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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


Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS [Issue Highlights]

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

Horvitz and Sulston on Caenorhabditis elegans Cell Lineage Mutants [Classic]

Kemphues, K. J.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

Marcus Rhoades on Preferential Segregation in Maize [Classic]

Birchler, J. A.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

Navigating the Phenotype Frontier: The Monarch Initiative [Commentary]

McMurry, J. A., Kohler, S., Washington, N. L., Balhoff, J. P., Borromeo, C., Brush, M., Carbon, S., Conlin, T., Dunn, N., Engelstad, M., Foster, E., Gourdine, J.-P., Jacobsen, J. O. B., Keith, D., Laraway, B., Xuan, J. N., Shefchek, K., Vasilevsky, N. A., Yuan, Z., Lewis, S. E., Hochheiser, H., Groza, T., Smedley, D., Robinson, P. N., Mungall, C. J., Haendel, M. A.

The principles of genetics apply across the entire tree of life. At the cellular level we share biological mechanisms with species from which we diverged millions, even billions of years ago. We can exploit this common ancestry to learn about health and disease, by analyzing DNA and protein sequences, but also through the observable outcomes of genetic differences, i.e. phenotypes. To solve challenging disease problems we need to unify the heterogeneous data that relates genomics to disease traits. Without a big-picture view of phenotypic data, many questions in genetics are difficult or impossible to answer. The Monarch Initiative ( provides tools for genotype-phenotype analysis, genomic diagnostics, and precision medicine across broad areas of disease.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

Hubby and Lewontin on Protein Variation in Natural Populations: When Molecular Genetics Came to the Rescue of Population Genetics [Perspectives]

Charlesworth, B., Charlesworth, D., Coyne, J. A., Langley, C. H.

The 1966 GENETICS papers by John Hubby and Richard Lewontin were a landmark in the study of genome-wide levels of variability. They used the technique of gel electrophoresis of enzymes and proteins to study variation in natural populations of Drosophila pseudoobscura, at a set of loci that had been chosen purely for technical convenience, without prior knowledge of their levels of variability. Together with the independent study of human populations by Harry Harris, this seminal study provided the first relatively unbiased picture of the extent of genetic variability in protein sequences within populations, revealing that many genes had surprisingly high levels of diversity. These papers stimulated a large research program that found similarly high electrophoretic variability in many different species and led to statistical tools for interpreting the data in terms of population genetics processes such as genetic drift, balancing and purifying selection, and the effects of selection on linked variants. The current use of whole-genome sequences in studies of variation is the direct descendant of this pioneering work.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Survivor Studies: Discrepancies Between Results and General Perception [Perspectives]

Jordan, B. R.

The explosion of atom bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 resulted in very high casualties, both immediate and delayed but also left a large number of survivors who had been exposed to radiation, at levels that could be fairly precisely ascertained. Extensive follow-up of a large cohort of survivors (120,000) and of their offspring (77,000) was initiated in 1947 and continues to this day. In essence, survivors having received 1 Gy irradiation (~1000 mSV) have a significantly elevated rate of cancer (42% increase) but a limited decrease of longevity (~1 year), while their offspring show no increased frequency of abnormalities and, so far, no detectable elevation of the mutation rate. Current acceptable exposure levels for the general population and for workers in the nuclear industry have largely been derived from these studies, which have been reported in more than 100 publications. Yet the general public, and indeed most scientists, are unaware of these data: it is widely believed that irradiated survivors suffered a very high cancer burden and dramatically shortened life span, and that their progeny were affected by elevated mutation rates and frequent abnormalities. In this article, I summarize the results and discuss possible reasons for this very striking discrepancy between the facts and general beliefs about this situation.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

Reexamining the P-Element Invasion of Drosophila melanogaster Through the Lens of piRNA Silencing [Review]

Kelleher, E. S.

Transposable elements (TEs) are both important drivers of genome evolution and genetic parasites with potentially dramatic consequences for host fitness. The recent explosion of research on regulatory RNAs reveals that small RNA-mediated silencing is a conserved genetic mechanism through which hosts repress TE activity. The invasion of the Drosophila melanogaster genome by P elements, which happened on a historical timescale, represents an incomparable opportunity to understand how small RNA-mediated silencing of TEs evolves. Repression of P-element transposition emerged almost concurrently with its invasion. Recent studies suggest that this repression is implemented in part, and perhaps predominantly, by the Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway, a small RNA-mediated silencing pathway that regulates TE activity in many metazoan germlines. In this review, I consider the P-element invasion from both a molecular and evolutionary genetic perspective, reconciling classic studies of P-element regulation with the new mechanistic framework provided by the piRNA pathway. I further explore the utility of the P-element invasion as an exemplar of the evolution of piRNA-mediated silencing. In light of the highly-conserved role for piRNAs in regulating TEs, discoveries from this system have taxonomically broad implications for the evolution of repression.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

Programmed Cell Death During Caenorhabditis elegans Development [Cell Fate, Signaling and Development]

Conradt, B., Wu, Y.-C., Xue, D.

