Unique sequence organization and small RNA expression of a “selfish” B chromosome
B chromosomes are found in numerous plants and animals. These nonessential, supernumerary chromosomes are often composed primarily of noncoding DNA repeats similar to those found within transcriptionally “silenced” heterochromatin. In order to persist within their resident genomes, many B chromosomes exhibit exceptional cellular behaviors, including asymmetric segregation into gametes and induction of genome elimination during early development. An important goal in understanding these behaviors is to identify unique B chromosome sequences and characterize their transcriptional contributions. We investigated these properties by examining a paternally transmitted B chromosome known as paternal sex ratio (PSR), which is present in natural populations of the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis. To facilitate its own transmission, PSR severely biases the sex ratio by disrupting early chromatin remodeling processes. Through cytological mapping and other approaches, we identified multiple DNA repeats unique to PSR, as well as those found on the A chromosomes, suggesting that PSR arose through a merger of sequences from both within and outside the N. vitripennis genome. The majority of PSR-specific repeats are interspersed among each other across PSR’s long arm, in contrast with the distinct “blocks” observed in other organisms’ heterochromatin. Through transcriptional profiling, we identified a subset of repeat-associated, small RNAs expressed by PSR, most of which map to a single PSR-specific repeat. These RNAs are expressed at much higher levels than those arising from A chromosome-linked repeats, suggesting that in addition to its sequence organization, PSR’s transcriptional properties differ substantially from the pericentromeric regions of the normal chromosomes.
KeywordsB chromosomes Small RNAs Noncoding DNA repeats Satellite DNA Nasonia vitripennis Testis Spermatogenesis
Compliance with ethical standards
This work was funded by a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Hatch Project grant (1009509) to O. S. A. and a US National Science Foundation CAREER award (NSF-1451839) to P.M.F.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not present any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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