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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

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BMC Plant Biology



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Background: Intergenomic gene transfer (IGT) between nuclear and organellar genomes is a common phenomenon during plant evolution. Gossypium is a useful model to evaluate the genomic consequences of IGT for both diploid and polyploid species. Here, we explore IGT among nuclear, mitochondrial, and plastid genomes of four cotton species, including two allopolyploids and their model diploid progenitors (genome donors, G. arboreum: A2 and G. raimondii: D5).

Results: Extensive IGT events exist for both diploid and allotetraploid cotton (Gossypium) species, with the nuclear genome being the predominant recipient of transferred DNA followed by the mitochondrial genome. The nuclear genome has integrated 100 times more foreign sequences than the mitochondrial genome has in total length. In the nucleus, the integrated length of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) was between 1.87 times (in diploids) to nearly four times (in allopolyploids) greater than that of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). In the mitochondrion, the length of nuclear DNA (nuDNA) was typically three times than that of cpDNA. Gossypium mitochondrial genomes integrated three nuclear retrotransposons and eight chloroplast tRNA genes, and incorporated chloroplast DNA prior to divergence between the diploids and allopolyploid formation. For mitochondrial chloroplast-tRNA genes, there were 2-6 bp conserved microhomologies flanking their insertion sites across distantly related genera, which increased to 10 bp microhomologies for the four cotton species studied. For organellar DNA sequences, there are source hotspots, e.g., the atp6-trnW intergenic region in the mitochondrion and the inverted repeat region in the chloroplast. Organellar DNAs in the nucleus were rarely expressed, and at low levels. Surprisingly, there was asymmetry in the survivorship of ancestral insertions following allopolyploidy, with most numts (nuclear mitochondrial insertions) decaying or being lost whereas most nupts (nuclear plastidial insertions) were retained.

Conclusions: This study characterized and compared intracellular transfer among nuclear and organellar genomes within two cultivated allopolyploids and their ancestral diploid cotton species. A striking asymmetry in the fate of IGTs in allopolyploid cotton was discovered, with numts being preferentially lost relative to nupts. Our results connect intergenomic gene transfer with allotetraploidy and provide new insight into intracellular genome evolution.


This article is published as Zhao, N., Grover, C.E., Chen, Z. et al. Intergenomic gene transfer in diploid and allopolyploid Gossypium. BMC Plant Biol 19, 492 (2019) doi: 10.1186/s12870-019-2041-2.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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