Programmed cell death is an integral component of Caenorhabditis elegans development. Genetic and reverse genetic studies in C. elegans have led to the identification of many genes and conserved cell death pathways that are important for the specification of which cells should live or die, the activation of the suicide program, and the dismantling and removal of dying cells. Molecular, cell biological, and biochemical studies have revealed the underlying mechanisms that control these three phases of programmed cell death. In particular, the interplay of transcriptional regulatory cascades and networks involving multiple transcriptional regulators is crucial in activating the expression of the key death-inducing gene egl-1 and, in some cases, the ced-3 gene in cells destined to die. A protein interaction cascade involving EGL-1, CED-9, CED-4, and CED-3 results in the activation of the key cell death protease CED-3, which is tightly controlled by multiple positive and negative regulators. The activation of the CED-3 caspase then initiates the cell disassembly process by cleaving and activating or inactivating crucial CED-3 substrates; leading to activation of multiple cell death execution events, including nuclear DNA fragmentation, mitochondrial elimination, phosphatidylserine externalization, inactivation of survival signals, and clearance of apoptotic cells. Further studies of programmed cell death in C. elegans will continue to advance our understanding of how programmed cell death is regulated, activated, and executed in general.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

The Nuts and Bolts of Transcriptionally Silent Chromatin in Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Genome Organization and Integrity]

Gartenberg, M. R., Smith, J. S.

Transcriptional silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae occurs at several genomic sites including the silent mating-type loci, telomeres, and the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) tandem array. Epigenetic silencing at each of these domains is characterized by the absence of nearly all histone modifications, including most prominently the lack of histone H4 lysine 16 acetylation. In all cases, silencing requires Sir2, a highly-conserved NAD+-dependent histone deacetylase. At locations other than the rDNA, silencing also requires additional Sir proteins, Sir1, Sir3, and Sir4 that together form a repressive heterochromatin-like structure termed silent chromatin. The mechanisms of silent chromatin establishment, maintenance, and inheritance have been investigated extensively over the last 25 years, and these studies have revealed numerous paradigms for transcriptional repression, chromatin organization, and epigenetic gene regulation. Studies of Sir2-dependent silencing at the rDNA have also contributed to understanding the mechanisms for maintaining the stability of repetitive DNA and regulating replicative cell aging. The goal of this comprehensive review is to distill a wide array of biochemical, molecular genetic, cell biological, and genomics studies down to the "nuts and bolts" of silent chromatin and the processes that yield transcriptional silencing.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:25 AM

The Chromatin Remodeling Component Arid1a Is a Suppressor of Spontaneous Mammary Tumors in Mice [Communications]

Kartha, N., Shen, L., Maskin, C., Wallace, M., Schimenti, J. C.

Human cancer genome studies have identified the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex member ARID1A as one of the most frequently altered genes in several tumor types. Its role as an ovarian tumor suppressor has been supported in compound knockout mice. Here, we provide genetic and functional evidence that Arid1a is a bona fide mammary tumor suppressor, using the Chromosome aberrations occurring spontaneously 3 (Chaos3) mouse model of sporadic breast cancer. About 70% of mammary tumors that formed in these mice contained a spontaneous deletion removing all or part of one Arid1a allele. Restoration of Arid1a expression in a Chaos3 mammary tumor line with low Arid1a levels greatly impaired its ability to form tumors following injection into cleared mammary glands, indicating that ARID1A insufficiency is crucial for maintenance of these Trp53-proficient tumors. Transcriptome analysis of tumor cells before and after reintroduction of Arid1a expression revealed alterations in growth signaling and cell-cycle checkpoint pathways, in particular the activation of the TRP53 pathway. Consistent with the latter, Arid1a reexpression in tumor cells led to increased p21 (Cdkn1a) expression and dramatic accumulation of cells in G2 phase of the cell cycle. These results not only provide in vivo evidence for a tumor suppressive and/or maintenance role in breast cancer, but also indicate a potential opportunity for therapeutic intervention in ARID1A-deficient human breast cancer subtypes that retain one intact copy of the gene and also maintain wild-type TRP53 activity.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Editing Transgenic DNA Components by Inducible Gene Replacement in Drosophila melanogaster [Methods, Technology and Resources]

Lin, C.-C., Potter, C. J.

Gene conversions occur when genomic double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) trigger unidirectional transfer of genetic material from a homologous template sequence. Exogenous or mutated sequence can be introduced through this homology-directed repair (HDR). We leveraged gene conversion to develop a method for genomic editing of existing transgenic insertions in Drosophila melanogaster. The clustered regularly-interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 system is used in the homology assisted CRISPR knock-in (HACK) method to induce DSBs in a GAL4 transgene, which is repaired by a single-genomic transgenic construct containing GAL4 homologous sequences flanking a T2A-QF2 cassette. With two crosses, this technique converts existing GAL4 lines, including enhancer traps, into functional QF2 expressing lines. We used HACK to convert the most commonly-used GAL4 lines (labeling tissues such as neurons, fat, glia, muscle, and hemocytes) to QF2 lines. We also identified regions of the genome that exhibited differential efficiencies of HDR. The HACK technique is robust and readily adaptable for targeting and replacement of other genomic sequences, and could be a useful approach to repurpose existing transgenes as new genetic reagents become available.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Principles of microRNA Regulation Revealed Through Modeling microRNA Expression Quantitative Trait Loci [Statistical Genetics and Genomics]

Budach, S., Heinig, M., Marsico, A.

