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05 Nov 2020
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A genomic amplification affecting a carboxylesterase gene cluster confers organophosphate resistance in the mosquito Aedes aegypti: from genomic characterization to high-throughput field detection

Identification of a gene cluster amplification associated with organophosphate insecticide resistance: from the diversity of the resistance allele complex to an efficient field detection assay

Recommended by based on reviews by Diego Ayala and 2 anonymous reviewers

The emergence and spread of insecticide resistance compromises the efficiency of insecticides as prevention tool against the transmission of insect-transmitted diseases (Moyes et al. 2017). In this context, the understanding of the genetic mechanisms of resistance and the way resistant alleles spread in insect populations is necessary and important to envision resistance management policies. A common and important mechanism of insecticide resistance is gene amplification and in particular amplification of insecticide detoxification genes, which leads to the overexpression of these genes (Bass & Field, 2011). Cattel and coauthors (2020) adopt a combination of experimental approaches to study the role of gene amplification in resistance to organophosphate insecticides in the mosquito Aedes aegypti and its occurrence in populations of South East Asia and to develop a molecular test to track resistance alleles.
Their first approach consists in performing an artificial selection on laboratory Ae. Aegypti populations started with individuals collected in Laos. In the selected population, an initial 90% mortality by adult exposure to the organophosphate insecticide malathion is imposed. This population shows a steep increase in resistance to malathion and other organophosphate insecticides, which is absent in the paired control population. The transcriptomic patterns of the control and the evolved populations as well as of a reference sensitive population reveals, among other differences, the over-expression of five carboxy/choline esterase (CCE) genes in the insecticide selected population. These five genes happen to be clustered in the Ae. aegypti genome and whole genome sequencing of a highly resistant population combined to qPCR test on genomic DNA showed that the overexpression of these genes is due to gene amplification. Although it would have been more elegant to have replicate selected and control populations and to perform the transcriptomic and the genomic analyses directly on the experimental populations, the authors gather a set of experimental evidence which combined to previous knowledge on the function of the amplified and over-expressed genes and on their implication in organophosphate insecticide resistance in other species allow to discard the possibility that this gene amplification spread by drift in the selected population.
In a second part of the paper, copy number variation for CCE genes is checked in field sample populations. This test reveals the presence of resistance alleles in half of the fourteen South East Asia populations sampled. Very interestingly, it also reveals a high level of complexity and diversity among the resistance alleles: it shows first the existence, both in the experimental and the field populations, of at least two amplified alleles (differing by the number of genes amplified) and second a high variation in the copy number of amplified genes. This indicates that gene amplification as a molecular resistance mechanism has actually lead to a high diversity of resistance alleles. These alleles are likely to differ both by the level of resistance conferred and the fitness cost imposed in the absence of the insecticide and these two values are affecting the evolution of their frequency in the field and ultimately the spread of resistance.
The last part of the paper is devoted to the development of a high-throughput Taqman assay which allows to determine rapidly the copy number of one of the esterase genes amplified in the resistance alleles described earlier. This assay is nicely validated and will definitely be a useful tool to determine the occurrence of these resistance alleles in field population. The fact that it gives access to the copy number will also allow to follow its copy number across time and get insight into the complexity of resistance evolution by gene amplification.
To sum up, this paper studies the implication of carboxy/choline esterase genes amplification in organophosphate resistance evolution in Ae. aegypti, reveals the diversity among individuals and populations of this resistance mechanism, because of variation both in the identity of the genes amplified and in their copy number and sets up a fast and efficient tool to detect and follow the spread of these resistant alleles in the field. Additionally, the different experimental approaches adopted have generated genomic and transcriptomic data, of which only the part related to CCE gene amplification has been exploited. These data are very likely to reveal other genomic and expression determinants of resistance that will give access to an extra degree of complexity in organophosphate insecticide resistance determinism and evolution.


Bass C, Field LM (2011) Gene amplification and insecticide resistance. Pest Management Science, 67, 886–890.
Cattel J, Haberkorn C, Laporte F, Gaude T, Cumer T, Renaud J, Sutherland IW, Hertz JC, Bonneville J-M, Arnaud V, Nous C, Fustec B, Boyer S, Marcombe S, David J-P (2020) A genomic amplification affecting a carboxylesterase gene cluster confers organophosphate resistance in the mosquito Aedes aegypti: from genomic characterization to high-throughput field detection. bioRxiv, 2020.06.08.139741, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology.
Moyes CL, Vontas J, Martins AJ, Ng LC, Koou SY, Dusfour I, Raghavendra K, Pinto J, Corbel V, David J-P, Weetman D (2017) Contemporary status of insecticide resistance in the major Aedes vectors of arboviruses infecting humans. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 11, e0005625.

A genomic amplification affecting a carboxylesterase gene cluster confers organophosphate resistance in the mosquito Aedes aegypti: from genomic characterization to high-throughput field detectionJulien Cattel, Chloé Haberkorn, Fréderic Laporte, Thierry Gaude, Tristan Cumer, Julien Renaud, Ian W. Sutherland, Jeffrey C. Hertz, Jean-Marc Bonneville, Victor Arnaud, Camille Noûs, Bénédicte Fustec, Sébastien Boyer, Sébastien Marcombe, Jean-Phil...<p>By altering gene expression and creating paralogs, genomic amplifications represent a key component of short-term adaptive processes. In insects, the use of insecticides can select gene amplifications causing an increased expression of detoxifi...Adaptation, Evolutionary Applications, Experimental Evolution, Genome Evolution, Molecular EvolutionStephanie Bedhomme2020-06-09 13:27:18 View
12 Nov 2020
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Limits and Convergence properties of the Sequentially Markovian Coalescent

Review and Assessment of Performance of Genomic Inference Methods based on the Sequentially Markovian Coalescent

