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  1. We provide a partial test of the mitonuclear sex hypothesis with the first controlled study of how male frequencies and rates of outcrossing evolve in response to mitonuclear mismatch by allowing replicate lineages of C. elegans nematodes containing either mitochondrial or nuclear mutations of electron transport chain (ETC) genes to evolve under three sexual systems: facultatively outcrossing (wildtype), obligately selfing, and obligately outcrossing. Among facultatively outcrossing lines, we found evolution of increased male frequency in at least one replicate line of all four ETC mutant backgrounds tested—nuclear isp-1 , mitochondrial cox-1 and ctb-1 , and an isp-1 IV; ctb-1M mitonuclear double mutant—and confirmed for a single line set ( cox-1 ) that increased male frequency also resulted in successful outcrossing. We previously found the same result for lines evolved from another nuclear ETC mutant, gas-1 . For several lines in the current experiment, however, male frequency declined to wildtype levels (near 0%) in later generations. Male frequency did not change in lines evolved from a wildtype control strain. Additional phenotypic assays of lines evolved from the mitochondrial cox-1 mutant indicated that evolution of high male frequency was accompanied by evolution of increased male sperm size and mating success with testermore »females, but that it did not translate into increased mating success with coevolved hermaphrodites. Rather, hermaphrodites’ self-crossed reproductive fitness increased, consistent with sexually antagonistic coevolution. In accordance with evolutionary theory, males and sexual outcrossing may be most beneficial to populations evolving from a state of low ancestral fitness ( gas-1 , as previously reported) and less beneficial or deleterious to those evolving from a state of higher ancestral fitness ( cox-1 ). In support of this idea, the obligately outcrossing fog-2 V; cox-1 M lines exhibited no fitness evolution compared to their ancestor, while facultatively outcrossing lines showed slight upward evolution of fitness, and all but one of the obligately selfing xol-1 X; cox-1 M lines evolved substantially increased fitness—even beyond wildtype levels. This work provides a foundation to directly test the effect of reproductive mode on the evolutionary dynamics of mitonuclear genomes, as well as whether compensatory mutations (nuclear or mitochondrial) can rescue populations from mitochondrial dysfunction.« less
  2. ABSTRACT Current methods for non-invasive prostate cancer (PrCa) detection have a high false-positive rate and often result in unnecessary biopsies. Previous work has suggested that urinary volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers may be able to distinguish PrCa cases from benign disease. The behavior of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been proposed as a tool to take advantage of these potential VOC profiles. To test the ability of C. elegans Bristol N2 to distinguish PrCa cases from controls, we performed chemotaxis assays using human urine samples collected from men screened for PrCa. Behavioral response of nematodes towards diluted urine from PrCa cases was compared to response to samples from cancer-free controls. Overall, we observed a significant attraction of young adult-stage C. elegans nematodes to 1:100 diluted urine from confirmed PrCa cases and repulsion of C. elegans to urine from controls. When C. elegans chemotaxis index was considered alongside prostate-specific antigen levels for distinguishing cancer from cancer-free controls, the accuracy of patient classification was 81%. We also observed behavioral attraction of C. elegans to two previously reported VOCs to be increased in PrCa patient urine. We conclude nematode behavior distinguishes PrCa case urine from controls in a dilution-dependent manner.
  3. Understanding mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evolution and inheritance has broad implications for animal speciation and human disease models. However, few natural models exist that can simultaneously represent mtDNA transmission bias, mutation, and copy number variation. Certain isolates of the nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae harbor large, naturally-occurring mtDNA deletions of several hundred basepairs affecting the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 5 (nduo-5) gene that can be functionally detrimental. These deletion variants can behave as selfish DNA elements under genetic drift conditions, but whether all of these large deletion variants are transmitted in the same preferential manner remains unclear. In addition, the degree to which transgenerational mtDNA evolution profiles are shared between isolates that differ in their propensity to accumulate the nduo-5 deletion is also unclear. We address these knowledge gaps by experimentally bottlenecking two isolates of C. briggsae with different nduo-5 deletion frequencies for up to 50 generations and performing total DNA sequencing to identify mtDNA variation. We observed multiple mutation profile differences and similarities between C. briggsae isolates, a potentially species-specific pattern of copy number dysregulation, and some evidence for genetic hitchhiking in the deletion-bearing isolate. Our results further support C. briggsae as a practical model for characterizing naturally-occurring mtgenome variation and contribute tomore »the understanding of how mtgenome variation persists in animal populations and how it presents in mitochondrial disease states.« less
  4. Abstract

    Despite wide-ranging implications of selfish mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) elements for human disease and topics in evolutionary biology (e.g., speciation), the forces controlling their formation, age-related accumulation, and offspring transmission remain largely unknown. Selfish mtDNA poses a significant challenge to genome integrity, mitochondrial function, and organismal fitness. For instance, numerous human diseases are associated with mtDNA mutations; however, few genetic systems can simultaneously represent pathogenic mitochondrial genome evolution and inheritance. The nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae is one such system. Natural C. briggsae isolates harbor varying levels of a large-scale deletion affecting the mitochondrial nduo-5 gene, termed nad5Δ. A subset of these isolates contains putative compensatory mutations that may reduce the risk of deletion formation. We studied the dynamics of nad5Δ heteroplasmy levels during animal development and transmission from mothers to offspring in genetically diverse C. briggsae natural isolates. Results support previous work demonstrating that nad5Δ is a selfish element and that heteroplasmy levels of this deletion can be quite plastic, exhibiting high degrees of inter-family variability and divergence between generations. The latter is consistent with a mitochondrial bottleneck effect, and contrasts with previous findings from a laboratory-derived model uaDf5 mtDNA deletion in C. elegans. However, we also found evidence for among-isolatemore »differences in the ability to limit nad5Δ accumulation, the pattern of which suggested that forces other than the compensatory mutations are important in protecting individuals and populations from rampant mtDNA deletion expansion over short time scales.

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  5. Abstract

    Eukaryotes are the outcome of an ancient symbiosis and as such, eukaryotic cells fundamentally possess two genomes. As a consequence, gene products encoded by both nuclear and mitochondrial genomes must interact in an intimate and precise fashion to enable aerobic respiration in eukaryotes. This genomic architecture of eukaryotes is proposed to necessitate perpetual coevolution between the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes to maintain coadaptation, but the presence of two genomes also creates the opportunity for intracellular conflict. In the collection of papers that constitute this symposium volume, scientists working in diverse organismal systems spanning vast biological scales address emerging topics in integrative, comparative biology in light of mitonuclear interactions.