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2014 GENETICS Web Spotlight

2013 Web Spotlight


Since 1916, GENETICS has sought to publish significant advances in the field. To be accepted for publication, manuscripts must provide new insights into a biological process or demonstrate novel and creative approaches to an important biological problem or describe development of new resources, methods, technologies, or tools. And the study must be of interest to a wide range of genetics and genomics investigators. The editors of GENETICS seek to attract and publish articles that they believe will have a high impact on the field.


While it has a long and illustrious history, GENETICS has changed: it is not your mentor's journal. The editors make decisions quickly – in around 32 days – without sacrificing the excellence and scholarship for which the journal has long been known. GENETICS is constantly innovating; some of the new and expanded types of content include:

  • YeastBook – a comprehensive compendium of reviews that presents the current state of knowledge of the molecular biology, cellular biology, and genetics of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

  • Educational Primers – tied to a current article in GENETICS, these educational resources lay out the necessary background (i.e., what was the question and why did that question matter?), explain the hypothesis or approach, describe the methodology, guide the reader through the results, and provide a precise summation of the discussion.

  • Genetic Toolbox Reviews – describes practical and intellectual resources available for the study of less commonly used experimental organisms.

  • Reviews

Thompson Reuters JCR Impact Factor (2014): 5.963
EigenFactor (2014): 0.06335
Cited Half-life (2014): >10 years


View the Editorial Board  |  Read GENETICS  Submit your manuscript  |  Contact us



 What's Inside the Current Issue of GENETICS


Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS [Issue Highlights]

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

The Sustained Impact of Model Organisms--in Genetics and Epigenetics [Commentary]

Bonini, N. M., Berger, S. L.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Three-Dimensional Genome Organization and Function in Drosophila [Flybook]

Schwartz, Y. B., Cavalli, G.

Understanding how the metazoan genome is used during development and cell differentiation is one of the major challenges in the postgenomic era. Early studies in Drosophila suggested that three-dimensional (3D) chromosome organization plays important regulatory roles in this process and recent technological advances started to reveal connections at the molecular level. Here we will consider general features of the architectural organization of the Drosophila genome, providing historical perspective and insights from recent work. We will compare the linear and spatial segmentation of the fly genome and focus on the two key regulators of genome architecture: insulator components and Polycomb group proteins. With its unique set of genetic tools and a compact, well annotated genome, Drosophila is poised to remain a model system of choice for rapid progress in understanding principles of genome organization and to serve as a proving ground for development of 3D genome-engineering techniques.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Cell Biology of the Caenorhabditis elegans Nucleus [Cell and Organelle Biology]

Cohen-Fix, O., Askjaer, P.

Studies on the Caenorhabditis elegans nucleus have provided fascinating insight to the organization and activities of eukaryotic cells. Being the organelle that holds the genetic blueprint of the cell, the nucleus is critical for basically every aspect of cell biology. The stereotypical development of C. elegans from a one cell-stage embryo to a fertile hermaphrodite with 959 somatic nuclei has allowed the identification of mutants with specific alterations in gene expression programs, nuclear morphology, or nuclear positioning. Moreover, the early C. elegans embryo is an excellent model to dissect the mitotic processes of nuclear disassembly and reformation with high spatiotemporal resolution. We review here several features of the C. elegans nucleus, including its composition, structure, and dynamics. We also discuss the spatial organization of chromatin and regulation of gene expression and how this depends on tight control of nucleocytoplasmic transport. Finally, the extensive connections of the nucleus with the cytoskeleton and their implications during development are described. Most processes of the C. elegans nucleus are evolutionarily conserved, highlighting the relevance of this powerful and versatile model organism to human biology.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Controlling the Rate of GWAS False Discoveries [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

Brzyski, D., Peterson, C. B., Sobczyk, P., Candes, E. J., Bogdan, M., Sabatti, C.

With the rise of both the number and the complexity of traits of interest, control of the false discovery rate (FDR) in genetic association studies has become an increasingly appealing and accepted target for multiple comparison adjustment. While a number of robust FDR-controlling strategies exist, the nature of this error rate is intimately tied to the precise way in which discoveries are counted, and the performance of FDR-controlling procedures is satisfactory only if there is a one-to-one correspondence between what scientists describe as unique discoveries and the number of rejected hypotheses. The presence of linkage disequilibrium between markers in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) often leads researchers to consider the signal associated to multiple neighboring SNPs as indicating the existence of a single genomic locus with possible influence on the phenotype. This a posteriori aggregation of rejected hypotheses results in inflation of the relevant FDR. We propose a novel approach to FDR control that is based on prescreening to identify the level of resolution of distinct hypotheses. We show how FDR-controlling strategies can be adapted to account for this initial selection both with theoretical results and simulations that mimic the dependence structure to be expected in GWAS. We demonstrate that our approach is versatile and useful when the data are analyzed using both tests based on single markers and multiple regression. We provide an R package that allows practitioners to apply our procedure on standard GWAS format data, and illustrate its performance on lipid traits in the North Finland Birth Cohort 66 cohort study.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

The Spike-and-Slab Lasso Generalized Linear Models for Prediction and Associated Genes Detection [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

Tang, Z., Shen, Y., Zhang, X., Yi, N.

