Transcription factors are key components of regulatory networks that control development, as well as the response to environmental stimuli. We have established an experimental pipeline in Caenorhabditis elegans that permits global identification of the binding sites for transcription factors using chromatin immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing. We describe and validate this strategy, and apply it to the transcription factor PHA-4, which plays critical roles in organ development and other cellular processes. We identified thousands of binding sites for PHA-4 during formation of the embryonic pharynx, and also found a role for this factor during the starvation response. Many binding sites were found to shift dramatically between embryos and starved larvae, from developmentally regulated genes to genes involved in metabolism. These results indicate distinct roles for this regulator in two different biological processes and demonstrate the versatility of transcription factors in mediating diverse biological roles.
The C. elegans transcription factor PHA-4 is a member of the highly conserved FOXA family of transcription factors. These factors act as master regulators of organ development by controlling how genes are turned off and on as tissues are formed. Additionally they regulate genes in response to nutrient levels and control both longevity and survival of the organism. However, the extent to which these factors control similar or distinct gene targets for each of these functions is unknown. For this reason, we have used the technique of chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP–Seq), to define the target binding sites of PHA-4 on a genome-wide scale, when it is either functioning as an organ identity regulator or in response to environmental stress. Our data clearly demonstrate distinct sets of biologically relevant target genes for the transcription factor PHA-4 under these two different conditions. Not only have we defined PHA-4 targets, but we established an experimental ChIP–Seq pipeline to facilitate the identification of binding sites for many transcription factors in the future.
Image analysis is an essential component in many biological experiments that study gene expression, cell cycle progression, and protein localization. A protocol for tracking the expression of individual C. elegans genes was developed that collects image samples of a developing embryo by 3-D time lapse microscopy. In this protocol, a program called StarryNite performs the automatic recognition of fluorescently labeled cells and traces their lineage. However, due to the amount of noise present in the data and due to the challenges introduced by increasing number of cells in later stages of development, this program is not error free. In the current version, the error correction (i.e., editing) is performed manually using a graphical interface tool named AceTree, which is specifically developed for this task. For a single experiment, this manual annotation task takes several hours.
In this paper, we reduce the time required to correct errors made by StarryNite. We target one of the most frequent error types (movements annotated as divisions) and train a support vector machine (SVM) classifier to decide whether a division call made by StarryNite is correct or not. We show, via cross-validation experiments on several benchmark data sets, that the SVM successfully identifies this type of error significantly. A new version of StarryNite that includes the trained SVM classifier is available at http://starrynite.sourceforge.net.
We demonstrate the utility of a machine learning approach to error annotation for StarryNite. In the process, we also provide some general methodologies for developing and validating a classifier with respect to a given pattern recognition task.
Comparative genomic analysis of important signaling pathways in C. briggase and C. elegans reveals both conserved features and also differences. To build a framework to address the significance of these features we determined the C. briggsae embryonic cell lineage, using the tools StarryNite and AceTree. We traced both cell divisions and cell positions for all cells through all but the last round of cell division and for selected cells through the final round. We found the lineage to be remarkably similar to that of C. elegans. Not only did the founder cells give rise to similar numbers of progeny, the relative cell division timing and positions were largely maintained. These lineage similarities appear to give rise to similar cell fates as judged both by the positions of lineally-equivalent cells and by the patterns of cell deaths in both species. However, some reproducible differences were seen, e.g., the P4 cell cycle length is more than 40% longer in C. briggsae than that in C. elegans (p < 0.01). The extensive conservation of embryonic development between such divergent species suggests that substantial evolutionary distance between these two species has not altered these early developmental cellular events, although the developmental defects of transpecies hybrids suggest that the details of the underlying molecular pathways have diverged sufficiently so as to not be interchangeable.
C. briggsae; C. elegans; embryo; cell lineage; signaling pathway
As a fundamental process of development, cell proliferation must be coordinated with other processes such as fate differentiation. Through statistical analysis of individual cell cycle lengths of the first eight out of ten rounds of embryonic cell division in C. elegans, we identified synchronous and invariantly ordered divisions that are tightly associated with fate differentiation. Our results suggest a three-tier model for fate control of cell cycle pace: the primary control of cell cycle pace is established by lineage and the founder cell fate, then fine-tuned by tissue and organ differentiation within each lineage, then further modified by individualization of cells as they acquire unique morphological and physiological roles in the variant body plan. We then set out to identify the pace-setting mechanisms in different fates. Our results suggest that ubiquitin-mediated degradation of CDC-25.1 is a rate-determining step for the E (gut) and P3 (muscle and germline) lineages but not others, even though CDC-25.1 and its apparent decay have been detected in all lineages. Our results demonstrate the power of C. elegans embryogenesis as a model to dissect the interaction between differentiation and proliferation, and an effective approach combining genetic and statistical analysis at single-cell resolution.
