Included in polyploid theme

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Author: Tanja Slotte
Research area: evolutionary_biology

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The role of transposable elements for gene expression in Capsella hybrids and allopolyploids

Created on 16th March 2016

Kim Steige; Johan Reimegård; Carolin A Rebernig; Claudia Köhler; Douglas G Scofield; Tanja Slotte;

The formation of an allopolyploid species involves the merger of two genomes with separate evolutionary histories. In allopolyploids, genes derived from one progenitor species are often expressed at higher levels than those from the other progenitor. It has been suggested that this could be due to differences in transposable element (TE) content among progenitors, as silencing of TEs can affect expression of nearby genes. Here, we examine the role of TEs for expression biases in the widespread allotetraploid Capsella bursa-pastoris and in diploid F1 hybrids generated by crossing Capsella orientalis and Capsella rubella, two close relatives of the progenitors of C. bursa-pastoris. As C. rubella harbors more TEs than C. orientalis, we expect C. orientalis alleles to be expressed at higher levels if TE content is key for expression biases. To test this hypothesis, we quantified expression biases at approximately 5800 genes in flower buds and leaves, while correcting for read mapping biases using genomic data. While three of four C. bursa-pastoris accessions exhibited a shift toward higher relative expression of C. orientalis alleles, the fourth C. bursa-pastoris accession had the opposite direction of expression bias, as did diploid F1 hybrids. Associations between TE polymorphism and expression bias were weak, and the effect of TEs on expression bias was small. These results suggest that differences in TE content alone cannot fully explain expression biases in these species. Future studies should investigate the role of differences in TE silencing efficacy, as well as a broader set of other factors. Our results are important for a more general understanding of the role of TEs for cis-regulatory evolution in plants.

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