Large-scale "omics" data have been increasingly used as an important resource for prognostic prediction of diseases and detection of associated genes. However, there are considerable challenges in analyzing high-dimensional molecular data, including the large number of potential molecular predictors, limited number of samples, and small effect of each predictor. We propose new Bayesian hierarchical generalized linear models, called spike-and-slab lasso GLMs, for prognostic prediction and detection of associated genes using large-scale molecular data. The proposed model employs a spike-and-slab mixture double-exponential prior for coefficients that can induce weak shrinkage on large coefficients, and strong shrinkage on irrelevant coefficients. We have developed a fast and stable algorithm to fit large-scale hierarchal GLMs by incorporating expectation-maximization (EM) steps into the fast cyclic coordinate descent algorithm. The proposed approach integrates nice features of two popular methods, i.e., penalized lasso and Bayesian spike-and-slab variable selection. The performance of the proposed method is assessed via extensive simulation studies. The results show that the proposed approach can provide not only more accurate estimates of the parameters, but also better prediction. We demonstrate the proposed procedure on two cancer data sets: a well-known breast cancer data set consisting of 295 tumors, and expression data of 4919 genes; and the ovarian cancer data set from TCGA with 362 tumors, and expression data of 5336 genes. Our analyses show that the proposed procedure can generate powerful models for predicting outcomes and detecting associated genes. The methods have been implemented in a freely available R package BhGLM (

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Pathway-Structured Predictive Model for Cancer Survival Prediction: A Two-Stage Approach [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

Zhang, X., Li, Y., Akinyemiju, T., Ojesina, A. I., Buckhaults, P., Liu, N., Xu, B., Yi, N.

Heterogeneity in terms of tumor characteristics, prognosis, and survival among cancer patients has been a persistent problem for many decades. Currently, prognosis and outcome predictions are made based on clinical factors and/or by incorporating molecular profiling data. However, inaccurate prognosis and prediction may result by using only clinical or molecular information directly. One of the main shortcomings of past studies is the failure to incorporate prior biological information into the predictive model, given strong evidence of the pathway-based genetic nature of cancer, i.e., the potential for oncogenes to be grouped into pathways based on biological functions such as cell survival, proliferation, and metastatic dissemination. To address this problem, we propose a two-stage approach to incorporate pathway information into the prognostic modeling using large-scale gene expression data. In the first stage, we fit all predictors within each pathway using the penalized Cox model and Bayesian hierarchical Cox model. In the second stage, we combine the cross-validated prognostic scores of all pathways obtained in the first stage as new predictors to build an integrated prognostic model for prediction. We apply the proposed method to analyze two independent breast and ovarian cancer datasets from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), predicting overall survival using large-scale gene expression profiling data. The results from both datasets show that the proposed approach not only improves survival prediction compared with the alternative analyses that ignore the pathway information, but also identifies significant biological pathways.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

A New Mechanism for Mendelian Dominance in Regulatory Genetic Pathways: Competitive Binding by Transcription Factors [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

Porter, A. H., Johnson, N. A., Tulchinsky, A. Y.

We report a new mechanism for allelic dominance in regulatory genetic interactions that we call binding dominance. We investigated a biophysical model of gene regulation, where the fractional occupancy of a transcription factor (TF) on the cis-regulated promoter site it binds to is determined by binding energy (–G) and TF dosage. Transcription and gene expression proceed when the TF is bound to the promoter. In diploids, individuals may be heterozygous at the cis-site, at the TF’s coding region, or at the TF’s own promoter, which determines allele-specific dosage. We find that when the TF’s coding region is heterozygous, TF alleles compete for occupancy at the cis-sites and the tighter-binding TF is dominant in proportion to the difference in binding strength. When the TF’s own promoter is heterozygous, the TF produced at the higher dosage is also dominant. Cis-site heterozygotes have additive expression and therefore codominant phenotypes. Binding dominance propagates to affect the expression of downstream loci and it is sensitive in both magnitude and direction to genetic background, but its detectability often attenuates. While binding dominance is inevitable at the molecular level, it is difficult to detect in the phenotype under some biophysical conditions, more so when TF dosage is high and allele-specific binding affinities are similar. A body of empirical research on the biophysics of TF binding demonstrates the plausibility of this mechanism of dominance, but studies of gene expression under competitive binding in heterozygotes in a diversity of genetic backgrounds are needed.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Histone H4 Facilitates the Proteolysis of the Budding Yeast CENP-ACse4 Centromeric Histone Variant [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

Deyter, G. M. R., Hildebrand, E. M., Barber, A. D., Biggins, S.

The incorporation of histone variants into nucleosomes can alter chromatin-based processes. CENP-A is the histone H3 variant found exclusively at centromeres that serves as an epigenetic mark for centromere identity and is required for kinetochore assembly. CENP-A mislocalization to ectopic sites appears to contribute to genomic instability, transcriptional misregulation, and tumorigenesis, so mechanisms exist to ensure its exclusive localization to centromeres. One conserved process is proteolysis, which is mediated by the Psh1 E3 ubiquitin ligase in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (budding yeast). To determine whether there are features of the CENP-A nucleosome that facilitate proteolysis, we performed a genetic screen to identify histone H4 residues that regulate CENP-ACse4 degradation. We found that H4-R36 is a key residue that promotes the interaction between CENP-ACse4 and Psh1. Consistent with this, CENP-ACse4 protein levels are stabilized in H4-R36A mutant cells and CENP-ACse4 is enriched in the euchromatin. We propose that the defects in CENP-ACse4 proteolysis may be related to changes in Psh1 localization, as Psh1 becomes enriched at some 3' intergenic regions in H4-R36A mutant cells. Together, these data reveal a key residue in histone H4 that is important for efficient CENP-ACse4 degradation, likely by facilitating the interaction between Psh1 and CENP-ACse4.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Maintenance of Heterochromatin by the Large Subunit of the CAF-1 Replication-Coupled Histone Chaperone Requires Its Interaction with HP1a Through a Conserved Motif [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

Roelens, B., Clemot, M., Leroux-Coyau, M., Klapholz, B., Dostatni, N.

