Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Stick insects (Phasmatodea) have a high incidence of parthenogenesis and other alternative reproductive strategies, yet the genetic basis of reproduction is poorly understood. Phasmatodea includes nearly 3000 species, yet only the genome of Timema cristinae has been published to date. Clitarchus hookeri is a geographical parthenogenetic stick insect distributed across New Zealand. Sexual reproduction dominates in northern habitats but is replaced by parthenogenesis in the south. Here, we present a de novo genome assembly of a female C. hookeri and use it to detect candidate genes associated with gamete production and development in females and males. We also explore the factors underlying large genome size in stick insects.<h4>Results</h4>The C. hookeri genome assembly was 4.2 Gb, similar to the flow cytometry estimate, making it the second largest insect genome sequenced and assembled to date. Like the large genome of Locusta migratoria, the genome of C. hookeri is also highly repetitive and the predicted gene models are much longer than those from most other sequenced insect genomes, largely due to longer introns. Miniature inverted repeat transposable elements (MITEs), absent in the much smaller T. cristinae genome, is the most abundant repeat type in the C. hookeri genome assembly. Mapping RNA-Seq reads from female and male gonadal transcriptomes onto the genome assembly resulted in the identification of 39,940 gene loci, 15.8% and 37.6% of which showed female-biased and male-biased expression, respectively. The genes that were over-expressed in females were mostly associated with molecular transportation, developmental process, oocyte growth and reproductive process; whereas, the male-biased genes were enriched in rhythmic process, molecular transducer activity and synapse. Several genes involved in the juvenile hormone synthesis pathway were also identified.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The evolution of large insect genomes such as L. migratoria and C. hookeri genomes is most likely due to the accumulation of repetitive regions and intron elongation. MITEs contributed significantly to the growth of C. hookeri genome size yet are surprisingly absent from the T. cristinae genome. Sex-biased genes identified from gonadal tissues, including genes involved in juvenile hormone synthesis, provide interesting candidates for the further study of flexible reproduction in stick insects.
Project description:Some animal groups, such as stick insects (Phasmatodea), have repeatedly evolved alternative reproductive strategies, including parthenogenesis. Genomic studies have found modification of the genes underlying meiosis exists in some of these animals. Here we examine the evolution of copy number, evolutionary rate, and gene expression in candidate meiotic genes of the New Zealand geographic parthenogenetic stick insect Clitarchus hookeri. We characterized 101 genes from a de novo transcriptome assembly from female and male gonads that have homology with meiotic genes from other arthropods. For each gene we determined copy number, the pattern of gene duplication relative to other arthropod orthologs, and the potential for meiosis-specific expression. There are five genes duplicated in C. hookeri, including one also duplicated in the stick insect Timema cristinae, that are not or are uncommonly duplicated in other arthropods. These included two sister chromatid cohesion associated genes (SA2 and SCC2), a recombination gene (HOP1), an RNA-silencing gene (AGO2) and a cell-cycle regulation gene (WEE1). Interestingly, WEE1 and SA2 are also duplicated in the cyclical parthenogenetic aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum and Daphnia duplex, respectively, indicating possible roles in the evolution of reproductive mode. Three of these genes (SA2, SCC2, and WEE1) have one copy displaying gonad-specific expression. All genes, with the exception of WEE1, have significantly different nonsynonymous/synonymous ratios between the gene duplicates, indicative of a shift in evolutionary constraints following duplication. These results suggest that stick insects may have evolved genes with novel functions in gamete production by gene duplication.