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by 3 anonymous reviewers

The human genome not only encodes for biological functions and for what makes us human, it also encodes the population history of our ancestors. Changes in past population sizes, for example, affect the distribution of times to the most recent common ancestor (tMRCA) of genomic segments, which in turn can be inferred by sophisticated modelling along the genome.
A key framework for such modelling of local tMRCA tracts along genomes is the Sequentially Markovian Coalescent (SMC) (McVean and Cardin 2005, Marjoram and Wall 2006) . The problem that the SMC solves is that the mosaic of local tMRCAs along the genome is unknown, both in their actual ages and in their positions along the genome. The SMC allows to effectively sum across all possibilities and handle the uncertainty probabilistically. Several important tools for inferring the demographic history of a population have been developed built on top of the SMC, including PSMC (Li and Durbin 2011), diCal (Sheehan et al 2013), MSMC (Schiffels and Durbin 2014), SMC++ (Terhorst et al 2017), eSMC (Sellinger et al. 2020) and others.
In this paper, Sellinger, Abu Awad and Tellier (2020) review these SMC-based methods and provide a coherent simulation design to comparatively assess their strengths and weaknesses in a variety of demographic scenarios (Sellinger, Abu Awad and Tellier 2020). In addition, they used these simulations to test how breaking various key assumptions in SMC methods affects estimates, such as constant recombination rates, or absence of false positive SNP calls.
As a result of this assessment, the authors not only provide practical guidance for researchers who want to use these methods, but also insights into how these methods work. For example, the paper carefully separates sources of error in these methods by observing what they call “Best-case convergence” of each method if the data behaves perfectly and separating that from how the method applies with actual data. This approach provides a deeper insight into the methods than what we could learn from application to genomic data alone.
In the age of genomics, computational tools and their development are key for researchers in this field. All the more important is it to provide the community with overviews, reviews and independent assessments of such tools. This is particularly important as sometimes the development of new methods lacks primary visibility due to relevant testing material being pushed to Supplementary Sections in papers due to space constraints. As SMC-based methods have become so widely used tools in genomics, I think the detailed assessment by Sellinger et al. (2020) is timely and relevant.
In conclusion, I recommend this paper because it bridges from a mere review of the different methods to an in-depth assessment of performance, thereby addressing both beginners in the field who just seek an initial overview, as well as experienced researchers who are interested in theoretical boundaries and assumptions of the different methods.


[1] Li, H., and Durbin, R. (2011). Inference of human population history from individual whole-genome sequences. Nature, 475(7357), 493-496. doi:
[2] Marjoram, P., and Wall, J. D. (2006). Fast"" coalescent"" simulation. BMC genetics, 7(1), 16. doi:
[3] McVean, G. A., and Cardin, N. J. (2005). Approximating the coalescent with recombination. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 360(1459), 1387-1393. doi:
[4] Schiffels, S., and Durbin, R. (2014). Inferring human population size and separation history from multiple genome sequences. Nature genetics, 46(8), 919-925. doi:
[5] Sellinger, T. P. P., Awad, D. A., Moest, M., and Tellier, A. (2020). Inference of past demography, dormancy and self-fertilization rates from whole genome sequence data. PLoS Genetics, 16(4), e1008698. doi:
[6] Sellinger, T. P. P., Awad, D. A. and Tellier, A. (2020) Limits and Convergence properties of the Sequentially Markovian Coalescent. bioRxiv, 2020.07.23.217091, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology. doi:
[7] Sheehan, S., Harris, K., and Song, Y. S. (2013). Estimating variable effective population sizes from multiple genomes: a sequentially Markov conditional sampling distribution approach. Genetics, 194(3), 647-662. doi:
[8] Terhorst, J., Kamm, J. A., and Song, Y. S. (2017). Robust and scalable inference of population history from hundreds of unphased whole genomes. Nature genetics, 49(2), 303-309. doi:

Limits and Convergence properties of the Sequentially Markovian CoalescentThibaut Sellinger, Diala Abu Awad, Aurélien Tellier<p>Many methods based on the Sequentially Markovian Coalescent (SMC) have been and are being developed. These methods make use of genome sequence data to uncover population demographic history. More recently, new methods have extended the original...Population Genetics / GenomicsStephan SchiffelsAnonymous2020-07-25 10:54:48 View
06 Jul 2018
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Variation in competitive ability with mating system, ploidy and range expansion in four Capsella species

When ecology meets genetics: Towards an integrated understanding of mating system transitions and diversity

Recommended by and based on reviews by Yaniv Brandvain, Henrique Teotonio and 1 anonymous reviewer

In the 19th century, C. Darwin and F. Delpino engaged in a debate about the success of species with different reproduction modes, with the later favouring the idea that monoecious plants capable of autonomous selfing could spread more easily than dioecious plants (or self-incompatible hermaphroditic plants) if cross-pollination opportunities were limited [1]. Since then, debate has never faded about how natural selection is responsible for transitions to selfing and can explain the diversity and distribution of reproduction modes we observe in the natural world [2, 3].
Explanations for mating systems diversity, and transitions to selfing in particular, generally fall into two categories: either genetic or ecological. On the genetic side, many theoretical works showed a critical role for mutation load and inbreeding depression, transmission advantage and reproductive assurance in the evolution of selfing, e.g. [4]. Many experimental works were conducted to test theoretical hypotheses and predictions, especially regarding the magnitude of inbreeding depression; see [5] for a review. Ecologically, the presence of selfing populations is usually correlated with fragmented and harsh habitats, on the periphery of ancestral outcrossing populations. The cause of this distribution could be that selfers are better dispersers and colonizers than outcrossers, or variations in other life-history traits [6]. Yet, few experiments were run to assess whether selfing species or populations have effectively different ecological characteristics, and even scarcer are experiments evaluating both the roles of mutational load and life-history traits evolution. This is the aim of the present study by X. Yang et al [7].
The study of Yang et al [7], together with that of Petrone Mendoza et al. [8], supervised by S. Glémin and M. Lascoux, is probably one of the first to conduct experiments where the competitive abilities are compared between and within species. Using 4 species of the Capsella genus, annual plants from the mustard family, they tested the theoretical predictions that i) the transition from outcrossing to selfing resulted in reduced competitive ability at higher densities, because of the accumulation of deleterious mutations and/or the evolution of life-history traits in an open habitat and a colonization/dispersal trade-off; ii) that reduced competitive ability of selfers should be less pronounced in polyploid then diploid species because the effect of partially recessive deleterious mutations would be buffered; and iii) that competitive ability of selfers should decline with historical range expansion because of the expansion load [9].
Of the 4 Capsella species studied, only one of them, presumably the ancestral, is a diploid outcrosser with a small distribution but large population sizes. The three other species are selfers, two diploids with independent histories of transitions from outcrossing, and another, tetraploid, resulting from a recent hybridization between one of the diploid selfer and the diploid outcrossing ancestor. Many accessions from each species were sampled and individuals assayed for their competitive ability against a tester species or alone, for vegetative and reproductive traits. The measured vegetative traits (rosette surface at two stages, growth rate and flowering probability) showed no differentiation between selfers and outcrossers. To the contrary, reproductive traits (number of flowers) followed theoretical predictions: selfing species are more sensitive to competition than the outcrossing species, with polyploid selfing species being intermediate between the diploid selfers and the diploid outcrosser, and within the tetraploid selfing species (where sampling was quite significant across a large geographical range) sensitivity to competition increased with range expansion.
The study of Yang et al. [7] suffers from several limitations, such that alternative explanations cannot be discarded in the absence of further experimental data. They nonetheless provide the reader with a nice discussion and prospects on how to untwine the causes and the consequences of transitions to selfing. Their study also brings up to date questions about the joint evolution of mating system and life-history traits, which needs a renewed interest from an empirical and theoretical point of view. The results of Yang et al. raise for instance the question of whether it is indeed expected that only reproductive traits, and not vegetative traits, should evolve with the transition to selfing.
The recommandation and evaluation of this paper have been made in collaboration with Thomas Lesaffre.