In eukaryotic cells, the organization of genomic DNA into chromatin regulates many biological processes, from the control of gene expression to the regulation of chromosome segregation. The proper maintenance of this structure upon cell division is therefore of prime importance during development for the maintenance of cell identity and genome stability. The chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1) is involved in the assembly of H3-H4 histone dimers on newly synthesized DNA and in the maintenance of a higher order structure, the heterochromatin, through an interaction of its large subunit with the heterochromatin protein HP1a. We identify here a conserved domain in the large subunit of the CAF-1 complex required for its interaction with HP1a in the Drosophila fruit fly. Functional analysis reveals that this domain is dispensable for viability but participates in two processes involving heterochromatin: position-effect variegation and long range chromosomal interactions during meiotic prophase. Importantly, the identification in the large subunit of CAF-1 of a domain required for its interaction with HP1 allows the separation of its functions in heterochromatin-related processes from its function in the assembly of H3-H4 dimers onto newly synthesized DNA.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

The Nucleotide Excision Repair Pathway Limits L1 Retrotransposition [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

Servant, G., Streva, V. A., Derbes, R. S., Wijetunge, M. I., Neeland, M., White, T. B., Belancio, V. P., Roy-Engel, A. M., Deininger, P. L.

Long interspersed elements 1 (L1) are active mobile elements that constitute almost 17% of the human genome. They amplify through a "copy-and-paste" mechanism termed retrotransposition, and de novo insertions related to these elements have been reported to cause 0.2% of genetic diseases. Our previous data demonstrated that the endonuclease complex ERCC1-XPF, which cleaves a 3' DNA flap structure, limits L1 retrotransposition. Although the ERCC1-XPF endonuclease participates in several different DNA repair pathways, such as single-strand annealing, or in telomere maintenance, its recruitment to DNA lesions is best characterized in the nucleotide excision repair (NER) pathway. To determine if the NER pathway prevents the insertion of retroelements in the genome, we monitored the retrotransposition efficiencies of engineered L1 elements in NER-deficient cells and in their complemented versions. Core proteins of the NER pathway, XPD and XPA, and the lesion binding protein, XPC, are involved in limiting L1 retrotransposition. In addition, sequence analysis of recovered de novo L1 inserts and their genomic locations in NER-deficient cells demonstrated the presence of abnormally large duplications at the site of insertion, suggesting that NER proteins may also play a role in the normal L1 insertion process. Here, we propose new functions for the NER pathway in the maintenance of genome integrity: limitation of insertional mutations caused by retrotransposons and the prevention of potentially mutagenic large genomic duplications at the site of retrotransposon insertion events.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Variation and Evolution of the Meiotic Requirement for Crossing Over in Mammals [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

Dumont, B. L.

The segregation of homologous chromosomes at the first meiotic division is dependent on the presence of at least one well-positioned crossover per chromosome. In some mammalian species, however, the genomic distribution of crossovers is consistent with a more stringent baseline requirement of one crossover per chromosome arm. Given that the meiotic requirement for crossing over defines the minimum frequency of recombination necessary for the production of viable gametes, determining the chromosomal scale of this constraint is essential for defining crossover profiles predisposed to aneuploidy and understanding the parameters that shape patterns of recombination rate evolution across species. Here, I use cytogenetic methods for in situ imaging of crossovers in karyotypically diverse house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) and voles (genus Microtus) to test how chromosome number and configuration constrain the distribution of crossovers in a genome. I show that the global distribution of crossovers in house mice is thresholded by a minimum of one crossover per chromosome arm, whereas the crossover landscape in voles is defined by a more relaxed requirement of one crossover per chromosome. I extend these findings in an evolutionary metaanalysis of published recombination and karyotype data for 112 mammalian species and demonstrate that the physical scale of the genomic crossover distribution has undergone multiple independent shifts from one crossover per chromosome arm to one per chromosome during mammalian evolution. Together, these results indicate that the chromosomal scale constraint on crossover rates is itself a trait that evolves among species, a finding that casts light on an important source of crossover rate variation in mammals.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

An Evolutionarily Conserved Transcriptional Activator-Repressor Module Controls Expression of Genes for D-Galacturonic Acid Utilization in Aspergillus niger [Gene Expression]

Niu, J., Alazi, E., Reid, I. D., Arentshorst, M., Punt, P. J., Visser, J., Tsang, A., Ram, A. F. J.

The expression of genes encoding extracellular polymer-degrading enzymes and the metabolic pathways required for carbon utilization in fungi are tightly controlled. The control is mediated by transcription factors that are activated by the presence of specific inducers, which are often monomers or monomeric derivatives of the polymers. A D-galacturonic acid-specific transcription factor named GaaR was recently identified and shown to be an activator for the expression of genes involved in galacturonic acid utilization in Botrytis cinerea and Aspergillus niger. Using a forward genetic screen, we isolated A. niger mutants that constitutively express GaaR-controlled genes. Reasoning that mutations in the gaaR gene would lead to a constitutively activated transcription factor, the gaaR gene in 11 of the constitutive mutants was sequenced, but no mutations in gaaR were found. Full genome sequencing of five constitutive mutants revealed allelic mutations in one particular gene encoding a previously uncharacterized protein (NRRL3_08194). The protein encoded by NRRL3_08194 shows homology to the repressor of the quinate utilization pathway identified previously in Neurospora crassa (qa-1S) and Aspergillus nidulans (QutR). Deletion of NRRL3_08194 in combination with RNA-seq analysis showed that the NRRL3_08194 deletion mutant constitutively expresses genes involved in galacturonic acid utilization. Interestingly, NRRL3_08194 is located next to gaaR (NRRL3_08195) in the genome. The homology to the quinate repressor, the chromosomal clustering, and the constitutive phenotype of the isolated mutants suggest that NRRL3_08194 is likely to encode a repressor, which we name GaaX. The GaaR–GaaX module and its chromosomal organization is conserved among ascomycetes filamentous fungi, resembling the quinate utilization activator-repressor module in amino acid sequence and chromosomal organization.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Coordination of Cell Cycle Progression and Mitotic Spindle Assembly Involves Histone H3 Lysine 4 Methylation by Set1/COMPASS [Gene Expression]

Beilharz, T. H., Harrison, P. F., Miles, D. M., See, M. M., Le, U. M. M., Kalanon, M., Curtis, M. J., Hasan, Q., Saksouk, J., Margaritis, T., Holstege, F., Geli, V., Dichtl, B.

Methylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) by Set1 complex/COMPASS is a hallmark of eukaryotic chromatin, but it remains poorly understood how this post-translational modification contributes to the regulation of biological processes like the cell cycle. Here, we report a H3K4 methylation-dependent pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that governs toxicity toward benomyl, a microtubule destabilizing drug. Benomyl-sensitive growth of wild-type cells required mono- and dimethylation of H3K4 and Pho23, a PHD-containing subunit of the Rpd3L complex. set1 and pho23 deletions suppressed defects associated with ipl1-2 aurora kinase mutant, an integral component of the spindle assembly checkpoint during mitosis. Benomyl resistance of set1 strains was accompanied by deregulation of all four tubulin genes and the phenotype was suppressed by tub2-423 and tub3 mutations, establishing a genetic link between H3K4 methylation and microtubule function. Most interestingly, sine wave fitting and clustering of transcript abundance time series in synchronized cells revealed a requirement for Set1 for proper cell-cycle-dependent gene expression and set1 cells displayed delayed entry into S phase. Disruption of G1/S regulation in mbp1 and swi4 transcription factor mutants duplicated both benomyl resistance and suppression of ipl1-2 as was observed with set1. Taken together our results support a role for H3K4 methylation in the coordination of cell-cycle progression and proper assembly of the mitotic spindle during mitosis.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Rewiring of Signaling Networks Modulating Thermotolerance in the Human Pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans [Gene Expression]

Yang, D.-H., Jung, K.-W., Bang, S., Lee, J.-W., Song, M.-H., Floyd-Averette, A., Festa, R. A., Ianiri, G., Idnurm, A., Thiele, D. J., Heitman, J., Bahn, Y.-S.

Thermotolerance is a crucial virulence attribute for human pathogens, including the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans that causes fatal meningitis in humans. Loss of the protein kinase Sch9 increases C. neoformans thermotolerance, but its regulatory mechanism has remained unknown. Here, we studied the Sch9-dependent and Sch9-independent signaling networks modulating C. neoformans thermotolerance by using genome-wide transcriptome analysis and reverse genetic approaches. During temperature upshift, genes encoding for molecular chaperones and heat shock proteins were upregulated, whereas those for translation, transcription, and sterol biosynthesis were highly suppressed. In this process, Sch9 regulated basal expression levels or induced/repressed expression levels of some temperature-responsive genes, including heat shock transcription factor (HSF1) and heat shock proteins (HSP104 and SSA1). Notably, we found that the HSF1 transcript abundance decreased but the Hsf1 protein became transiently phosphorylated during temperature upshift. Nevertheless, Hsf1 is essential for growth and its overexpression promoted C. neoformans thermotolerance. Transcriptome analysis using an HSF1 overexpressing strain revealed a dual role of Hsf1 in the oxidative stress response and thermotolerance. Chromatin immunoprecipitation demonstrated that Hsf1 binds to the step-type like heat shock element (HSE) of its target genes more efficiently than to the perfect- or gap-type HSE. This study provides insight into the thermotolerance of C. neoformans by elucidating the regulatory mechanisms of Sch9 and Hsf1 through the genome-scale identification of temperature-dependent genes.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Insight into the RNA Exosome Complex Through Modeling Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia Type 1b Disease Mutations in Yeast [Cellular Genetics]

Fasken, M. B., Losh, J. S., Leung, S. W., Brutus, S., Avin, B., Vaught, J. C., Potter-Birriel, J., Craig, T., Conn, G. L., Mills-Lujan, K., Corbett, A. H., van Hoof, A.

Pontocerebellar hypoplasia type 1b (PCH1b) is an autosomal recessive disorder that causes cerebellar hypoplasia and spinal motor neuron degeneration, leading to mortality in early childhood. PCH1b is caused by mutations in the RNA exosome subunit gene, EXOSC3. The RNA exosome is an evolutionarily conserved complex, consisting of nine different core subunits, and one or two 3'-5' exoribonuclease subunits, that mediates several RNA degradation and processing steps. The goal of this study is to assess the functional consequences of the amino acid substitutions that have been identified in EXOSC3 in PCH1b patients. To analyze these EXOSC3 substitutions, we generated the corresponding amino acid substitutions in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae ortholog of EXOSC3, Rrp40. We find that the rrp40 variants corresponding to EXOSC3-G31A and -D132A do not affect yeast function when expressed as the sole copy of the essential Rrp40 protein. In contrast, the rrp40-W195R variant, corresponding to EXOSC3-W238R in PCH1b patients, impacts cell growth and RNA exosome function when expressed as the sole copy of Rrp40. The rrp40-W195R protein is unstable, and does not associate efficiently with the RNA exosome in cells that also express wild-type Rrp40. Consistent with these findings in yeast, the levels of mouse EXOSC3 variants are reduced compared to wild-type EXOSC3 in a neuronal cell line. These data suggest that cells possess a mechanism for optimal assembly of functional RNA exosome complex that can discriminate between wild-type and variant exosome subunits. Budding yeast can therefore serve as a useful tool to understand the molecular defects in the RNA exosome caused by PCH1b-associated amino acid substitutions in EXOSC3, and potentially extending to disease-associated substitutions in other exosome subunits.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Mitochondrial Function and Maize Kernel Development Requires Dek2, a Pentatricopeptide Repeat Protein Involved in nad1 mRNA Splicing [Cellular Genetics]

Qi, W., Yang, Y., Feng, X., Zhang, M., Song, R.