Project description:Phasmatodea, more commonly known as stick insects, have been poorly studied at the molecular level for several key traits, such as components of the sensory system and regulators of reproduction and development, impeding a deeper understanding of their functional biology. Here, we employ de novo transcriptome analysis to identify genes with primary functions related to female odour reception, digestion, and male sexual traits in the New Zealand common stick insect Clitarchus hookeri (White). The female olfactory gene repertoire revealed ten odorant binding proteins with three recently duplicated, 12 chemosensory proteins, 16 odorant receptors, and 17 ionotropic receptors. The majority of these olfactory genes were over-expressed in female antennae and have the inferred function of odorant reception. Others that were predominantly expressed in male terminalia (n = 3) and female midgut (n = 1) suggest they have a role in sexual reproduction and digestion, respectively. Over-represented transcripts in the midgut were enriched with digestive enzyme gene families. Clitarchus hookeri is likely to harbour nine members of an endogenous cellulase family (glycoside hydrolase family 9), two of which appear to be specific to the C. hookeri lineage. All of these cellulase sequences fall into four main phasmid clades and show gene duplication events occurred early in the diversification of Phasmatodea. In addition, C. hookeri genome is likely to express ?-proteobacteria pectinase transcripts that have recently been shown to be the result of horizontal transfer. We also predicted 711 male terminalia-enriched transcripts that are candidate accessory gland proteins, 28 of which were annotated to have molecular functions of peptidase activity and peptidase inhibitor activity, two groups being widely reported to regulate female reproduction through proteolytic cascades. Our study has yielded new insights into the genetic basis of odour detection, nutrient digestion, and male sexual traits in stick insects. The C. hookeri reference transcriptome, together with identified gene families, provides a comprehensive resource for studying the evolution of sensory perception, digestive systems, and reproductive success in phasmids.
Project description:The outcome of competition between different reproductive strategies within a single species can be used to infer selective advantage of the winning strategy. Where multiple populations have independently lost or gained sexual reproduction it is possible to investigate whether the advantage is contingent on local conditions. In the New Zealand stick insect Clitarchus hookeri, three populations are distinguished by recent change in reproductive strategy and we determine their likely origins. One parthenogenetic population has established in the United Kingdom and we provide evidence that sexual reproduction has been lost in this population. We identify the sexual population from which the parthenogenetic population was derived, but show that the UK females have a post-mating barrier to fertilisation. We also demonstrate that two sexual populations have recently arisen in New Zealand within the natural range of the mtDNA lineage that otherwise characterizes parthenogenesis in this species. We infer independent origins of males at these two locations using microsatellite genotypes. In one population, a mixture of local and nonlocal alleles suggested males were the result of invasion. Males in another population were most probably the result of loss of an X chromosome that produced a male phenotype in situ. Two successful switches in reproductive strategy suggest local competitive advantage for outcrossing over parthenogenetic reproduction. Clitarchus hookeri provides remarkable evidence of repeated and rapid changes in reproductive strategy, with competitive outcomes dependent on local conditions.
Project description:De novo transcriptome analysis of the common New Zealand stick insect Clitarchus hookeri (Phasmatodea) reveals genes involved in olfactory reception, digestion and sexual reproduction
Project description:For the development of sustainable control of tick-borne diseases, insight is needed in biological factors that affect tick populations. Here, the ecological interactions among Ixodiphagus hookeri, Ixodes ricinus, and two vertebrate species groups were investigated in relation to their effects on tick-borne disease risk. In 1129 questing ticks, I. hookeri DNA was detected more often in I. ricinus nymphs (4.4%) than in larvae (0.5%) and not in adults. Therefore, we determined the infestation rate of I. hookeri in nymphs from 19 forest sites, where vertebrate, tick, and tick-borne pathogen communities had been previously quantified. We found higher than expected co-occurrence rates of I. hookeri with deer-associated Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and lower than expected rates with rodent-associated Borrelia afzelii and Neoehrlichia mikurensis. The prevalence of I. hookeri in nymphs varied between 0% and 16% and was positively correlated with the encounter probability of ungulates and the densities of all life stages of I. ricinus. Lastly, we investigated the emergence of I. hookeri from artificially fed, field-collected nymphs. Adult wasps emerged from seven of the 172 fed nymphs. From these observations, we inferred that I. hookeri is parasitizing I. ricinus larvae that are feeding on deer, rather than on rodents or in the vegetation. Since I. hookeri populations depend on deer abundance, the main propagation host of I. ricinus, these wasps have no apparent effect on tick populations. The presence of I. hookeri may directly interfere with the transmission cycle of A. phagocytophilum, but not with that of B. afzelii or N. mikurensis.