statistics; single cell; fate differentiation; cdc25; Skp1-related
The human X chromosome has a unique biology that was shaped by its evolution as the sex chromosome shared by males and females. We have determined 99.3% of the euchromatic sequence of the X chromosome. Our analysis illustrates the autosomal origin of the mammalian sex chromosomes, the stepwise process that led to the progressive loss of recombination between X and Y, and the extent of subsequent degradation of the Y chromosome. LINE1 repeat elements cover one-third of the X chromosome, with a distribution that is consistent with their proposed role as way stations in the process of X-chromosome inactivation. We found 1,098 genes in the sequence, of which 99 encode proteins expressed in testis and in various tumour types. A disproportionately high number of mendelian diseases are documented for the X chromosome. Of this number, 168 have been explained by mutations in 113 X-linked genes, which in many cases were characterized with the aid of the DNA sequence.
Housing is a key determinant of child and youth health. A significant number of Canadian children and youth are living in housing need, but information regarding the housing status of children and youth in the Ottawa, Ontario, community is lacking.
To examine the housing status of children and youth accessing emergency health services at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (Ottawa, Ontario), and the factors associated with housing status.
Youth and families of children registered at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s emergency department were offered a questionnaire. Affordability, adequacy, suitability and stability of housing were evaluated through self-reporting. Housing need was defined as an inability to meet one or more of these criteria. Associations among housing and household composition, demographics and weight-for-age percentiles were examined.
One thousand three hundred sixty surveys were completed. Fifty-four per cent of respondents (663 of 1224) were living in housing need, including 33% of respondents (381 of 1166) who were living in unaffordable housing. Single-parent families (OR 2.82), families with six or more members (OR 2.51) and families who rented (OR 5.27) were more likely to be living in housing need. Children and youth with a primary care physician were more likely to be living in stable housing (OR 0.41). Unsuitable housing was associated with extreme weight-forage percentiles (OR 1.90).
More than one-half of the children and youth in the present study were living in housing need. Health care providers have a responsibility to identify and understand the determinants of health of their patients, including housing, and to work for the improved health of their patients and their communities.
Community medicine; Determinants of health; Housing; Public health
We describe a system that permits the automated analysis of reporter gene expression in Caenorhabditis elegans with cellular resolution continuously during embryogenesis and demonstrate its utility by defining the expression patterns of reporters for several embryonically expressed transcription factors. The invariant cell lineage permits the automated alignment of multiple expression profiles, allowing the direct comparison of the expression of different genes' reporters. We have also used the system to monitor perturbations to normal development involving changes both in cell division timing and in cell fate. Systematic application could reveal the gene activity of each cell throughout development.
The acute phase response is the immediate host response to infection, inflammation and trauma and can be monitored by measuring the acute phase proteins (APP) such as haptoglobin (Hp) or serum amyloid A (SAA). The plane of nutrition during pregnancy is known to affect many mechanisms including the neuroendocrine and neuroimmune systems in neonatal animals but effects on the APP are unknown. To investigate this phenomenon the serum concentration of Hp and SAA was initially determined in non-stimulated lambs from 3 groups (n = 10/group). The dams of the lambs of the respective groups were fed 100% of requirements throughout gestation (High/High; HH); 100% of requirements for the first 65 d of gestation followed by 70% of requirements until 125 d from when they were fed 100% of requirements (High/Low; HL); 65% of liveweight maintenance requirements for the first 65 d gestation followed by 100% of requirements for the remainder of pregnancy (Low/High; LH). The dynamic APP response in the lambs was estimated by measuring the concentration of Hp and SAA following routine vaccination with a multivalent clostridial vaccine with a Pasteurella component, Heptavac P™ following primary and secondary vaccination.
The Hp and SAA concentrations were significantly lower at the time of vaccination (day 8–14) than on the day of birth. Vaccination stimulated the acute phase response in lambs with increases found in both Hp and SAA. Maternal undernutrition led to the SAA response to vaccination being significantly lower in the HL group than in the HH group. The LH group did not differ significantly from either the HH or HL groups. No significant effects of maternal undernutrition were found on the Hp concentrations. A significant reduction was found in all groups in the response of SAA following the second vaccination compared to the response after the primary vaccination but no change occurred in the Hp response.
Decreased SAA concentrations, post-vaccination, in lambs born to ewes on the HL diet shows that maternal undernutrition prior to parturition affects the innate immune system of the offspring. The differences in response of Hp and SAA to primary and secondary vaccinations indicate that the cytokine driven APP response mechanisms vary with individual APP.