Extensive work has been dedicated to study mechanisms of microRNA-mediated gene regulation. However, the transcriptional regulation of microRNAs themselves is far less well understood, due to difficulties determining the transcription start sites of transient primary transcripts. This challenge can be addressed using expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) whose regulatory effects represent a natural source of perturbation of cis-regulatory elements. Here we used previously published cis-microRNA-eQTL data for the human GM12878 cell line, promoter predictions, and other functional annotations to determine the relationship between functional elements and microRNA regulation. We built a logistic regression model that classifies microRNA/SNP pairs into eQTLs or non-eQTLs with 85% accuracy; shows microRNA-eQTL enrichment for microRNA precursors, promoters, enhancers, and transcription factor binding sites; and depletion for repressed chromatin. Interestingly, although there is a large overlap between microRNA eQTLs and messenger RNA eQTLs of host genes, 74% of these shared eQTLs affect microRNA and host expression independently. Considering microRNA-only eQTLs we find a significant enrichment for intronic promoters, validating the existence of alternative promoters for intragenic microRNAs. Finally, in line with the GM12878 cell line derived from B cells, we find genome-wide association (GWA) variants associated to blood-related traits more likely to be microRNA eQTLs than random GWA and non-GWA variants, aiding the interpretation of GWA results.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Plasticity in the Meiotic Epigenetic Landscape of Sex Chromosomes in Caenorhabditis Species [Genetics of Sex]

Larson, B. J., Van, M. V., Nakayama, T., Engebrecht, J.

During meiosis in the heterogametic sex in some species, sex chromosomes undergo meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI), which results in acquisition of repressive chromatin and transcriptional silencing. In Caenorhabditis elegans, MSCI is mediated by MET-2 methyltransferase deposition of histone H3 lysine 9 dimethylation. Here we examined the meiotic chromatin landscape in germ lines of four Caenorhabditis species; C. remanei and C. brenneri represent ancestral gonochorism, while C. briggsae and C. elegans are two lineages that independently evolved hermaphroditism. While MSCI is conserved across all four species, repressive chromatin modifications are distinct and do not correlate with reproductive mode. In contrast to C. elegans and C. remanei germ cells where X chromosomes are enriched for histone H3 lysine 9 dimethylation, X chromosomes in C. briggsae and C. brenneri germ cells are enriched for histone H3 lysine 9 trimethylation. Inactivation of C. briggsae MET-2 resulted in germ-line X chromosome transcription and checkpoint activation. Further, both histone H3 lysine 9 di- and trimethylation were reduced in Cbr-met-2 mutant germ lines, suggesting that in contrast to C. elegans, H3 lysine 9 di- and trimethylation are interdependent. C. briggsae H3 lysine 9 trimethylation was redistributed in the presence of asynapsed chromosomes in a sex-specific manner in the related process of meiotic silencing of unsynapsed chromatin. However, these repressive marks did not influence X chromosome replication timing. Examination of additional Caenorhabditis species revealed diverse H3 lysine 9 methylation patterns on the X, suggesting that the sex chromosome epigenome evolves rapidly.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Telomere Dysfunction Triggers Palindrome Formation Independently of Double-Strand Break Repair Mechanisms [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

Raykov, V., Marvin, M. E., Louis, E. J., Maringele, L.

Inverted chromosome duplications or palindromes are linked with genetic disorders and malignant transformation. They are considered by-products of DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair: the homologous recombination (HR) and the nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ). Palindromes near chromosome ends are often triggered by telomere losses. An important question is to what extent their formation depends upon DSB repair mechanisms. Here we addressed this question using yeast genetics and comparative genomic hybridization. We induced palindrome formation by passaging cells lacking any form of telomere maintenance (telomerase and telomere recombination). Surprisingly, we found that DNA ligase 4, essential for NHEJ, did not make a significant contribution to palindrome formation induced by telomere losses. Moreover RAD51, important for certain HR-derived mechanisms, had little effect. Furthermore RAD52, which is essential for HR in yeast, appeared to decrease the number of palindromes in cells proliferating without telomeres. This study also uncovered an important role for Rev3 and Rev7 (but not for Pol32) subunits of polymerase in the survival of cells undergoing telomere losses and forming palindromes. We propose a model called short-inverted repeat-induced synthesis in which DNA synthesis, rather than DSB repair, drives the inverted duplication triggered by telomere dysfunction.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Restriction of Retrotransposon Mobilization in Schizosaccharomyces pombe by Transcriptional Silencing and Higher-Order Chromatin Organization [Genome Integrity and Transmission]

Murton, H. E., Grady, P. J. R., Chan, T. H., Cam, H. P., Whitehall, S. K.