In flowering plants, many respiration-related proteins are encoded by the mitochondrial genome and the splicing of mitochondrion-encoded messenger RNA (mRNA) involves a complex collaboration with nuclear-encoded proteins. Pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins have been implicated in these RNA–protein interactions. Maize defective kernel 2 (dek2) is a classic mutant with small kernels and delayed development. Through positional cloning and allelic confirmation, we found Dek2 encodes a novel P-type PPR protein that targets mitochondria. Mitochondrial transcript analysis indicated that dek2 mutation causes reduced splicing efficiency of mitochondrial nad1 intron 1. Mitochondrial complex analysis in dek2 immature kernels showed severe deficiency of complex I assembly. Dramatically up-regulated expression of alternative oxidases (AOXs), transcriptome data, and TEM analysis results revealed that proper splicing of nad1 is critical for mitochondrial functions and inner cristaes morphology. This study indicated that Dek2 is a new PPR protein that affects the splicing of mitochondrial nad1 intron 1 and is required for mitochondrial function and kernel development.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Stage-Specific Timing of the microRNA Regulation of lin-28 by the Heterochronic Gene lin-14 in Caenorhabditis elegans [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Tsialikas, J., Romens, M. A., Abbott, A., Moss, E. G.

In normal development, the order and synchrony of diverse developmental events must be explicitly controlled. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the timing of larval events is regulated by hierarchy of proteins and microRNAs (miRNAs) known as the heterochronic pathway. These regulators are organized in feedforward and feedback interactions to form a robust mechanism for specifying the timing and execution of cell fates at successive stages. One member of this pathway is the RNA binding protein LIN-28, which promotes pluripotency and cell fate decisions in successive stages. Two genetic circuits control LIN-28 abundance: it is negatively regulated by the miRNA lin-4, and positively regulated by the transcription factor LIN-14 through a mechanism that was previously unknown. In this report, we used animals that lack lin-4 to elucidate LIN-14’s activity in this circuit. We demonstrate that three let-7 family miRNAs—miR-48, miR-84, and miR-241—inhibit lin-28 expression. Furthermore, we show genetically that these miRNAs act between lin-14 and lin-28, and that they comprise the pathway by which lin-14 positively regulates lin-28. We also show that the lin-4 family member mir-237, also regulates early cell fates. Finally, we show that the expression of these miRNAs is directly inhibited by lin-14 activity, making them the first known targets of lin-14 that act in the heterochronic pathway.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Pleiotropic Effects of Loss of the D{alpha}1 Subunit in Drosophila melanogaster: Implications for Insecticide Resistance [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Somers, J., Luong, H. N. B., Mitchell, J., Batterham, P., Perry, T.

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are a highly conserved gene family that form pentameric receptors involved in fast excitatory synaptic neurotransmission. The specific roles individual nAChR subunits perform in Drosophila melanogaster and other insects are relatively uncharacterized. Of the 10 D. melanogaster nAChR subunits, only three have described roles in behavioral pathways; Dα3 and Dα4 in sleep, and Dα7 in the escape response. Other subunits have been associated with resistance to several classes of insecticides. In particular, our previous work has demonstrated that an allele of the Dα1 subunit is associated with resistance to neonicotinoid insecticides. We used ends-out gene targeting to create a knockout of the Dα1 gene to facilitate phenotypic analysis in a controlled genetic background. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a native function for any nAChR subunits known to be targeted by insecticides. Loss of Dα1 function was associated with changes in courtship, sleep, longevity, and insecticide resistance. While acetylcholine signaling had previously been linked with mating behavior and reproduction in D. melanogaster, no specific nAChR subunit had been directly implicated. The role of Dα1 in a number of behavioral phenotypes highlights the importance of understanding the biological roles of nAChRs and points to the fitness cost that may be associated with neonicotinoid resistance.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Conserved Ankyrin Repeat Proteins and Their NIMA Kinase Partners Regulate Extracellular Matrix Remodeling and Intracellular Trafficking in Caenorhabditis elegans [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Lažetić, V., Fay, D. S.

Molting is an essential developmental process in nematodes during which the epidermal apical extracellular matrix, the cuticle, is remodeled to accommodate further growth. Using genetic approaches, we identified a requirement for three conserved ankyrin repeat-rich proteins, MLT-2/ANKS6, MLT-3/ANKS3, and MLT-4/INVS, in Caenorhabditis elegans molting. Loss of mlt function resulted in severe defects in the ability of larvae to shed old cuticle and led to developmental arrest. Genetic analyses demonstrated that MLT proteins functionally cooperate with the conserved NIMA kinase family members NEKL-2/NEK8 and NEKL-3/NEK6/NEK7 to promote cuticle shedding. MLT and NEKL proteins were specifically required within the hyp7 epidermal syncytium, and fluorescently tagged mlt and nekl alleles were expressed in puncta within this tissue. Expression studies further showed that NEKL-2MLT-2MLT-4 and NEKL-3MLT-3 colocalize within largely distinct assemblies of apical foci. MLT-2 and MLT-4 were required for the normal accumulation of NEKL-2 at the hyp7–seam cell boundary, and loss of mlt-2 caused abnormal nuclear accumulation of NEKL-2. Correspondingly, MLT-3, which bound directly to NEKL-3, prevented NEKL-3 nuclear localization, supporting the model that MLT proteins may serve as molecular scaffolds for NEKL kinases. Our studies additionally showed that the NEKL–MLT network regulates early steps in clathrin-mediated endocytosis at the apical surface of hyp7, which may in part account for molting defects observed in nekl and mlt mutants. This study has thus identified a conserved NEKL–MLT protein network that regulates remodeling of the apical extracellular matrix and intracellular trafficking, functions that may be conserved across species.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Developmental Wiring of Specific Neurons Is Regulated by RET-1/Nogo-A in Caenorhabditis elegans [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Torpe, N., Norgaard, S., Hoye, A. M., Pocock, R.

Nogo-A is a membrane-bound protein that functions to inhibit neuronal migration, adhesion, and neurite outgrowth during development. In the mature nervous system, Nogo-A stabilizes neuronal wiring to inhibit neuronal plasticity and regeneration after injury. Here, we show that RET-1, the sole Nogo-A homolog in Caenorhabditis elegans, is required to control developmental wiring of a specific subset of neurons. In ret-1 deletion mutant animals, specific ventral nerve cord axons are misguided where they fail to respect the ventral midline boundary. We found that ret-1 is expressed in multiple neurons during development, and, through mosaic analysis, showed that ret-1 controls axon guidance in a cell-autonomous manner. Finally, as in mammals, ret-1 regulates ephrin expression, and dysregulation of the ephrin ligand VAB-2 is partially responsible for the ret-1 mutant axonal defects. Together, our data present a previously unidentified function for RET-1 in the nervous system of C. elegans.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:04 AM

Complex Ancient Genetic Structure and Cultural Transitions in Southern African Populations [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Montinaro, F., Busby, G. B. J., Gonzalez-Santos, M., Oosthuitzen, O., Oosthuitzen, E., Anagnostou, P., Destro-Bisol, G., Pascali, V. L., Capelli, C.

