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Within-population genome size variation is mediated by multiple genomic elements that segregate independently during meiosis

By Claus-Peter Stelzer, Maria Pichler, Peter Stadler, Anita Hatheuer, Simone Riss

Posted 30 Apr 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/623470

Within-species variation in genome size has been documented in many animals and plants. Despite its importance for understanding eukaryotic genome diversity, there is only sparse knowledge about how individual-level processes mediate genome size variation in populations. Here we study a natural population of the rotifer Brachionus asplanchnoidis whose members differ up to 1.9-fold in genome size, but were still able to interbreed and produce viable offspring. We show that genome size is highly heritable and can be artificially selected up or down, but not beyond a minimum diploid genome size. Analyses of segregation patterns in haploid males reveal that large genomic elements (several megabases in size) provide the substrate of genome size variation. These elements, and their segregation patterns, explain the generation of new genome size variants, the short-term evolutionary potential of genome size change in populations, and some seemingly paradoxical patterns, like an increase in genome size variation among highly inbred lines. Our study suggests that a conceptual model involving only two variables, (1) a minimum genome size of the population, and (2) a vector containing information on additional elements that may increase genome size in this population (size, number, and meiotic segregation behaviour), can effectively address most scenarios of short-term evolutionary change of genome size in a population.

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