Uncontrolled propagation of retrotransposons is potentially detrimental to host genome integrity. Therefore, cells have evolved surveillance mechanisms to restrict the mobility of these elements. In Schizosaccharomyces pombe the Tf2 LTR retrotransposons are transcriptionally silenced and are also clustered in the nucleus into structures termed Tf bodies. Here we describe the impact of silencing and clustering on the mobility of an endogenous Tf2 element. Deletion of genes such as set1+ (histone H3 lysine 4 methyltransferase) or abp1+ (CENP-B homolog) that both alleviate silencing and clustering, result in a corresponding increase in mobilization. Furthermore, expression of constitutively active Sre1, a transcriptional activator of Tf2 elements, also alleviates clustering and induces mobilization. In contrast, clustering is not disrupted by loss of the HIRA histone chaperone, despite high levels of expression, and in this background, mobilization frequency is only marginally increased. Thus, mutations that compromise transcriptional silencing but not Tf bodies are insufficient to drive mobilization. Furthermore, analyses of mutant alleles that separate the transcriptional repression and clustering functions of Set1 are consistent with control of Tf2 propagation via a combination of silencing and spatial organization. Our results indicate that host surveillance mechanisms operate at multiple levels to restrict Tf2 retrotransposon mobilization.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Systematic Genetic Screen for Transcriptional Regulators of the Candida albicans White-Opaque Switch [Gene Expression]

Lohse, M. B., Ene, I. V., Craik, V. B., Hernday, A. D., Mancera, E., Morschhauser, J., Bennett, R. J., Johnson, A. D.

The human fungal pathogen Candida albicans can reversibly switch between two cell types named "white" and "opaque," each of which is stable through many cell divisions. These two cell types differ in their ability to mate, their metabolic preferences and their interactions with the mammalian innate immune system. A highly interconnected network of eight transcriptional regulators has been shown to control switching between these two cell types. To identify additional regulators of the switch, we systematically and quantitatively measured white–opaque switching rates of 196 strains, each deleted for a specific transcriptional regulator. We identified 19 new regulators with at least a 10-fold effect on switching rates and an additional 14 new regulators with more subtle effects. To investigate how these regulators affect switching rates, we examined several criteria, including the binding of the eight known regulators of switching to the control region of each new regulatory gene, differential expression of the newly found genes between cell types, and the growth rate of each mutant strain. This study highlights the complexity of the transcriptional network that regulates the white–opaque switch and the extent to which switching is linked to a variety of metabolic processes, including respiration and carbon utilization. In addition to revealing specific insights, the information reported here provides a foundation to understand the highly complex coupling of white–opaque switching to cellular physiology.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Promotion of Cell Viability and Histone Gene Expression by the Acetyltransferase Gcn5 and the Protein Phosphatase PP2A in Saccharomyces cerevisiae [Gene Expression]

Petty, E. L., Lafon, A., Tomlinson, S. L., Mendelsohn, B. A., Pillus, L.

Histone modifications direct chromatin-templated events in the genome and regulate access to DNA sequence information. There are multiple types of modifications, and a common feature is their dynamic nature. An essential step for understanding their regulation, therefore, lies in characterizing the enzymes responsible for adding and removing histone modifications. Starting with a dosage-suppressor screen in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we have discovered a functional interaction between the acetyltransferase Gcn5 and the protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) complex, two factors that regulate post-translational modifications. We find that RTS1, one of two genes encoding PP2A regulatory subunits, is a robust and specific high-copy suppressor of temperature sensitivity of gcn5 and a subset of other gcn5 phenotypes. Conversely, loss of both PP2ARts1 and Gcn5 function in the SAGA and SLIK/SALSA complexes is lethal. RTS1 does not restore global transcriptional defects in gcn5; however, histone gene expression is restored, suggesting that the mechanism of RTS1 rescue includes restoration of specific cell cycle transcripts. Pointing to new mechanisms of acetylation–phosphorylation cross-talk, RTS1 high-copy rescue of gcn5 growth requires two residues of H2B that are phosphorylated in human cells. These data highlight the potential significance of dynamic phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of these deeply conserved histone residues for cell viability.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Identification of Coilin Mutants in a Screen for Enhanced Expression of an Alternatively Spliced GFP Reporter Gene in Arabidopsis thaliana [Gene Expression]

Kanno, T., Lin, W.-D., Fu, J. L., Wu, M.-T., Yang, H.-W., Lin, S.-S., Matzke, A. J. M., Matzke, M.

Coilin is a marker protein for subnuclear organelles known as Cajal bodies, which are sites of various RNA metabolic processes including the biogenesis of spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles. Through self-associations and interactions with other proteins and RNA, coilin provides a structural scaffold for Cajal body formation. However, despite a conspicuous presence in Cajal bodies, most coilin is dispersed in the nucleoplasm and expressed in cell types that lack these organelles. The molecular function of coilin, particularly of the substantial nucleoplasmic fraction, remains uncertain. We identified coilin loss-of-function mutations in a genetic screen for mutants showing either reduced or enhanced expression of an alternatively spliced GFP reporter gene in Arabidopsis thaliana. The coilin mutants feature enhanced GFP fluorescence and diminished Cajal bodies compared with wild-type plants. The amount of GFP protein is several-fold higher in the coilin mutants owing to elevated GFP transcript levels and more efficient splicing to produce a translatable GFP mRNA. Genome-wide RNA-sequencing data from two distinct coilin mutants revealed a small, shared subset of differentially expressed genes, many encoding stress-related proteins, and, unexpectedly, a trend toward increased splicing efficiency. These results suggest that coilin attenuates splicing and modulates transcription of a select group of genes. The transcriptional and splicing changes observed in coilin mutants are not accompanied by gross phenotypic abnormalities or dramatically altered stress responses, supporting a role for coilin in fine tuning gene expression. Our GFP reporter gene provides a sensitive monitor of coilin activity that will facilitate further investigations into the functions of this enigmatic protein.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