[1] Darwin, C. R. (1876). The effects of cross and self fertilization in the vegetable kingdom. London: Murray. [2] Stebbins, G. L. (1957). Self fertilization and population variability in the higher plants. The American Naturalist, 91, 337-354. doi: 10.1086/281999
[3] Harder, L.D. & Barrett, S. C. H. (2006). Ecology and evolution of flowers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [4] Porcher, E. & Lande, R. (2005). The evolution of self-fertilization and inbreeding depression under pollen discounting and pollen limitation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 18(3), 497-508. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2005.00905.x
[5] Winn, A.A., et al. (2011). Analysis of inbreeding depression in mixed-mating plants provides evidence for selective interference and stable mixed mating. Evolution, 65(12), 3339-3359. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01462.x
[6] Munoz, F., Violle, C. & Cheptou, P.-O. (2016). CSR ecological strategies and plant mating systems: outcrossing increases with competitiveness but stress-tolerance is related to mixed mating. Oikos, 125(9), 1296-1303. doi: 10.1111/oik.02328
[7] Yang, X., Lascoux, M. & Glémin, S (2018). Variation in competitive ability with mating system, ploidy and range expansion in four Capsella species. bioRxiv, 214866, ver. 5 recommended and peer-reviewed by PCI Evol Biol. doi: 10.1101/214866
[8] Petrone Mendoza, S., Lascoux, M. & Glémin, S. (2018). Competitive ability of Capsella species with different mating systems and ploidy levels. Annals of Botany 121(6), 1257-1264. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcy014
[9] Peischl, S. & Excoffier, L. (2015). Expansion load: recessive mutations and the role of standing genetic variation. Molecular Ecology, 24(9): 2084-2094. doi: 10.1111/mec.13154

Variation in competitive ability with mating system, ploidy and range expansion in four Capsella speciesXuyue Yang, Martin Lascoux and Sylvain Glémin<p>Self-fertilization is often associated with ecological traits corresponding to the ruderal strategy in Grime’s Competitive-Stress-tolerant-Ruderal (CSR) classification of ecological strategies. Consequently, selfers are expected to be less comp...Evolutionary Ecology, Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and Sex, Species interactionsSylvain Billiard2017-11-06 19:54:52 View
18 May 2020
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The insertion of a mitochondrial selfish element into the nuclear genome and its consequences

Some evolutionary insights into an accidental homing endonuclease passage from mitochondria to the nucleus

Recommended by based on reviews by Jan Engelstaedter and Yannick Wurm

Not all genetic elements composing genomes are there for the benefit of their carrier. Many have no consequences on fitness, or too mild ones to be eliminated by selection, and thus stem from neutral processes. Many others are indeed the product of selection, but one acting at a different level, increasing the fitness of some elements of the genome only, at the expense of the “organism” as a whole. These can be called selfish genetic elements, and come into a wide variety of flavours [1], illustrating many possible means to cheat with “fair” reproductive processes such as meiosis, and thus get overrepresented in the offspring of their hosts. Producing copies of itself through transposition is one such strategy; a very successful one indeed, explaining a large part of the genomic content of many organisms. Killing non carrier gametes following meiosis in heterozygous carriers is another one. Less know and less common is the ability of some elements to turn heterozygous carriers into homozygous ones, that will thus transmit the selfish elements to all offspring instead of half. This is achieved by nucleic sequences encoding so-called “Homing endonucleases” (HEs). These proteins tend to induce double strand breaks of DNA specifically in regions homologous to their own insertion sites. The recombination machinery is such that the intact homologous region, that is, the one carrying the HE sequence, is then used as a template for the reparation of the break, resulting in the effective conversion of a non-carrier allele into a carrier allele. Such elements can also occur in the mitochondrial genomes of organisms where mitochondria are not strictly transmitted by one parent only, offering mitochondrial HEs some opportunities for “homing” into new non carrier genomes. This is the case in yeasts, where HEs were first reported [2,3].
In this new study, based on genomic experimental data from the fungal maize pathogen Ustilago maydis, Julien Dutheil and colleagues [4] document one possible evolutionary pathway for which little evidence existed before: the passage of a mitochondrial HE into the nuclear genome. The GC content of this region leaves little doubt on its mitochondrial origin, and homologs can indeed be found in the mitochondrial genomes of close relatives. Strangely enough, U. maydis itself does not appear to carry this selfish element in its own mitochondria, suggesting it may have been acquired from a different species, or be subject to a sufficiently rapid turnover to have been recently lost.
Many elements of the story uncovered by this study remain mysterious. How, in the first place, was this HE gene inserted in a nuclear genomic region that shows no apparent homology with its original insertion site, making typical “homing” a not-so-likely explanation? This question may in fact be generalised to many HE systems: is the first insertion into a homing site always the product of a typical homing event, which implies the presence of an homologous template DNA fragment, or can HE genes insert through other means? But then, why specifically in regions that would be targeted by the nuclease they encode? What is the evolutionary fate of this newly inserted element? The new gene may well be on its way to pseudogenisation, as suggested by the truncation of its upper part, precluding its functioning as a HE, and the lack of evidence of selective constraints through dN/dS analysis; but the mutation generated by the insertion event may have phenotypic implications, possibly through the partial truncation of another gene, encoding a helicase. How old is this insertion? The fact that it has accumulated some mutations makes a very recent event rather unlikely, but this insertion has been detected in only one isolate of U. maydis, suggesting it is not so frequent in natural populations.
Whatever the answers to these open questions, that will hopefully be addressed by further work on this system, the present study has revealed that horizontal transmission enlarges the scope of possible evolutionary consequences of HE genes, that may move not only between mitochondrial genomes, but also occasionally into a nucleus.


