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Genetics. 2012 Nov;192(3):1001-14. doi: 10.1534/genetics.112.141549. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Evolutionary analysis of heterochromatin protein compatibility by interspecies complementation in Saccharomyces.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


The genetic bases for species-specific traits are widely sought, but reliable experimental methods with which to identify functionally divergent genes are lacking. In the Saccharomyces genus, interspecies complementation tests can be used to evaluate functional conservation and divergence of biological pathways or networks. Silent information regulator (SIR) proteins in S. bayanus provide an ideal test case for this approach because they show remarkable divergence in sequence and paralog number from those found in the closely related S. cerevisiae. We identified genes required for silencing in S. bayanus using a genetic screen for silencing-defective mutants. Complementation tests in interspecies hybrids identified an evolutionarily conserved Sir-protein-based silencing machinery, as defined by two interspecies complementation groups (SIR2 and SIR3). However, recessive mutations in S. bayanus SIR4 isolated from this screen could not be complemented by S. cerevisiae SIR4, revealing species-specific functional divergence in the Sir4 protein despite conservation of the overall function of the Sir2/3/4 complex. A cladistic complementation series localized the occurrence of functional changes in SIR4 to the S. cerevisiae and S. paradoxus branches of the Saccharomyces phylogeny. Most of this functional divergence mapped to sequence changes in the Sir4 PAD. Finally, a hemizygosity modifier screen in the interspecies hybrids identified additional genes involved in S. bayanus silencing. Thus, interspecies complementation tests can be used to identify (1) mutations in genetically underexplored organisms, (2) loci that have functionally diverged between species, and (3) evolutionary events of functional consequence within a genus.

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