BLIMP-1/BLMP-1 and Metastasis-Associated Protein Regulate Stress Resistant Development in Caenorhabditis elegans [Cellular Genetics]

Hyun, M., Kim, J., Dumur, C., Schroeder, F. C., You, Y.-J.

Environmental stress triggers multilevel adaptations in animal development that depend in part on epigenetic mechanisms. In response to harsh environmental conditions and pheromone signals, Caenorhabditis elegans larvae become the highly stress-resistant and long-lived dauer. Despite extensive studies of dauer formation pathways that integrate specific environmental cues and appear to depend on transcriptional reprogramming, the role of epigenetic regulation in dauer development has remained unclear. Here we report that BLMP-1, the BLIMP-1 ortholog, regulates dauer formation via epigenetic pathways; in the absence of TGF-β signaling (in daf-7 mutants), lack of blmp-1 caused lethality. Using this phenotype, we screened 283 epigenetic factors, and identified lin-40, a homolog of metastasis-associate protein 1 (MTA1) as an interactor of BLMP-1. The interaction between LIN-40 and BLMP-1 is conserved because mammalian homologs for both MTA1 and BLIMP-1 could also interact. From microarray studies, we identified several downstream target genes of blmp-1: npr-3, nhr-23, ptr-4, and sams-1. Among them S-adenosyl methionine synthase (SAMS-1), is the key enzyme for production of SAM used in histone methylation. Indeed, blmp-1 is necessary for controlling histone methylation level in daf-7 mutants, suggesting BLMP-1 regulates the expression of SAMS-1, which in turn may regulate histone methylation and dauer formation. Our results reveal a new interaction between BLMP-1/BLIMP-1 and LIN-40/MTA1, as well as potential epigenetic downstream pathways, whereby these proteins cooperate to regulate stress-specific developmental adaptations.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Saccharomyces cerevisiae TORC1 Controls Histone Acetylation by Signaling Through the Sit4/PP6 Phosphatase to Regulate Sirtuin Deacetylase Nuclear Accumulation [Cellular Genetics]

Workman, J. J., Chen, H., Laribee, R. N.

The epigenome responds to changes in the extracellular environment, yet how this information is transmitted to the epigenetic regulatory machinery is unclear. Using a Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast model, we demonstrate that target of rapamycin complex 1 (TORC1) signaling, which is activated by nitrogen metabolism and amino acid availability, promotes site-specific acetylation of histone H3 and H4 N-terminal tails by opposing the activity of the sirtuin deacetylases Hst3 and Hst4. TORC1 does so through suppression of the Tap42-regulated Sit4 (PP6) phosphatase complex, as sit4 rescues histone acetylation under TORC1-repressive conditions. We further demonstrate that TORC1 inhibition, and subsequent PP6 activation, causes a selective, rapid, nuclear accumulation of Hst4, which correlates with decreased histone acetylation. This increased Hst4 nuclear localization precedes an elevation in Hst4 protein expression, which is attributed to reduced protein turnover, suggesting that nutrient signaling through TORC1 may limit Hst4 nuclear accumulation to facilitate Hst4 degradation and maintain histone acetylation. This pathway is functionally relevant to TORC1 signaling since the stress sensitivity of a nonessential TORC1 mutant (tco89) to hydroxyurea and arsenic can be reversed by combining tco89 with either hst3, hst4, or sit4. Surprisingly, while hst3 or hst4 rescues the sensitivity tco89 has to low concentrations of the TORC1 inhibitor rapamycin, sit4 fails to do so. These results suggest Sit4 provides an additional function necessary for TORC1-dependent cell growth and proliferation. Collectively, this study defines a novel mechanism by which TORC1 suppresses a PP6-regulated sirtuin deacetylase pathway to couple nutrient signaling to epigenetic regulation.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Nonautonomous Roles of MAB-5/Hox and the Secreted Basement Membrane Molecule SPON-1/F-Spondin in Caenorhabditis elegans Neuronal Migration [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Josephson, M. P., Miltner, A. M., Lundquist, E. A.