[1] Burt, A., and Trivers, R. (2006). Genes in Conflict: The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements. Belknap Press.
[2] Coen, D., Deutch, J., Netter, P., Petrochillo, E., and Slonimski, P. (1970). Mitochondrial genetics. I. Methodology and phenomenology. Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology, 24, 449-496.
[3] Colleaux, L., D’Auriol, L., Betermier, M., Cottarel, G., Jacquier, A., Galibert, F., and Dujon, B. (1986). Universal code equivalent of a yeast mitochondrial intron reading frame is expressed into E. coli as a specific double strand endonuclease. Cell, 44, 521–533. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(86)90262-X
[4] Dutheil, J. Y., Münch, K., Schotanus, K., Stukenbrock, E. H., and Kahmann, R. (2020). The insertion of a mitochondrial selfish element into the nuclear genome and its consequences. bioRxiv, 787044, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/787044

The insertion of a mitochondrial selfish element into the nuclear genome and its consequencesJulien Y. Dutheil, Karin Münch, Klaas Schotanus, Eva H. Stukenbrock and Regine Kahmann<p>Homing endonucleases (HE) are enzymes capable of cutting DNA at highly specific target sequences, the repair of the generated double-strand break resulting in the insertion of the HE-encoding gene ("homing" mechanism). HEs are present in all th...Genome Evolution, Molecular EvolutionSylvain Charlat2019-09-30 20:34:23 View
31 Mar 2017
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Human adaptation of Ebola virus during the West African outbreak

Ebola evolution during the 2013-2016 outbreak

Recommended by and

The Ebola virus (EBOV) epidemic that started in December 2013 resulted in around 28,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths. Since the emergence of the disease in Zaire in 1976 the virus had produced a number of outbreaks in Africa but until 2013 the reported numbers of human cases had never risen above 500. Could this exceptional epidemic size be due to the spread of a human-adapted form of the virus?

The large mutation rate of the virus [1-2] may indeed introduce massive amounts of genetic variation upon which selection may act. Several earlier studies based on the accumulation of genome sequences sampled during the epidemic led to contrasting conclusions. A few studies discussed evidence of positive selection on the glycoprotein that may be linked to phenotypic variations on infectivity and/or immune evasion [3-4]. But the heterogeneity in the transmission of some lineages could also be due to environmental heterogeneity and/or stochasticity. Most studies could not rule out the null hypothesis of the absence of positive selection and human adaptation [1-2 and 5].

In a recent experimental study, Urbanowicz et al. [6] chose a different method to tackle this question. A phylogenetic analysis of genome sequences from viruses sampled in West Africa revealed the existence of two main lineages (one with a narrow geographic distribution in Guinea, and the other with a wider geographic distribution) distinguished by a single amino acid substitution in the glycoprotein of the virus (A82V), and of several sub-lineages characterised by additional substitutions. The authors used this phylogenetic data to generate a panel of mutant pseudoviruses and to test their ability to infect human and fruit bat cells. These experiments revealed that specific amino acid substitutions led to higher infectivity of human cells, including A82V. This increased infectivity on human cells was associated with a decreased infectivity in fruit bat cell cultures. Since fruit bats are likely to be the reservoir of the virus, this paper indicates that human adaptation may have led to a specialization of the virus to a new host.

An accompanying paper in the same issue of Cell by Diehl et al. [7] reports results that confirm the trend identified by Urbanowicz et al. [6] and further indicate that the increased infectivity of A82V is specific for primate cells. Diehl et al. [7] also report some evidence for higher virulence of A82V in humans. In other words, the evolution of the virus may have led to higher abilities to infect and to kill its novel host. This work thus confirms the adaptive potential of RNA virus and the ability of Ebola to specialize to a novel host. In this context, the availability of an effective vaccine against the disease is particularly welcome [8].

The study of Urbanowicz et al. [6] is also remarkable because it illustrates the need of experimental approaches for the study of phenotypic variation when inference methods based on phylodynamics fail to extract a clear biological message. The analysis of genomic evolution is still in its infancy and there is a need for new theoretical developments to help detect more rapidly candidate mutations involved in adaptations to new environmental conditions.


[1] Gire, S.K., Goba, A., Andersen, K.G., Sealfon, R.S.G., Park, D.J., Kanneh, L., Jalloh, S., Momoh, M., Fullah, M., Dudas, G., et al. (2014). Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak. Science 345, 1369–1372. doi: 10.1126/science.1259657
[2] Hoenen, T., Safronetz, D., Groseth, A., Wollenberg, K.R., Koita, O.A., Diarra, B., Fall, I.S., Haidara, F.C., Diallo, F., Sanogo, M., et al. (2015). Mutation rate and genotype variation of Ebola virus from Mali case sequences. Science 348, 117–119. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa5646
[3] Liu, S.-Q., Deng, C.-L., Yuan, Z.-M., Rayner, S., and Zhang, B. (2015). Identifying the pattern of molecular evolution for Zaire ebolavirus in the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 32, 51–59. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2015.02.024
[4] Holmes, E.C., Dudas, G., Rambaut, A., and Andersen, K.G. (2016). The evolution of Ebola virus: Insights from the 2013–2016 epidemic. Nature 538, 193–200. doi: 10.1038/nature19790
[5] Azarian, T., Lo Presti, A., Giovanetti, M., Cella, E., Rife, B., Lai, A., Zehender, G., Ciccozzi, M., and Salemi, M. (2015). Impact of spatial dispersion, evolution, and selection on Ebola Zaire Virus epidemic waves. Scientific Reports. 5, 10170. doi: 10.1038/srep10170
[6] Urbanowicz, R.A., McClure, C.P., Sakuntabhai, A., Sall, A.A., Kobinger, G., Müller, M.A., Holmes, E.C., Rey, F.A., Simon-Loriere, E., and Ball, J.K. (2016). Human adaptation of Ebola virus during the West African outbreak. Cell 167, 1079–1087. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.013
[7] Diehl, W.E., Lin, A.E., Grubaugh, N.D., Carvalho, L.M., Kim, K., Kyawe, P.P., McCauley, S.M., Donnard, E., Kucukural, A., McDonel, P., et al. (2016). Ebola virus glycoprotein with increased infectivity dominated the 2013-2016 epidemic. Cell 167, 1088–1098. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.10.014
[8] Henao-Restrepo, A.M., Camacho, A., Longini, I.M., Watson, C.H., Edmunds, W.J., Egger, M., Carroll, M.W., Dean, N.E., Diatta, I., Doumbia, M., et al. (2016). Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine in preventing Ebola virus disease: final results from the Guinea ring vaccination, open-label, cluster-randomised trial (Ebola Ça Suffit!). The Lancet 389, 505-518. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32621-6

