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Title: Characterizing the gene–environment interaction underlying natural morphological variation in Neurospora crassa conidiophores using high-throughput phenomics and transcriptomics

Neurospora crassa propagates through dissemination of conidia, which develop through specialized structures called conidiophores. Recent work has identified striking variation in conidiophore morphology, using a wild population collection from Louisiana, United States of America to classify 3 distinct phenotypes: Wild-Type, Wrap, and Bulky. Little is known about the impact of these phenotypes on sporulation or germination later in the N. crassa life cycle, or about the genetic variation that underlies them. In this study, we show that conidiophore morphology likely affects colonization capacity of wild N. crassa isolates through both sporulation distance and germination on different carbon sources. We generated and crossed homokaryotic strains belonging to each phenotypic group to more robustly fit a model for and estimate heritability of the complex trait, conidiophore architecture. Our fitted model suggests at least 3 genes and 2 epistatic interactions contribute to conidiophore phenotype, which has an estimated heritability of 0.47. To uncover genes contributing to these phenotypes, we performed RNA-sequencing on mycelia and conidiophores of strains representing each of the 3 phenotypes. Our results show that the Bulky strain had a distinct transcriptional profile from that of Wild-Type and Wrap, exhibiting differential expression patterns in clock-controlled genes (ccgs), the conidiation-specific gene con-6, and genes implicated in metabolism and communication. Combined, these results present novel ecological impacts of and differential gene expression underlying natural conidiophore morphological variation, a complex trait that has not yet been thoroughly explored.

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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
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Journal Name:
G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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