Simplification and desexualization of gene expression in self-fertile nematodes

Cristel G. Thomas, Renhua Li, Harold E. Smith, Gavin C. Woodruff, Brian Oliver, Eric S. Haag*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Evolutionary transitions between sexual modes could be potent forces in genome evolution [1, 2]. Several Caenorhabditis nematode species have evolved self-fertile hermaphrodites from the obligately outcrossing females of their ancestors [3]. We explored the relationship between sexual mode and global gene expression by comparing two selfing species, C. elegans and C. briggsae, with three phylogenetically informative outcrossing relatives, C. remanei, C. brenneri, and C. japonica. Adult transcriptome assemblies from the selfing species are consistently and strikingly smaller than those of the outcrossing species. Against this background of overall simplification, genes conserved in multiple outcrossing species with strong sex-biased expression are even more likely to be missing from the genomes of the selfing species. In addition, the sexual regulation of remaining transcripts has diverged markedly from the ancestral pattern in both selfing lineages, though in distinct ways. Thus, both the complexity and the sexual specialization of transciptomes are rapidly altered in response to the evolution of self-fertility. These changes may result from the combination of relaxed sexual selection and a recently reported genetic mechanism favoring genome shrinkage [4] in partial selfers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2167-2172
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


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