Human adaptation of Ebola virus during the West African outbreakUrbanowicz, R.A., McClure, C.P., Sakuntabhai, A., Sall, A.A., Kobinger, G., Müller, M.A., Holmes, E.C., Rey, F.A., Simon-Loriere, E., and Ball, J.K.The 2013–2016 outbreak of Ebola virus (EBOV) in West Africa was the largest recorded. It began following the cross-species transmission of EBOV from an animal reservoir, most likely bats, into humans, with phylogenetic analysis revealing the co-ci...Adaptation, Evolutionary Epidemiology, Genome Evolution, Genotype-Phenotype, Molecular Evolution, Species interactionsSylvain Gandon2017-03-31 14:20:38 View
17 Feb 2020
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Epistasis, inbreeding depression and the evolution of self-fertilization

Epistasis and the evolution of selfing

Recommended by based on reviews by Nick Barton and 1 anonymous reviewer

The evolution of selfing results from a balance between multiple evolutionary forces. Selfing provides an "automatic advantage" due to the higher efficiency of selfers to transmit their genes via selfed and outcrossed offspring. Selfed offspring, however, may suffer from inbreeding depression. In principle the ultimate evolutionary outcome is easy to predict from the relative magnitude of these two evolutionary forces [1,2]. Yet, several studies explicitly taking into account the genetic architecture of inbreeding depression noted that these predictions are often too restrictive because selfing can evolve in a broader range of conditions [3,4].
The present work by Abu Awad and Roze [5] provides an analytic understanding of these results. Abu Awad and Roze analyse the evolution of selfing in a multilocus model where some loci are coding for selfing while others are under direct selection. The evolution of selfing depends on (i) the classical benefit of selfing (automatic advantage), (ii) the cost of selfing due to inbreeding depression, (iii) the association between the loci coding for selfing and the loci under direct selection (likely to be positive because selfing is expected to be found in better purged genetic backgrounds) and (iv) the association between the loci coding for selfing and the linkage between loci under selection (this final term depends on the magnitude and the type of epistasis). Because these last two terms depend on genetic associations they are expected to play in when selection is strong and recombination is small. These last two terms explain why selfing is evolving under a range of conditions which is broader than predicted by earlier theoretical models. The match between the approximations for the different terms acting on the evolution of selfing and individual based simulations (for different fitness landscapes) is very convincing. In particular, this analysis also yields new results on the effect of different types of epistasis on inbreeding depression.
Another remarkable and important feature of this work is its readability. The analysis of multilocus models rely on several steps and approximations that often result in overwhelmingly complex papers. Abu Awad and Roze’s paper [5] is dense but it provides a very clear and comprehensive presentation of the interplay between multiple evolutionary forces acting on the evolution of selfing.


[1] Holsinger, K. E., Feldman, M. W., and Christiansen, F. B. (1984). The evolution of self-fertilization in plants: a population genetic model. The American Naturalist, 124(3), 446-453. doi: 10.1086/284287
[2] Lande, R., and Schemske, D. W. (1985). The evolution of self‐fertilization and inbreeding depression in plants. I. Genetic models. Evolution, 39(1), 24-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.1985.tb04077.x
[3] Charlesworth, D., Morgan, M. T., and Charlesworth, B. (1990). Inbreeding depression, genetic load, and the evolution of outcrossing rates in a multilocus system with no linkage. Evolution, 44(6), 1469-1489. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.1990.tb03839.x
[4] Uyenoyama, M. K., and Waller, D. M. (1991). Coevolution of self-fertilization and inbreeding depression I. Mutation-selection balance at one and two loci. Theoretical population biology, 40(1), 14-46. doi: 10.1016/0040-5809(91)90045-H
[5] Abu Awad, D. and Roze, D. (2020). Epistasis, inbreeding depression and the evolution of self-fertilization. bioRxiv, 809814, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evol Biol. doi: 10.1101/809814

Epistasis, inbreeding depression and the evolution of self-fertilizationDiala Abu Awad and Denis Roze<p>Inbreeding depression resulting from partially recessive deleterious alleles is thought to be the main genetic factor preventing self-fertilizing mutants from spreading in outcrossing hermaphroditic populations. However, deleterious alleles may...Evolutionary Theory, Quantitative Genetics, Reproduction and SexSylvain Gandon2019-10-18 09:29:41 View
16 Dec 2022
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Conditions for maintaining and eroding pseudo-overdominance and its contribution to inbreeding depression

Pseudo-overdominance: how linkage and selection can interact and oppose to purging of deleterious mutations.

Recommended by based on reviews by Yaniv Brandvain, Lei Zhao and 1 anonymous reviewer

Most mutations affecting fitness are deleterious and they have many evolutionary consequences. The dynamics and consequences of deleterious mutations are a long-standing question in evolutionary biology and a strong theoretical background has already been developed, for example, to predict the mutation load, inbreeding depression or background selection. One of the classical results is that inbreeding helps purge partially recessive deleterious mutations by exposing them to selection in homozygotes. However, this mainly results from single-locus considerations. When interactions among several, more or less linked, deleterious mutations are taken into account, peculiar dynamics can emerge. One of them, called pseudo-overdominance (POD), corresponds to the maintenance in a population of two (or more) haplotype blocks composed of several recessive deleterious mutations in repulsion that mimics overdominance. Indeed, homozygote individuals for one of the haplotype blocks expose many deleterious mutations to selection whereas they are reciprocally masked in heterozygotes, leading to higher fitness of heterozygotes compared to both homozygotes. A related process, called associative overdominance (AOD) is the effect of such deleterious alleles in repulsion on the linked neutral variation that can be increased by AOD. Although this possibility has been recognized for a long time (Otha and Kimura 1969), it has been mainly considered an anecdotal process. Recently, both theoretical (Zhao and Charlesworth 2016) and genomic analyses (Gilbert et al. 2020) have renewed interest in such a process, suggesting that it could be important in weakly recombining regions of a genome. Donald Waller (2021) - one of the co-authors of the current work - also recently proposed that POD could be quantitatively important with broad implications, and could resolve some unexplained observations such as the maintenance of inbreeding depression in highly selfing species. Yet, a proper theoretical framework analysing the effect of inbreeding on POD was lacking.

