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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 1;105(13):5145-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800972105. Epub 2008 Mar 24.

Evidence for degenerate tetraploidy in bdelloid rotifers.

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  • 1Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.


Rotifers of class Bdelloidea have evolved for millions of years apparently without sexual reproduction. We have sequenced 45- to 70-kb regions surrounding the four copies of the hsp82 gene of the bdelloid rotifer Philodina roseola, each of which is on a separate chromosome. The four regions comprise two colinear gene-rich pairs with gene content, order, and orientation conserved within each pair. Only a minority of genes are common to both pairs, also in the same orientation and order, but separated by gene-rich segments present in only one or the other pair. The pattern is consistent with degenerate tetraploidy with numerous segmental deletions, some in one pair of colinear chromosomes and some in the other. Divergence in 1,000-bp windows varies along an alignment of a colinear pair, from zero to as much as 20% in a pattern consistent with gene conversion associated with recombinational repair of DNA double-strand breaks. Although pairs of colinear chromosomes are a characteristic of sexually reproducing diploids and polyploids, a quite different explanation for their presence in bdelloids is suggested by the recent finding that bdelloid rotifers can recover and resume reproduction after suffering hundreds of radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks per oocyte nucleus. Because bdelloid primary oocytes are in G(1) and therefore lack sister chromatids, we propose that bdelloid colinear chromosome pairs are maintained as templates for the repair of DNA double-strand breaks caused by the frequent desiccation and rehydration characteristic of bdelloid habitats.

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