Protozoa and fungi are known to have extraordinarily diverse mechanisms of genetic exchange. However, the presence and epidemiological relevance of genetic exchange in Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease, has been controversial and debated for many years. Field studies have identified both predominantly clonal and sexually recombining natural populations. Two of six natural T. cruzi lineages (TcV and TcVI) show hybrid mosaicism, using analysis of single-gene locus markers. The formation of hybrid strains in vitro has been achieved and this provides a framework to study the mechanisms and adaptive significance of genetic exchange. Using whole genome sequencing of a set of experimental hybrids strains, we have confirmed that hybrid formation initially results in tetraploid parasites. The hybrid progeny showed novel mutations that were not attributable to either (diploid) parent showing an increase in amino acid changes. In long-term culture, up to 800 generations, there was a variable but gradual erosion of progeny genomes towards triploidy, yet retention of elevated copy number was observed at several core housekeeping loci. Our findings indicate hybrid formation by fusion of diploid T. cruzi, followed by sporadic genome erosion, but with substantial potential for adaptive evolution, as has been described as a genetic feature of other organisms, such as some fungi.
The data generated in this study have been submitted to the NCBI BioProject database (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bioproject/) under accession number PRJNA748998.
Comparative genomic analyses of Trypanosoma cruzi experimental hybridsNCBI BioProject, PRJNA748998.
- Gabriel Machado Matos
- Björn Andersson
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Antoine Claessens, University of Montpellier, France
© 2022, Matos et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Maintaining germline genome integrity is essential and enormously complex. Although many proteins are involved in DNA replication, proofreading, and repair, mutator alleles have largely eluded detection in mammals. DNA replication and repair proteins often recognize sequence motifs or excise lesions at specific nucleotides. Thus, we might expect that the spectrum of de novo mutations – the frequencies of C>T, A>G, etc. – will differ between genomes that harbor either a mutator or wild-type allele. Previously, we used quantitative trait locus mapping to discover candidate mutator alleles in the DNA repair gene Mutyh that increased the C>A germline mutation rate in a family of inbred mice known as the BXDs (Sasani et al., 2022, Ashbrook et al., 2021). In this study we developed a new method to detect alleles associated with mutation spectrum variation and applied it to mutation data from the BXDs. We discovered an additional C>A mutator locus on chromosome 6 that overlaps Ogg1, a DNA glycosylase involved in the same base-excision repair network as Mutyh (David et al., 2007). Its effect depends on the presence of a mutator allele near Mutyh, and BXDs with mutator alleles at both loci have greater numbers of C>A mutations than those with mutator alleles at either locus alone. Our new methods for analyzing mutation spectra reveal evidence of epistasis between germline mutator alleles and may be applicable to mutation data from humans and other model organisms.
Although gene expression divergence has long been postulated to be the primary driver of human evolution, identifying the genes and genetic variants underlying uniquely human traits has proven to be quite challenging. Theory suggests that cell-type-specific cis-regulatory variants may fuel evolutionary adaptation due to the specificity of their effects. These variants can precisely tune the expression of a single gene in a single cell-type, avoiding the potentially deleterious consequences of trans-acting changes and non-cell type-specific changes that can impact many genes and cell types, respectively. It has recently become possible to quantify human-specific cis-acting regulatory divergence by measuring allele-specific expression in human-chimpanzee hybrid cells—the product of fusing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells of each species in vitro. However, these cis-regulatory changes have only been explored in a limited number of cell types. Here, we quantify human-chimpanzee cis-regulatory divergence in gene expression and chromatin accessibility across six cell types, enabling the identification of highly cell-type-specific cis-regulatory changes. We find that cell-type-specific genes and regulatory elements evolve faster than those shared across cell types, suggesting an important role for genes with cell-type-specific expression in human evolution. Furthermore, we identify several instances of lineage-specific natural selection that may have played key roles in specific cell types, such as coordinated changes in the cis-regulation of dozens of genes involved in neuronal firing in motor neurons. Finally, using novel metrics and a machine learning model, we identify genetic variants that likely alter chromatin accessibility and transcription factor binding, leading to neuron-specific changes in the expression of the neurodevelopmentally important genes FABP7 and GAD1. Overall, our results demonstrate that integrative analysis of cis-regulatory divergence in chromatin accessibility and gene expression across cell types is a promising approach to identify the specific genes and genetic variants that make us human.