In this theoretical work, Diala Abu Awad and Donald Waller (2022) addressed this question through an elegant combination of analytical predictions and intensive multilocus simulations. They determined the conditions under which POD can be maintained and how long it could resist erosion by recombination, which removes the negative association between deleterious alleles (repulsion) at the core of the mechanism. They showed that under tight linkage, POD regions can persist for a long time and generate substantial segregating load and inbreeding depression, even under inbreeding, so opposing (for a while) to the purging effect. They also showed that background selection can affect the genomic structure of POD regions by rapidly erasing weak POD regions but maintaining strong POD regions (i.e with many tightly linked deleterious alleles).

These results have several implications. They can explain the maintenance of inbreeding depression despite inbreeding (as anticipated by Waller 2021), which has implications for the evolution of mating systems. If POD can hardly emerge under high selfing, it can persist from an outcrossing ancestor long after the transition towards a higher selfing rate and could explain the maintenance of mixed mating systems(which is possible with true overdominance, see Uyenoyama and Waller 1991). The results also have implications for genomic analyses, pointing to regions of low or no recombination where POD could be maintained, generating both higher diversity and heterozygosity than expected and variance in fitness. As structural variations are likely widespread in genomes with possible effects on suppressing recombination (Mérot et al. 2020), POD regions should be checked more carefully in genomic analyses (see also Gilbert et al. 2020).

Overall, this work should stimulate new theoretical and empirical studies, especially to assess how quantitatively strong and widespread POD can be. It also stresses the importance of properly considering genetic linkage genome-wide, and so the role of recombination landscapes in determining patterns of diversity and fitness effects.


Awad DA, Waller D (2022) Conditions for maintaining and eroding pseudo-overdominance and its contribution to inbreeding depression. bioRxiv, 2021.12.16.473022, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology.

Gilbert KJ, Pouyet F, Excoffier L, Peischl S (2020) Transition from Background Selection to Associative Overdominance Promotes Diversity in Regions of Low Recombination. Current Biology, 30, 101-107.e3.

Mérot C, Oomen RA, Tigano A, Wellenreuther M (2020) A Roadmap for Understanding the Evolutionary Significance of Structural Genomic Variation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 35, 561–572.

Ohta T, Kimura M (1969) Linkage disequilibrium at steady state determined by random genetic drift and recurrent mutation. Genetics, 63, 229–238.

Uyenoyama MK, Waller DM (1991) Coevolution of self-fertilization and inbreeding depression II. Symmetric overdominance in viability. Theoretical Population Biology, 40, 47–77.

Waller DM (2021) Addressing Darwin’s dilemma: Can pseudo-overdominance explain persistent inbreeding depression and load? Evolution, 75, 779–793.

Zhao L, Charlesworth B (2016) Resolving the Conflict Between Associative Overdominance and Background Selection. Genetics, 203, 1315–1334.

Conditions for maintaining and eroding pseudo-overdominance and its contribution to inbreeding depressionDiala Abu Awad, Donald Waller<p style="text-align: justify;">Classical models that ignore linkage predict that deleterious recessive mutations should purge or fix within inbred populations, yet inbred populations often retain moderate to high segregating load. True overdomina...Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary Theory, Genome Evolution, Hybridization / Introgression, Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexSylvain Glémin2022-01-04 12:15:35 View
20 Jan 2020
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A young age of subspecific divergence in the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria, inferred by ABC Random Forest

Estimating recent divergence history: making the most of microsatellite data and Approximate Bayesian Computation approaches

Recommended by and based on reviews by Michael D Greenfield and 2 anonymous reviewers

The present-day distribution of extant species is the result of the interplay between their past population demography (e.g., expansion, contraction, isolation, and migration) and adaptation to the environment. Shedding light on the timing and magnitude of key demographic events helps identify potential drivers of such events and interaction of those drivers, such as life history traits and past episodes of environmental shifts.

The understanding of the key factors driving species evolution gives important insights into how the species may respond to changing conditions, which can be particularly relevant for the management of harmful species, such as agricultural pests (e.g. [1]). Meaningful demographic inferences present major challenges. These include formulating evolutionary scenarios fitting species biology and the eco-geographical context and choosing informative molecular markers and accurate quantitative approaches to statistically compare multiple demographic scenarios and estimate the parameters of interest. A further issue comes with result interpretation. Accurately dating the inferred events is far from straightforward since reliable calibration points are necessary to translate the molecular estimates of the evolutionary time into absolute time units (i.e. years). This can be attempted in different ways, such as by using fossil and archaeological records, heterochronous samples (e.g. ancient DNA), and/or mutation rate estimated from independent data (e.g. [2], [3] for review). Nonetheless, most experimental systems rarely meet these conditions, hindering the comprehensive interpretation of results.

The contribution of Chapuis et al. [4] addresses these issues to investigate the recent history of the African insect pest Schistocerca gregaria (desert locust). They apply Approximate Bayesian Computation-Random Forest (ABC-RF) approaches to microsatellite markers. Owing to their fast mutation rate microsatellite markers offer at least two advantages: i) suitability for analyzing recently diverged populations, and ii) direct estimate of the germline mutation rate in pedigree samples. The work of Chapuis et al. [4] benefits of both these advantages, since they have estimates of mutation rate and allele size constraints derived from germline mutations in the species [5].

The main aim of the study is to infer the history of divergence of the two subspecies of the desert locust, which have spatially disjoint distribution corresponding to the dry regions of North and West-South Africa. They first use paleo-vegetation maps to formulate hypotheses about changes in species range since the last glacial maximum. Based on them, they generate 12 divergence models. For the selection of the demographic model and parameter estimation, they apply the recently developed ABC-RF approach, a powerful inferential tool that allows optimizing the use of summary statistics information content, among other advantages [6]. Some methodological novelties are also introduced in this work, such as the computation of the error associated with the posterior parameter estimates under the best scenario. The accuracy of timing estimate is assured in two ways: i) by the use of microsatellite markers with known evolutionary dynamics, as underlined above, and ii) by assessing the divergence time threshold above which posterior estimates are likely to be biased by size homoplasy and limits in allele size range [7]. The best-supported model suggests a recent divergence event of the subspecies of S. gregaria (around 2.6 kya) and a reduction of populations size in one of the subspecies (S. g. flaviventris) that colonized the southern distribution area. As such, results did not support the hypothesis that the southward colonization was driven by the expansion of African dry environments associated with the last glacial maximum, as it has been postulated for other arid-adapted species with similar African disjoint distributions [8]. The estimated time of divergence points at a much more recent origin for the two subspecies, during the late Holocene, in a period corresponding to fairly stable arid conditions similar to current ones [9,10].