Nervous system development and circuit formation requires neurons to migrate from their birthplaces to specific destinations.Migrating neurons detect extracellular cues that provide guidance information. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the Q right (QR) and Q left (QL) neuroblast descendants migrate long distances in opposite directions. The Hox gene lin-39 cell autonomously promotes anterior QR descendant migration, and mab-5/Hox cell autonomously promotes posterior QL descendant migration. Here we describe a nonautonomous role of mab-5 in regulating both QR and QL descendant migrations, a role masked by redundancy with lin-39. A third Hox gene, egl-5/Abdominal-B, also likely nonautonomously regulates Q descendant migrations. In the lin-39 mab-5 egl-5 triple mutant, little if any QR and QL descendant migration occurs. In addition to well-described roles of lin-39 and mab-5 in the Q descendants, our results suggest that lin-39, mab-5, and egl-5 might also pattern the posterior region of the animal for Q descendant migration. Previous studies showed that the spon-1 gene might be a target of MAB-5 in Q descendant migration. spon-1 encodes a secreted basement membrane molecule similar to vertebrate F-spondin. Here we show that spon-1 acts nonautonomously to control Q descendant migration, and might function as a permissive rather than instructive signal for cell migration. We find that increased levels of MAB-5 in body wall muscle (BWM) can drive the spon-1 promoter adjacent to the Q cells, and loss of spon-1 suppresses mab-5 gain of function. Thus, MAB-5 might nonautonomously control Q descendant migrations by patterning the posterior region of the animal to which Q cells respond. spon-1 expression from BWMs might be part of the posterior patterning necessary for directed Q descendant migration.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Developmental and Cell Cycle Quiescence Is Mediated by the Nuclear Hormone Receptor Coregulator DIN-1S in the Caenorhabditis elegans Dauer Larva [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Colella, E., Li, S., Roy, R.

When faced with suboptimal growth conditions, Caenorhabditis elegans larvae can enter a diapause-like stage called "dauer" that is specialized for dispersal and survival. The decision to form a dauer larva is controlled by three parallel signaling pathways, whereby a compromise of TGFβ, cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or insulin/IGF-like signaling (ILS) results in dauer formation. Signals from these pathways converge on DAF-12, a nuclear hormone receptor that triggers the changes required to initiate dauer formation. DAF-12 is related to the vitamin D, liver-X, and androstane receptors, and like these human receptors, it responds to lipophilic hormone ligands. When bound to its ligand, DAF-12 acquires transcriptional activity that directs reproductive development, while unliganded DAF-12 forms a dauer-specifying complex with its interacting protein DIN-1S to regulate the transcription of genes required for dauer development. We report here that din-1S is required in parallel to par-4/LKB1 signaling within the gonad to establish cell cycle quiescence during the onset of the dauer stage. We show that din-1S is important for postdauer reproduction when ILS is impaired and is necessary for long-term dauer survival in response to reduced ILS. Our work uncovers several previously uncharacterized functions of DIN-1S in executing and maintaining many of the cellular and physiological processes required for appropriate dauer arrest, while also shedding light on the coordination of nuclear hormone signaling, the LKB1/AMPK signaling cascade, and ILS/TGFβ in the control of cell cycle quiescence and tissue growth: a key feature that is often misregulated in a number of hormone-dependent cancers.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Cross-Talk Between Mitochondrial Fusion and the Hippo Pathway in Controlling Cell Proliferation During Drosophila Development [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Deng, Q., Guo, T., Zhou, X., Xi, Y., Yang, X., Ge, W.

Cell proliferation and tissue growth depend on the coordinated regulation of multiple signaling molecules and pathways during animal development. Previous studies have linked mitochondrial function and the Hippo signaling pathway in growth control. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. Here we identify a Drosophila mitochondrial inner membrane protein ChChd3 as a novel regulator for tissue growth. Loss of ChChd3 leads to tissue undergrowth and cell proliferation defects. ChChd3 is required for mitochondrial fusion and removal of ChChd3 increases mitochondrial fragmentation. ChChd3 is another mitochondrial target of the Hippo pathway, although it is only partially required for Hippo pathway-mediated overgrowth. Interestingly, lack of ChChd3 leads to inactivation of Hippo activity under normal development, which is also dependent on the transcriptional coactivator Yorkie (Yki). Furthermore, loss of ChChd3 induces oxidative stress and activates the JNK pathway. In addition, depletion of other mitochondrial fusion components, Opa1 or Marf, inactivates the Hippo pathway as well. Taken together, we propose that there is a cross-talk between mitochondrial fusion and the Hippo pathway, which is essential in controlling cell proliferation and tissue homeostasis in Drosophila.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Facilitation of Endosomal Recycling by an IRG Protein Homolog Maintains Apical Tubule Structure in Caenorhabditis elegans [Developmental and Behavioral Genetics]

Grussendorf, K. A., Trezza, C. J., Salem, A. T., Al-Hashimi, H., Mattingly, B. C., Kampmeyer, D. E., Khan, L. A., Hall, D. H., Gobel, V., Ackley, B. D., Buechner, M.