The characterization of the structure of southern African populations has been the subject of numerous genetic, medical, linguistic, archaeological, and anthropological investigations. Current diversity in the subcontinent is the result of complex events of genetic admixture and cultural contact between early inhabitants and migrants that arrived in the region over the last 2000 years. Here, we analyze 1856 individuals from 91 populations, comprising novel and published genotype data, to characterize the genetic ancestry profiles of 631 individuals from 51 southern African populations. Combining both local ancestry and allele frequency based analyses, we identify a tripartite, ancient, Khoesan-related genetic structure. This structure correlates neither with linguistic affiliation nor subsistence strategy, but with geography, revealing the importance of isolation-by-distance dynamics in the area. Fine-mapping of these components in southern African populations reveals admixture and cultural reversion involving several Khoesan groups, and highlights that Bantu speakers and Coloured individuals have different mixtures of these ancient ancestries.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Inferring Heterozygosity from Ancient and Low Coverage Genomes [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Kousathanas, A., Leuenberger, C., Link, V., Sell, C., Burger, J., Wegmann, D.

While genetic diversity can be quantified accurately from high coverage sequencing data, it is often desirable to obtain such estimates from data with low coverage, either to save costs or because of low DNA quality, as is observed for ancient samples. Here, we introduce a method to accurately infer heterozygosity probabilistically from sequences with average coverage $$ < 1\times $$ of a single individual. The method relaxes the infinite sites assumption of previous methods, does not require a reference sequence, except for the initial alignment of the sequencing data, and takes into account both variable sequencing errors and potential postmortem damage. It is thus also applicable to nonmodel organisms and ancient genomes. Since error rates as reported by sequencing machines are generally distorted and require recalibration, we also introduce a method to accurately infer recalibration parameters in the presence of postmortem damage. This method does not require knowledge about the underlying genome sequence, but instead works with haploid data (e.g., from the X-chromosome from mammalian males) and integrates over the unknown genotypes. Using extensive simulations we show that a few megabasepairs of haploid data are sufficient for accurate recalibration, even at average coverages as low as $$1\times .$$ At similar coverages, our method also produces very accurate estimates of heterozygosity down to $${10}^{-4}$$ within windows of about 1 Mbp. We further illustrate the usefulness of our approach by inferring genome-wide patterns of diversity for several ancient human samples, and we found that 3000–5000-year-old samples showed diversity patterns comparable to those of modern humans. In contrast, two European hunter-gatherer samples exhibited not only considerably lower levels of diversity than modern samples, but also highly distinct distributions of diversity along their genomes. Interestingly, these distributions were also very different between the two samples, supporting earlier conclusions of a highly diverse and structured population in Europe prior to the arrival of farming.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Wolbachia in the Drosophila yakuba Complex: Pervasive Frequency Variation and Weak Cytoplasmic Incompatibility, but No Apparent Effect on Reproductive Isolation [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Cooper, B. S., Ginsberg, P. S., Turelli, M., Matute, D. R.

Three hybridizing species—the clade [(Drosophila yakuba, D. santomea), D. teissieri]—comprise the yakuba complex in the D. melanogaster subgroup. Their ranges overlap on Bioko and São Tomé, islands off west Africa. All three species are infected with Wolbachia—maternally inherited, endosymbiotic bacteria, best known for manipulating host reproduction to favor infected females. Previous analyses reported no cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) in these species. However, we discovered that Wolbachia from each species cause intraspecific and interspecific CI. In D. teissieri, analyses of F1 and backcross genotypes show that both host genotype and Wolbachia variation modulate CI intensity. Wolbachia-infected females seem largely protected from intraspecific and interspecific CI, irrespective of Wolbachia and host genotypes. Wolbachia do not affect host mating behavior or female fecundity, within or between species. The latter suggests little apparent effect of Wolbachia on premating or gametic reproductive isolation (RI) between host species. In nature, Wolbachia frequencies varied spatially for D. yakuba in 2009, with 76% (N = 155) infected on São Tomé, and only 3% (N = 36) infected on Bioko; frequencies also varied temporally in D. yakuba and D. santomea on São Tomé between 2009 and 2015. These temporal frequency fluctuations could generate asymmetries in interspecific mating success, and contribute to postzygotic RI. However, the fluctuations in Wolbachia frequencies that we observe also suggest that asymmetries are unlikely to persist. Finally, we address theoretical questions that our empirical findings raise about Wolbachia persistence when conditions fluctuate, and about the stable coexistence of Wolbachia and host variants that modulate Wolbachia effects.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Survey of Global Genetic Diversity Within the Drosophila Immune System [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Early, A. M., Arguello, J. R., Cardoso-Moreira, M., Gottipati, S., Grenier, J. K., Clark, A. G.

Numerous studies across a wide range of taxa have demonstrated that immune genes are routinely among the most rapidly evolving genes in the genome. This observation, however, does not address what proportion of immune genes undergo strong selection during adaptation to novel environments. Here, we determine the extent of very recent divergence in genes with immune function across five populations of Drosophila melanogaster and find that immune genes do not show an overall trend of recent rapid adaptation. Our population-based approach uses a set of carefully matched control genes to account for the effects of demography and local recombination rate, allowing us to identify whether specific immune functions are putative targets of strong selection. We find evidence that viral-defense genes are rapidly evolving in Drosophila at multiple timescales. Local adaptation to bacteria and fungi is less extreme and primarily occurs through changes in recognition and effector genes rather than large-scale changes to the regulation of the immune response. Surprisingly, genes in the Toll pathway, which show a high rate of adaptive substitution between the D. melanogaster and D. simulans lineages, show little population differentiation. Quantifying the flies for resistance to a generalist Gram-positive bacterial pathogen, we found that this genetic pattern of low population differentiation was recapitulated at the phenotypic level. In sum, our results highlight the complexity of immune evolution and suggest that Drosophila immune genes do not follow a uniform trajectory of strong directional selection as flies encounter new environments.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Spatial Gene Frequency Waves Under Genotype-Dependent Dispersal [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Novak, S., Kollar, R.