Although the authors cannot exclude that their microsatellite data bear limited information on older colonization events than the last one, they bring arguments in favour of alternative explanations. The hypothesis privileged does not involve climatic drivers, but the particularly efficient dispersal behaviour of the species, whose individuals are able to fly over long distances (up to thousands of kilometers) under favourable windy conditions. A single long-distance dispersal event by a few individuals would explain the genetic signature of the bottleneck. There is a growing number of studies in phylogeography in arid regions in the Southern hemisphere, but the impact of past climate changes on the species distribution in this region remains understudied relative to the Northern hemisphere [11,12].

The study presented by Chapuis et al. [4] offers several important insights into demographic changes and the evolutionary history of an agriculturally important pest species in Africa, which could also mirror the history of other organisms in the continent. As the authors point out, there are necessarily some uncertainties associated with the models of past ecosystems and climate, especially for Africa. Interestingly, the authors argue that the information on paleo-vegetation turnover was more informative than climatic niche modeling for the purpose of their study since it made them consider a wider range of bio-geographical changes and in turn a wider range of evolutionary scenarios (see discussion in Supplementary Material). Microsatellite markers have been offering a useful tool in population genetics and phylogeography for decades, but their popularity is perhaps being taken over by single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) (the peak year of the number of the publication with “microsatellite” is in 2012 according to PubMed).

This study reaffirms the usefulness of these classic molecular markers to estimate past demographic events, especially when species- and locus-specific microsatellite mutation features are available and a powerful inferential approach is adopted. Nonetheless, there are still hurdles to overcome, such as the limitations in scenario choice associated with the simulation software used (e.g. not allowing for continuous gene flow in this particular case), which calls for further improvement of simulation tools allowing for more flexible modeling of demographic events and mutation patterns. In sum, this work not only contributes to our understanding of the makeup of the African biodiversity but also offers a useful statistical framework, which can be applied to a wide array of species and molecular markers (microsatellites, SNPs, and WGS).


[1] Lehmann, P. et al. (2018). Complex responses of global insect pests to climate change. bioRxiv, 425488. doi:

[2] Donoghue, P. C., & Benton, M. J. (2007). Rocks and clocks: calibrating the Tree of Life using fossils and molecules. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 22(8), 424-431. doi:

[3] Ho, S. Y., Lanfear, R., Bromham, L., Phillips, M. J., Soubrier, J., Rodrigo, A. G., & Cooper, A. (2011). Time‐dependent rates of molecular evolution. Molecular ecology, 20(15), 3087-3101. doi:

[4] Chapuis, M.-P., Raynal, L., Plantamp, C., Meynard, C. N., Blondin, L., Marin, J.-M. and Estoup, A. (2020). A young age of subspecific divergence in the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria, inferred by ABC Random Forest. bioRxiv, 671867, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology. doi:

5] Chapuis, M.-P., Plantamp, C., Streiff, R., Blondin, L., & Piou, C. (2015). Microsatellite evolutionary rate and pattern in Schistocerca gregaria inferred from direct observation of germline mutations. Molecular ecology, 24(24), 6107-6119. doi:

[6] Raynal, L., Marin, J. M., Pudlo, P., Ribatet, M., Robert, C. P., & Estoup, A. (2018). ABC random forests for Bayesian parameter inference. Bioinformatics, 35(10), 1720-1728. doi:

[7] Estoup, A., Jarne, P., & Cornuet, J. M. (2002). Homoplasy and mutation model at microsatellite loci and their consequences for population genetics analysis. Molecular ecology, 11(9), 1591-1604. doi:

[8] Moodley, Y. et al. (2018). Contrasting evolutionary history, anthropogenic declines and genetic contact in the northern and southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285(1890), 20181567. doi:

[9] Kröpelin, S. et al. (2008). Climate-driven ecosystem succession in the Sahara: the past 6000 years. science, 320(5877), 765-768. doi:

[10] Maley, J. et al. (2018). Late Holocene forest contraction and fragmentation in central Africa. Quaternary Research, 89(1), 43-59. doi:

[11] Beheregaray, L. B. (2008). Twenty years of phylogeography: the state of the field and the challenges for the Southern Hemisphere. Molecular Ecology, 17(17), 3754-3774. doi:

[12] Dubey, S., & Shine, R. (2012). Are reptile and amphibian species younger in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere?. Journal of evolutionary biology, 25(1), 220-226. doi:


A video about this preprint is available here:

A young age of subspecific divergence in the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria, inferred by ABC Random ForestMarie-Pierre Chapuis, Louis Raynal, Christophe Plantamp, Christine N. Meynard, Laurence Blondin, Jean-Michel Marin, Arnaud Estoup<p>Dating population divergence within species from molecular data and relating such dating to climatic and biogeographic changes is not trivial. Yet it can help formulating evolutionary hypotheses regarding local adaptation and future responses t...Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, Evolutionary Applications, Phylogeography & Biogeography, Population Genetics / GenomicsTakeshi Kawakami2019-06-20 10:31:15 View
03 Jun 2019
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Transcriptomic response to divergent selection for flowering time in maize reveals convergence and key players of the underlying gene regulatory network

