Dataset Information


Developmental constraints shape the evolution of the nematode mid-developmental transition

ABSTRACT: Evolutionary theory assumes that genetic variation is uniform and gradual in nature, yet morphological and gene expression studies have revealed that different life-stages exhibit distinct levels of cross-species conservation. In particular, a stage in mid-embryogenesis is highly conserved across species of the same phylum, suggesting that this stage is subject to developmental constraints, either by increased purifying selection or by a strong mutational bias. An alternative explanation, however, holds that the same ‘hourglass’ pattern of variation may result from increased positive selection at the earlier and later stages of development. To distinguish between these scenarios, we examined gene expression variation in a population of the nematode C. elegans using an experimental design that eliminated the influence of positive selection. By measuring gene expression for all genes throughout development in twenty strains, we found that variations were dramatically uneven throughout development, with a significant depletion during mid-embryogenesis. In particular, the family of homeodomain transcription factors, whose expression generally coincides with mid-embryogenesis, evolved under high constraint. Our data further shows that genes responsible for the integration of germ layers during morphogenesis are the most constrained class of genes. Together, these results provide the first evidence for developmental constraints as the mechanism underlying the hourglass model of animal evolution. Understanding the pattern and mechanism of developmental constraints provides a framework to understand how evolutionary processes have interacted with embryogenesis and led to the diversity of animal life on earth. Overall design: Embryonic gene expression time course for 20 Mutation-Accumulation (MA) S. elegans strains in seven stages.

INSTRUMENT(S): Illumina HiSeq 2500 (Caenorhabditis elegans)

SUBMITTER: Harel Zalts 

PROVIDER: GSE87528 | GEO | 2017-04-04



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