Determination of luminal diameter is critical to the function of small single-celled tubes. A series of EXC proteins, including EXC-1, prevent swelling of the tubular excretory canals in Caenorhabditis elegans. In this study, cloning of exc-1 reveals it to encode a homolog of mammalian IRG proteins, which play roles in immune response and autophagy and are associated with Crohn’s disease. Mutants in exc-1 accumulate early endosomes, lack recycling endosomes, and exhibit abnormal apical cytoskeletal structure in regions of enlarged tubules. EXC-1 interacts genetically with two other EXC proteins that also affect endosomal trafficking. In yeast two-hybrid assays, wild-type and putative constitutively active EXC-1 binds to the LIM-domain protein EXC-9, whose homolog, cysteine-rich intestinal protein, is enriched in mammalian intestine. These results suggest a model for IRG function in forming and maintaining apical tubule structure via regulation of endosomal recycling.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Refining the Use of Linkage Disequilibrium as a Robust Signature of Selective Sweeps [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Jacobs, G. S., Sluckin, T. J., Kivisild, T.

During a selective sweep, characteristic patterns of linkage disequilibrium can arise in the genomic region surrounding a selected locus. These have been used to infer past selective sweeps. However, the recombination rate is known to vary substantially along the genome for many species. We here investigate the effectiveness of current (Kelly’s $${Z}_{nS}$$ and $${\omega }_{\mathrm{max}}$$) and novel statistics at inferring hard selective sweeps based on linkage disequilibrium distortions under different conditions, including a human-realistic demographic model and recombination rate variation. When the recombination rate is constant, Kelly’s $${Z}_{nS}$$ offers high power, but is outperformed by a novel statistic that we test, which we call $${Z}_{\alpha }.$$ We also find this statistic to be effective at detecting sweeps from standing variation. When recombination rate fluctuations are included, there is a considerable reduction in power for all linkage disequilibrium-based statistics. However, this can largely be reversed by appropriately controlling for expected linkage disequilibrium using a genetic map. To further test these different methods, we perform selection scans on well-characterized HapMap data, finding that all three statistics—$${\omega }_{\mathrm{max}},$$ Kelly’s $${Z}_{nS},$$ and $${Z}_{\alpha }$$—are able to replicate signals at regions previously identified as selection candidates based on population differentiation or the site frequency spectrum. While $${\omega }_{\mathrm{max}}$$ replicates most candidates when recombination map data are not available, the $${Z}_{nS}$$ and $${Z}_{\alpha }$$ statistics are more successful when recombination rate variation is controlled for. Given both this and their higher power in simulations of selective sweeps, these statistics are preferred when information on local recombination rate variation is available.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Estimating the Number of Subpopulations (K) in Structured Populations [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Verity, R., Nichols, R. A.

A key quantity in the analysis of structured populations is the parameter K, which describes the number of subpopulations that make up the total population. Inference of K ideally proceeds via the model evidence, which is equivalent to the likelihood of the model. However, the evidence in favor of a particular value of K cannot usually be computed exactly, and instead programs such as Structure make use of heuristic estimators to approximate this quantity. We show—using simulated data sets small enough that the true evidence can be computed exactly—that these heuristics often fail to estimate the true evidence and that this can lead to incorrect conclusions about K. Our proposed solution is to use thermodynamic integration (TI) to estimate the model evidence. After outlining the TI methodology we demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, using a range of simulated data sets. We find that TI can be used to obtain estimates of the model evidence that are more accurate and precise than those based on heuristics. Furthermore, estimates of K based on these values are found to be more reliable than those based on a suite of model comparison statistics. Finally, we test our solution in a reanalysis of a white-footed mouse data set. The TI methodology is implemented for models both with and without admixture in the software MavericK1.0.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Contrasting Levels of Molecular Evolution on the Mouse X Chromosome [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Larson, E. L., Vanderpool, D., Keeble, S., Zhou, M., Sarver, B. A. J., Smith, A. D., Dean, M. D., Good, J. M.

The mammalian X chromosome has unusual evolutionary dynamics compared to autosomes. Faster-X evolution of spermatogenic protein-coding genes is known to be most pronounced for genes expressed late in spermatogenesis, but it is unclear if these patterns extend to other forms of molecular divergence. We tested for faster-X evolution in mice spanning three different forms of molecular evolution—divergence in protein sequence, gene expression, and DNA methylation—across different developmental stages of spermatogenesis. We used FACS to isolate individual cell populations and then generated cell-specific transcriptome profiles across different stages of spermatogenesis in two subspecies of house mice (Mus musculus), thereby overcoming a fundamental limitation of previous studies on whole tissues. We found faster-X protein evolution at all stages of spermatogenesis and faster-late protein evolution for both X-linked and autosomal genes. In contrast, there was less expression divergence late in spermatogenesis (slower late) on the X chromosome and for autosomal genes expressed primarily in testis (testis-biased). We argue that slower-late expression divergence reflects strong regulatory constraints imposed during this critical stage of sperm development and that these constraints are particularly acute on the tightly regulated sex chromosomes. We also found slower-X DNA methylation divergence based on genome-wide bisulfite sequencing of sperm from two species of mice (M. musculus and M. spretus), although it is unclear whether slower-X DNA methylation reflects development constraints in sperm or other X-linked phenomena. Our study clarifies key differences in patterns of regulatory and protein evolution across spermatogenesis that are likely to have important consequences for mammalian sex chromosome evolution, male fertility, and speciation.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Mutation Is a Sufficient and Robust Predictor of Genetic Variation for Mitotic Spindle Traits in Caenorhabditis elegans [Population and Evolutionary Genetics]

Farhadifar, R., Ponciano, J. M., Andersen, E. C., Needleman, D. J., Baer, C. F.