Early and late flowering gene expression patterns in maize

Recommended by based on reviews by Laura Shannon and 2 anonymous reviewers

Artificial selection experiments are key experiments in evolutionary biology. The demonstration that application of selective pressure across multiple generations results in heritable phenotypic changes is a tangible and reproducible proof of the evolution by natural selection.
Artificial selection experiments are used to evaluate the joint effects of selection on multiple traits, their genetic covariances and differences in responses in different environments. Most studies on artificial selection experiments report and base their analyses on phenotypic changes [1]. More recently, changes in allele frequency and other patterns of molecular genetic diversity have been used to identify genomic locations where selection has had an effect. However, so far the changes in gene expression have not been in the focus of artificial selection experiment studies (see [2] for an example though).
In plants, one of the most famous artificial selection experiments is the Illinois Corn Experiment where maize (Zea mays) is selected for oil and protein content [3], but in addition, similar experiments have been conducted also for other traits in maize. In Saclay divergent selection experiment [4] two maize inbred lines (F252 and MBS847) have been selected for early and late flowering for 13 generations, resulting in two week difference in flowering time.
In ”Transcriptomic response to divergent selection for flowering time in maize reveals convergence and key players of the underlying gene regulatory network ” [5] Maud Tenaillon and her coworkers study the gene expression differences among these two independently selected maize populations. Their experiments cover two years in field conditions and they use samples of shoot apical meristem at three different developmental stages: vegetative, transitioning and reproductive. They use RNA-seq transcriptome level differences and qRT-PCR for gene expression pattern investigation. The work is continuation to earlier genetic and phenotypic studies on the same material [4, 6].
The reviewers and I agree that dataset is unique and its major benefit is that it has been obtained from field conditions similar to those that species may face under natural setting during selection. Their tissue sampling is supported by flowering time phenotypic observations and covers the developmental transition stage, making a good effort to identify key transcriptional and phenotypic changes and their timing affected by selection.
Tenaillon et al. [5] identify more than 2000 genes that are differentially expressed among early and late flowering populations. Expectedly, they are enriched for known flowering time genes. As they point out, differential expression of thousands of genes does not mean that they all were independently affected by selection, but rather that the whole transcriptional network has shifted, possibly due to just few upstream or hub-genes. Also, the year-to-year variation had smaller effect in gene expression compared to developmental stage or genetic background, possibly indicating selection for stability across environmental fluctuation for such an important phenotype as flowering time.
Another noteworthy observation is that they find convergent patterns of transcriptional changes among the two selected lines. 115 genes expression patterns are shifted due to selection in both genetic backgrounds. This convergent pattern can be a result of either selection on standing variation or de novo mutations. The data does not allow testing which process is underlying the observed convergence. However, their results show that this is an interesting future question that can be addressed using genotype and gene expression data from the same ancestral and derived material and possibly their hybrids.


[1] Hill, W. G., & Caballero, A. (1992). Artificial selection experiments. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 23(1), 287-310. doi: 10.1146/
[2] Konczal, M., Babik, W., Radwan, J., Sadowska, E. T., & Koteja, P. (2015). Initial molecular-level response to artificial selection for increased aerobic metabolism occurs primarily through changes in gene expression. Molecular biology and evolution, 32(6), 1461-1473. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv038
[3] Moose, S. P., Dudley, J. W., & Rocheford, T. R. (2004). Maize selection passes the century mark: a unique resource for 21st century genomics. Trends in plant science, 9(7), 358-364. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2004.05.005
[4] Durand, E., Tenaillon, M. I., Ridel, C., Coubriche, D., Jamin, P., Jouanne, S., Ressayre, A., Charcosset, A. and Dillmann, C. (2010). Standing variation and new mutations both contribute to a fast response to selection for flowering time in maize inbreds. BMC evolutionary biology, 10(1), 2. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-2
[5] Tenaillon, M. I., Seddiki, K., Mollion, M., Le Guilloux, M., Marchadier, E., Ressayre, A. and Dillmann C. (2019). Transcriptomic response to divergent selection for flowering time in maize reveals convergence and key players of the underlying gene regulatory network. BioRxiv, 461947 ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/461947
[6] Durand, E., Tenaillon, M. I., Raffoux, X., Thépot, S., Falque, M., Jamin, P., Bourgais A., Ressayre, A. and Dillmann, C. (2015). Dearth of polymorphism associated with a sustained response to selection for flowering time in maize. BMC evolutionary biology, 15(1), 103. doi: 10.1186/s12862-015-0382-5

Transcriptomic response to divergent selection for flowering time in maize reveals convergence and key players of the underlying gene regulatory networkMaud Irène Tenaillon, Khawla Sedikki, Maeva Mollion, Martine Le Guilloux, Elodie Marchadier, Adrienne Ressayre, Christine Dillmann<p>Artificial selection experiments are designed to investigate phenotypic evolution of complex traits and its genetic basis. Here we focused on flowering time, a trait of key importance for plant adaptation and life-cycle shifts. We undertook div...Adaptation, Experimental Evolution, Expression Studies, Quantitative GeneticsTanja Pyhäjärvi2018-11-23 11:57:35 View
14 Dec 2023
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Genetic sex determination in three closely related hydrothermal vent gastropods, including one species with intersex individuals

A shared XY sex chromosome system with variable recombination rates

Recommended by based on reviews by Hugo Darras, Daniel Jeffries and 1 anonymous reviewer

Many species with separate sexes have evolved sex chromosomes, with the sex-limited chromosomes (i.e. the Y or W chromosomes) exhibiting a wide range of genetic divergences from their homologous X or Z chromosomes (Bachtrog et al., 2014). Variable divergences can result from the cessation of recombination between sex chromosomes that occurred at different time points, with the mechanisms of initiation and expansion of recombination suppression along sex chromosomes remaining poorly understood (Charlesworth, 2017). 

The study by Castel et al (2023) describes the serendipitous discovery of a shared XY sex chromosome system in three closely related hydrothermal vent gastropods. The X and Y chromosomes appear to still recombine but at variable rates across the three species. This variation makes the gastropod system a very promising focus for future research on sex chromosome evolution. 

An additional intriguing finding is that some females in one of three gastropod species contain male reproductive tissue in their gonads, providing a fascinating case of a mixed or transitory sexual system. Overall, the study by Castel et al (2023) offers the first insights into the reproduction and sex chromosome system of animals living in deep marine vents, which have remained poorly studied and open outstanding research perspectives on these creatures.


Bachtrog, D., J.E.Mank, C.L.Peichel, M.Kirkpatrick, S.P.Otto, T.L. Ashman, M.W.Hahn, J.Kitano, I.Mayrose, R.Ming, et al. 2014.Sex determination: why so many ways of doing it? PLoSBiol. 12:e1001899.

Charlesworth, D. Young sex chromosomes in plants and animals. 2019. New Phytologist 224: 1095–1107.

Castel J, Pradillon F, Cueff V, Leger G, Daguin-Thiébaut C, Ruault S, Mary J, Hourdez S, Jollivet D, and Broquet T 2023. Genetic sex determination in three closely related hydrothermal vent gastropods, including one species with intersex individuals. bioRxiv, ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology.

Genetic sex determination in three closely related hydrothermal vent gastropods, including one species with intersex individualsCastel J, Pradillon F, Cueff V, Leger G, Daguin-Thiébaut C, Ruault S, Mary J, Hourdez S, Jollivet D, and Broquet T<p style="text-align: justify;">Molluscs have a wide variety of sexual systems and have undergone many transitions from separate sexes to hermaphroditism or vice versa, which is of interest for studying the evolution of sex determination and diffe...Population Genetics / Genomics, Reproduction and SexTanja Schwander2023-04-14 11:48:25 View