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J Evol Biol. 2014 Jun;27(6):1125-35. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12386. Epub 2014 May 22.

Dynamics of transcriptome evolution in the model eukaryote Neurospora.

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Mounting evidence indicates that changes in the transcriptome contribute significantly to the phenotypic differentiation of closely related species. Nonetheless, further genome-wide studies, spanning a broad range of organisms, are needed to decipher the factors driving transcriptome evolution. The model Neurospora (Ascomycota) comprises a simple system for empirically studying the evolutionary dynamics of the transcriptome. Here, we studied the evolution of gene expression in Neurospora crassa and Neurospora tetrasperma and show that patterns of transcriptome evolution are connected to genome evolution, tissue type and sexual identity (mating types, mat A and mat a) in these eukaryotes. Based on the comparisons of inter- and intraspecies expression divergence, our data reveal that rapid expression divergence is more apt to occur in sexual/female (SF) than vegetative/male (VM) tissues. In addition, interspecies gene expression and protein sequence divergence were strongly correlated for SF, but not VM, tissue. A correlation between transcriptome and protein evolution parallels findings from certain animals, but not yeast, and add support for the theory that expression evolution differs fundamentally among multicellular and unicellular eukaryotes. Finally, we found that sexual identity in these hermaphroditic Neurospora species is connected to interspecies expression divergence in a tissue-dependent manner: rapid divergence occurred for mat A- and mat a-biased genes from SF and VM tissues, respectively. Based on these findings, it is hypothesized that rapid interspecies transcriptome evolution is shifting the mating types of Neurospora towards distinct female and male phenotypes, that is, sexual dimorphism.


expression evolution; mating type; multicellularity; sexual identity; tissue type

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