Large scale assessment of regulatory evolution and transcriptome complexity in mammals


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Large scale assessment of regulatory evolution and transcriptome complexity in mammals
Soumillon M.
Kaessmann H.
Institution details
Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Faculté de biologie et de médecineUniversité de LausanneUNIL - BugnonRue du Bugnon 21 - bureau 4111CH-1015 LausanneSUISSE
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REROID:R006313565 ill.
AbstractIn addition to genetic changes affecting the function of gene products, changes in gene expression have been suggested to underlie many or even most of the phenotypic differences among mammals. However, detailed gene expression comparisons were, until recently, restricted to closely related species, owing to technological limitations. Thus, we took advantage of the latest technologies (RNA-Seq) to generate extensive qualitative and quantitative transcriptome data for a unique collection of somatic and germline tissues from representatives of all major mammalian lineages (placental mammals, marsupials and monotremes) and birds, the evolutionary outgroup.In the first major project of my thesis, we performed global comparative analyses of gene expression levels based on these data. Our analyses provided fundamental insights into the dynamics of transcriptome change during mammalian evolution (e.g., the rate of expression change across species, tissues and chromosomes) and allowed the exploration of the functional relevance and phenotypic implications of transcription changes at a genome-wide scale (e.g., we identified numerous potentially selectively driven expression switches).In a second project of my thesis, which was also based on the unique transcriptome data generated in the context of the first project we focused on the evolution of alternative splicing in mammals. Alternative splicing contributes to transcriptome complexity by generating several transcript isoforms from a single gene, which can, thus, perform various functions. To complete the global comparative analysis of gene expression changes, we explored patterns of alternative splicing evolution. This work uncovered several general and unexpected patterns of alternative splicing evolution (e.g., we found that alternative splicing evolves extremely rapidly) as well as a large number of conserved alternative isoforms that may be crucial for the functioning of mammalian organs.Finally, the third and final project of my PhD consisted in analyzing in detail the unique functional and evolutionary properties of the testis by exploring the extent of its transcriptome complexity. This organ was previously shown to evolve rapidly both at the phenotypic and molecular level, apparently because of the specific pressures that act on this organ and are associated with its reproductive function. Moreover, my analyses of the amniote tissue transcriptome data described above, revealed strikingly widespread transcriptional activity of both functional and nonfunctional genomic elements in the testis compared to the other organs. To elucidate the cellular source and mechanisms underlying this promiscuous transcription in the testis, we generated deep coverage RNA-Seq data for all major testis cell types as well as epigenetic data (DNA and histone methylation) using the mouse as model system. The integration of these complete dataset revealed that meiotic and especially post-meiotic germ cells are the major contributors to the widespread functional and nonfunctional transcriptome complexity of the testis, and that this "promiscuous" spermatogenic transcription is resulting, at least partially, from an overall transcriptionally permissive chromatin state. We hypothesize that this particular open state of the chromatin results from the extensive chromatin remodeling that occurs during spermatogenesis which ultimately leads to the replacement of histones by protamines in the mature spermatozoa. Our results have important functional and evolutionary implications (e.g., regarding new gene birth and testicular gene expression evolution).Generally, these three large-scale projects of my thesis provide complete and massive datasets that constitute valuables resources for further functional and evolutionary analyses of mammalian genomes.
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14/11/2011 13:10
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20/08/2019 16:03
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