Dispersal is a crucial factor in natural evolution, since it determines the habitat experienced by any population and defines the spatial scale of interactions between individuals. There is compelling evidence for systematic differences in dispersal characteristics within the same population, i.e., genotype-dependent dispersal. The consequences of genotype-dependent dispersal on other evolutionary phenomena, however, are poorly understood. In this article we investigate the effect of genotype-dependent dispersal on spatial gene frequency patterns, using a generalization of the classical diffusion model of selection and dispersal. Dispersal is characterized by the variance of dispersal (diffusion coefficient) and the mean displacement (directional advection term). We demonstrate that genotype-dependent dispersal may change the qualitative behavior of Fisher waves, which change from being "pulled" to being "pushed" wave fronts as the discrepancy in dispersal between genotypes increases. The speed of any wave is partitioned into components due to selection, genotype-dependent variance of dispersal, and genotype-dependent mean displacement. We apply our findings to wave fronts maintained by selection against heterozygotes. Furthermore, we identify a benefit of increased variance of dispersal, quantify its effect on the speed of the wave, and discuss the implications for the evolution of dispersal strategies.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

The Effects of Migration and Assortative Mating on Admixture Linkage Disequilibrium [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Zaitlen, N., Huntsman, S., Hu, D., Spear, M., Eng, C., Oh, S. S., White, M. J., Mak, A., Davis, A., Meade, K., Brigino-Buenaventura, E., LeNoir, M. A., Bibbins-Domingo, K., Burchard, E. G., Halperin, E.

Statistical models in medical and population genetics typically assume that individuals assort randomly in a population. While this simplifies model complexity, it contradicts an increasing body of evidence of nonrandom mating in human populations. Specifically, it has been shown that assortative mating is significantly affected by genomic ancestry. In this work, we examine the effects of ancestry-assortative mating on the linkage disequilibrium between local ancestry tracks of individuals in an admixed population. To accomplish this, we develop an extension to the Wright–Fisher model that allows for ancestry-based assortative mating. We show that ancestry-assortment perturbs the distribution of local ancestry linkage disequilibrium (LAD) and the variance of ancestry in a population as a function of the number of generations since admixture. This assortment effect can induce errors in demographic inference of admixed populations when methods assume random mating. We derive closed form formulae for LAD under an assortative-mating model with and without migration. We observe that LAD depends on the correlation of global ancestry of couples in each generation, the migration rate of each of the ancestral populations, the initial proportions of ancestral populations, and the number of generations since admixture. We also present the first direct evidence of ancestry-assortment in African Americans and examine LAD in simulated and real admixed population data of African Americans. We find that demographic inference under the assumption of random mating significantly underestimates the number of generations since admixture, and that accounting for assortative mating using the patterns of LAD results in estimates that more closely agrees with the historical narrative.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Modeling Human Population Separation History Using Physically Phased Genomes [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Song, S., Sliwerska, E., Emery, S., Kidd, J. M.

Phased haplotype sequences are a key component in many population genetic analyses since variation in haplotypes reflects the action of recombination, selection, and changes in population size. In humans, haplotypes are typically estimated from unphased sequence or genotyping data using statistical models applied to large reference panels. To assess the importance of correct haplotype phase on population history inference, we performed fosmid pool sequencing and resolved phased haplotypes of five individuals from diverse African populations (including Yoruba, Esan, Gambia, Maasai, and Mende). We physically phased 98% of heterozygous SNPs into haplotype-resolved blocks, obtaining a block N50 of 1 Mbp. We combined these data with additional phased genomes from San, Mbuti, Gujarati, and Centre de’Etude du Polymorphism Humain European populations and analyzed population size and separation history using the pairwise sequentially Markovian coalescent and multiple sequentially Markovian coalescent models. We find that statistically phased haplotypes yield a more recent split-time estimation compared with experimentally phased haplotypes. To better interpret patterns of cross-population coalescence, we implemented an approximate Bayesian computation approach to estimate population split times and migration rates by fitting the distribution of coalescent times inferred between two haplotypes, one from each population, to a standard isolation-with-migration model. We inferred that the separation between hunter-gatherer populations and other populations happened ~120–140 KYA, with gene flow continuing until 30–40 KYA; separation between west-African and out-of-African populations happened ~70–80 KYA; while the separation between Maasai and out-of-African populations happened ~50 KYA.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Drift Barriers to Quality Control When Genes Are Expressed at Different Levels [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Xiong, K., McEntee, J. P., Porfirio, D. J., Masel, J.

Gene expression is imperfect, sometimes leading to toxic products. Solutions take two forms: globally reducing error rates, or ensuring that the consequences of erroneous expression are relatively harmless. The latter is optimal, but because it must evolve independently at so many loci, it is subject to a stringent "drift barrier"—a limit to how weak the effects of a deleterious mutation s can be, while still being effectively purged by selection, expressed in terms of the population size N of an idealized population such that purging requires s < –1/N. In previous work, only large populations evolved the optimal local solution, small populations instead evolved globally low error rates, and intermediate populations were bistable, with either solution possible. Here, we take into consideration the fact that the effectiveness of purging varies among loci, because of variation in gene expression level, and variation in the intrinsic vulnerabilities of different gene products to error. The previously found dichotomy between the two kinds of solution breaks down, replaced by a gradual transition as a function of population size. In the extreme case of a small enough population, selection fails to maintain even the global solution against deleterious mutations, explaining the nonmonotonic relationship between effective population size and transcriptional error rate that was recently observed in experiments on Escherichia coli, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Buchnera aphidicola.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Widespread Historical Contingency in Influenza Viruses [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Nshogozabahizi, J. C., Dench, J., Aris-Brosou, S.