Caseous lymphadenitis (CLA) is a disease of small ruminants caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. The pathogenesis of CLA is a slow process, and produces a chronic rather than an acute disease state. Acute phase proteins (APP) such as haptoglobin (Hp) serum amyloid A (SAA) and α1 acid glycoprotein (AGP) are produced by the liver and released into the circulation in response to pro-inflammatory cytokines. The concentration of Hp in serum increases in experimental CLA but it is not known if SAA and AGP respond in parallel or have differing response profiles.
The concentration in serum of Hp, SAA and AGP in 6 sheep challenged with 2 × 105 cells of C. pseudotuberculosis showed significant increases (P < 0.05) compared to 3 unchallenged control sheep. By day 7 post infection. (p.i.) the Hp and SAA concentrations reached mean (± SEM) values of 1.65 ± 0.21 g/L and 18.1 ± 5.2 mg/L respectively. Thereafter, their concentrations fell with no significant difference to those of the control sheep by day 18 p.i.. In contrast, the serum AGP concentration in infected sheep continued to rise to a peak of 0.38 ± 0.05 g/L on day 13 p.i., after which a slow decline occurred, although the mean concentration remained significantly higher (P < 0.05) than the control group up to 29 days p.i.. Specific IgG to phospholidase D of C. pseudotuberculosis became detectable at 11 days p.i. and continued to rise throughout the experiment.
The serum concentrations of Hp, SAA and AGP were raised in sheep in an experimental model of CLA. An extended response was found for AGP which occurred at a point when the infection was likely to have been transforming from an acute to a chronic phase. The results suggest that AGP could have a role as a marker for chronic conditions in sheep.
Recent clinical studies have suggested that, for certain strains of influenza virus, intradermal (i.d.) delivery may enable protective immune responses using a lower dose of vaccine than required by intramuscular (i.m.) injection. Here, we describe the first preclinical use of microneedle technology for i.d. administration of three different types of influenza vaccines: (i) a whole inactivated influenza virus, (ii) a trivalent split-virion human vaccine, and (iii) a plasmid DNA encoding the influenza virus hemagglutinin. In a rat model, i.d. delivery of the whole inactivated virus provided up to 100-fold dose sparing compared to i.m. injection. In addition, i.d. delivery of the trivalent human vaccine enabled at least 10-fold dose sparing for the H1N1 strain and elicited levels of response across the dose range similar to those of i.m. injection for the H3N2 and B strains. Furthermore, at least fivefold dose sparing from i.d. delivery was evident in animals treated with multiple doses of DNA plasmid vaccine, although such effects were not apparent after the first immunization. Altogether, the results demonstrate that microneedle-based i.d. delivery elicits antibody responses that are at least as strong as via i.m. injection and that, in many cases, dose sparing can be achieved by this new immunization method.
To determine whether the distinctive features of Caenorhabditis elegans chromosomal organization are shared with the C. briggsae genome, we constructed a single nucleotide polymorphism–based genetic map to order and orient the whole genome shotgun assembly along the six C. briggsae chromosomes. Although these species are of the same genus, their most recent common ancestor existed 80–110 million years ago, and thus they are more evolutionarily distant than, for example, human and mouse. We found that, like C. elegans chromosomes, C. briggsae chromosomes exhibit high levels of recombination on the arms along with higher repeat density, a higher fraction of intronic sequence, and a lower fraction of exonic sequence compared with chromosome centers. Despite extensive intrachromosomal rearrangements, 1:1 orthologs tend to remain in the same region of the chromosome, and colinear blocks of orthologs tend to be longer in chromosome centers compared with arms. More strikingly, the two species show an almost complete conservation of synteny, with 1:1 orthologs present on a single chromosome in one species also found on a single chromosome in the other. The conservation of both chromosomal organization and synteny between these two distantly related species suggests roles for chromosome organization in the fitness of an organism that are only poorly understood presently.
The importance of chromosomal organization in the fitness of a species is only poorly understood. The publication of the C. elegans genome sequence in 1998 revealed features of higher level organization that suggested its chromosomes were organized into distinct domains. Chromosome arms were accumulating changes more rapidly than the centers of chromosomes. In this paper, we have compared the organization of the nematode C. briggsae genome with that of C. elegans. By building a genetic map based on DNA variations between two strains of C. briggsae, and by using that map to organize the draft genome sequence of C. briggsae published in 2003, we found the following: (1) Intrachromosomal rearrangements are frequent within and even between arms but are less common within central regions and between arms and centers. (2) Genes have remained overwhelmingly on the same chromosomes. (3) The distinctive features that distinguish C. elegans arms from centers also are seen in C. briggsae chromosomes. The conservation of these features between these two species, despite the approximately 100 million years since their most recent common ancestor, provides clear evidence of the selective advantages of the domain architecture of chromosomes. The continuing association of genes on the same chromosomes suggests that this may also be advantageous.
The conservation of both chromosomal organization and synteny between two distantly related species suggests roles for chromosome organization in the fitness of an organism.