Different types of phenotypic traits consistently exhibit different levels of genetic variation in natural populations. There are two potential explanations: Either mutation produces genetic variation at different rates or natural selection removes or promotes genetic variation at different rates. Whether mutation or selection is of greater general importance is a longstanding unresolved question in evolutionary genetics. We report mutational variances (VM) for 19 traits related to the first mitotic cell division in Caenorhabditis elegans and compare them to the standing genetic variances (VG) for the same suite of traits in a worldwide collection C. elegans. Two robust conclusions emerge. First, the mutational process is highly repeatable: The correlation between VM in two independent sets of mutation accumulation lines is ~0.9. Second, VM for a trait is a good predictor of VG for that trait: The correlation between VM and VG is ~0.9. This result is predicted for a population at mutation–selection balance; it is not predicted if balancing selection plays a primary role in maintaining genetic variation.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Genomic Prediction for Quantitative Traits Is Improved by Mapping Variants to Gene Ontology Categories in Drosophila melanogaster [Genetics of Complex Traits]

Edwards, S. M., Sorensen, I. F., Sarup, P., Mackay, T. F. C., Sorensen, P.

Predicting individual quantitative trait phenotypes from high-resolution genomic polymorphism data is important for personalized medicine in humans, plant and animal breeding, and adaptive evolution. However, this is difficult for populations of unrelated individuals when the number of causal variants is low relative to the total number of polymorphisms and causal variants individually have small effects on the traits. We hypothesized that mapping molecular polymorphisms to genomic features such as genes and their gene ontology categories could increase the accuracy of genomic prediction models. We developed a genomic feature best linear unbiased prediction (GFBLUP) model that implements this strategy and applied it to three quantitative traits (startle response, starvation resistance, and chill coma recovery) in the unrelated, sequenced inbred lines of the Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel. Our results indicate that subsetting markers based on genomic features increases the predictive ability relative to the standard genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP) model. Both models use all markers, but GFBLUP allows differential weighting of the individual genetic marker relationships, whereas GBLUP weighs the genetic marker relationships equally. Simulation studies show that it is possible to further increase the accuracy of genomic prediction for complex traits using this model, provided the genomic features are enriched for causal variants. Our GFBLUP model using prior information on genomic features enriched for causal variants can increase the accuracy of genomic predictions in populations of unrelated individuals and provides a formal statistical framework for leveraging and evaluating information across multiple experimental studies to provide novel insights into the genetic architecture of complex traits.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Simple Penalties on Maximum-Likelihood Estimates of Genetic Parameters to Reduce Sampling Variation [Genetics of Complex Traits]

Meyer, K.

Multivariate estimates of genetic parameters are subject to substantial sampling variation, especially for smaller data sets and more than a few traits. A simple modification of standard, maximum-likelihood procedures for multivariate analyses to estimate genetic covariances is described, which can improve estimates by substantially reducing their sampling variances. This is achieved by maximizing the likelihood subject to a penalty. Borrowing from Bayesian principles, we propose a mild, default penalty—derived assuming a Beta distribution of scale-free functions of the covariance components to be estimated—rather than laboriously attempting to determine the stringency of penalization from the data. An extensive simulation study is presented, demonstrating that such penalties can yield very worthwhile reductions in loss, i.e., the difference from population values, for a wide range of scenarios and without distorting estimates of phenotypic covariances. Moreover, mild default penalties tend not to increase loss in difficult cases and, on average, achieve reductions in loss of similar magnitude to computationally demanding schemes to optimize the degree of penalization. Pertinent details required for the adaptation of standard algorithms to locate the maximum of the likelihood function are outlined.

Thursday, August 11 2016 08:38:26 AM

Covariance Association Test (CVAT) Identifies Genetic Markers Associated with Schizophrenia in Functionally Associated Biological Processes [Genetics of Complex Traits]

Rohde, P. D., Demontis, D., Cuyabano, B. C. D., The Genomic Medicine for Schizophrenia Group, Borglum, A. D., Sorensen, P.

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder with large personal and social costs, and understanding the genetic etiology is important. Such knowledge can be obtained by testing the association between a disease phenotype and individual genetic markers; however, such single-marker methods have limited power to detect genetic markers with small effects. Instead, aggregating genetic markers based on biological information might increase the power to identify sets of genetic markers of etiological significance. Several set test methods have been proposed: Here we propose a new set test derived from genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP), the covariance association test (CVAT). We compared the performance of CVAT to other commonly used set tests. The comparison was conducted using a simulated study population having the same genetic parameters as for schizophrenia. We found that CVAT was among the top performers. When extending CVAT to utilize a mixture of SNP effects, we found an increase in power to detect the causal sets. Applying the methods to a Danish schizophrenia case–control data set, we found genomic evidence for association of schizophrenia with vitamin A metabolism and immunological responses, which previously have been implicated with schizophrenia based on experimental and observational studies.