In systems biology and genomics, epistasis characterizes the impact that a substitution at a particular location in a genome can have on a substitution at another location. This phenomenon is often implicated in the evolution of drug resistance or to explain why particular "disease-causing" mutations do not have the same outcome in all individuals. Hence, uncovering these mutations and their locations in a genome is a central question in biology. However, epistasis is notoriously difficult to uncover, especially in fast-evolving organisms. Here, we present a novel statistical approach that replies on a model developed in ecology and that we adapt to analyze genetic data in fast-evolving systems such as the influenza A virus. We validate the approach using a two-pronged strategy: extensive simulations demonstrate a low-to-moderate sensitivity with excellent specificity and precision, while analyses of experimentally validated data recover known interactions, including in a eukaryotic system. We further evaluate the ability of our approach to detect correlated evolution during antigenic shifts or at the emergence of drug resistance. We show that in all cases, correlated evolution is prevalent in influenza A viruses, involving many pairs of sites linked together in chains; a hallmark of historical contingency. Strikingly, interacting sites are separated by large physical distances, which entails either long-range conformational changes or functional tradeoffs, for which we find support with the emergence of drug resistance. Our work paves a new way for the unbiased detection of epistasis in a wide range of organisms by performing whole-genome scans.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Fixation Probability in a Haploid-Diploid Population [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Bessho, K., Otto, S. P.

Classical population genetic theory generally assumes either a fully haploid or fully diploid life cycle. However, many organisms exhibit more complex life cycles, with both free-living haploid and diploid stages. Here we ask what the probability of fixation is for selected alleles in organisms with haploid-diploid life cycles. We develop a genetic model that considers the population dynamics using both the Moran model and Wright–Fisher model. Applying a branching process approximation, we obtain an accurate fixation probability assuming that the population is large and the net effect of the mutation is beneficial. We also find the diffusion approximation for the fixation probability, which is accurate even in small populations and for deleterious alleles, as long as selection is weak. These fixation probabilities from branching process and diffusion approximations are similar when selection is weak for beneficial mutations that are not fully recessive. In many cases, particularly when one phase predominates, the fixation probability differs substantially for haploid-diploid organisms compared to either fully haploid or diploid species.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Accuracy of Genomic Prediction in Synthetic Populations Depending on the Number of Parents, Relatedness, and Ancestral Linkage Disequilibrium [Genomic Selection]

Schopp, P., Muller, D., Technow, F., Melchinger, A. E.

Synthetics play an important role in quantitative genetic research and plant breeding, but few studies have investigated the application of genomic prediction (GP) to these populations. Synthetics are generated by intermating a small number of parents ($${N}_{P})$$ and thereby possess unique genetic properties, which make them especially suited for systematic investigations of factors contributing to the accuracy of GP. We generated synthetics in silico from $${N}_{P}=$$2 to 32 maize (Zea mays L.) lines taken from an ancestral population with either short- or long-range linkage disequilibrium (LD). In eight scenarios differing in relatedness of the training and prediction sets and in the types of data used to calculate the relationship matrix (QTL, SNPs, tag markers, and pedigree), we investigated the prediction accuracy (PA) of Genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP) and analyzed contributions from pedigree relationships captured by SNP markers, as well as from cosegregation and ancestral LD between QTL and SNPs. The effects of training set size $${N}_{TS}$$ and marker density were also studied. Sampling few parents ($$2\le {N}_{P} < 8$$) generates substantial sample LD that carries over into synthetics through cosegregation of alleles at linked loci. For fixed $${N}_{TS}$$, $${N}_{P}$$ influences PA most strongly. If the training and prediction set are related, using $${N}_{P} < 8$$ parents yields high PA regardless of ancestral LD because SNPs capture pedigree relationships and Mendelian sampling through cosegregation. As $${N}_{P}$$ increases, ancestral LD contributes more information, while other factors contribute less due to lower frequencies of closely related individuals. For unrelated prediction sets, only ancestral LD contributes information and accuracies were poor and highly variable for $${N}_{P}\le 4$$ due to large sample LD. For large $${N}_{P}$$, achieving moderate accuracy requires large $${N}_{TS}$$, long-range ancestral LD, and high marker density. Our approach for analyzing PA in synthetics provides new insights into the prospects of GP for many types of source populations encountered in plant breeding.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Variability in a Short Tandem Repeat Mediates Complex Epistatic Interactions in Arabidopsis thaliana [Genetics of Complex Traits]

Press, M. O., Queitsch, C.

Short tandem repeats (STRs) are hypervariable genetic elements that occur frequently in coding regions. Their high mutation rate readily generates genetic variation, contributing to adaptive evolution and human diseases. We previously reported that natural ELF3 polyglutamine variants cause reciprocal genetic incompatibilities in two divergent Arabidopsis thaliana backgrounds. Here, we dissect the genetic architecture of this incompatibility, revealing as many as four loci putatively interacting with ELF3. We were able to specifically identify one such ELF3-interacting gene, LSH9. We further used a yeast two-hybrid strategy to identify proteins whose physical interactions with ELF3 were affected by polyglutamine tract length. We found two proteins for which this was the case, ELF4 and AtGLDP1. Using these two approaches, we identify specific genetic interactions and physical mechanisms by which the ELF3 polyglutamine tract may mediate the observed genetic incompatibilities. Our work elucidates how STR variation, which is generally underascertained in population-scale sequencing, can contribute to phenotypic variation. Furthermore, our results support our proposal that highly variable STR loci can contribute to the epistatic component of heritability.

Tuesday, January 3 2017 08:55:05 AM

Corrigendum [Corrigendum]