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Eukaryot Cell. 2014 Jan;13(1):154-69. doi: 10.1128/EC.00248-13. Epub 2013 Nov 15.

Global gene expression and focused knockout analysis reveals genes associated with fungal fruiting body development in Neurospora crassa.

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Department of Biostatistics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.


Fungi can serve as highly tractable models for understanding genetic basis of sexual development in multicellular organisms. Applying a reverse-genetic approach to advance such a model, we used random and multitargeted primers to assay gene expression across perithecial development in Neurospora crassa. We found that functionally unclassified proteins accounted for most upregulated genes, whereas downregulated genes were enriched for diverse functions. Moreover, genes associated with developmental traits exhibited stage-specific peaks of expression. Expression increased significantly across sexual development for mating type gene mat a-1 and for mat A-1 specific pheromone precursor ccg-4. In addition, expression of a gene encoding a protein similar to zinc finger, stc1, was highly upregulated early in perithecial development, and a strain with a knockout of this gene exhibited arrest at the same developmental stage. A similar expression pattern was observed for genes in RNA silencing and signaling pathways, and strains with knockouts of these genes were also arrested at stages of perithecial development that paralleled their peak in expression. The observed stage specificity allowed us to correlate expression upregulation and developmental progression and to identify regulators of sexual development. Bayesian networks inferred from our expression data revealed previously known and new putative interactions between RNA silencing genes and pathways. Overall, our analysis provides a fine-scale transcriptomic landscape and novel inferences regarding the control of the multistage development process of sexual crossing and fruiting body development in N. crassa.

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