Small RNA and genome interactions in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii recombinants
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Hessenberger, D. (2015). Small RNA and genome interactions in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii recombinants (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.22065
Examined by Phillip Wigge (Sainsbury) and
When conspecific individuals are crossed, the ensuing hybridization creates a spectrum of phenotypes in the resulting offspring. Many of hybrid traits will be additive, similar to the parental phenotypes. In some cases however, transgressive phenotypes are formed, outside the range of that of the parental phenotypes. Transgressive phenotypes can either be restricted to the F1 generation or be heritable throughout the hybrid lineage. While the mechanism behind heritable transgressive phenotyped is yet to be determined, transgressive gene expression is thought to be the root cause of their formation. Epigenetics modifications, heritable variation separate to the DNA code, can alter gene expression, persist through generations, and vary between individuals and over time. This makes them ideal candidates to be involved in the formation of transgressive phenotypes. RNA silencing is an epigenetic mechanism of gene regulation relying on 20Q24nt single stranded small RNAs (sRNAs). Small RNAs, due to their ability to set up persistent epigenetic marks at a locus, have the potential to create heritable transgressive gene expression. For example, when genetic variation from one parental genome presents novel targets to the sRNAs of the other parental genome, new epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation or secondary sRNAs can be created at target sites. In order to understand the potential of small RNAs to influence hybrid phenotype, I designed crossing experiments with Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, choosing this unicellular alga due to the genetic tools available and the haploid nature of its vegetative cells. The specific aim of the experiment was to identify transgressively expressed sRNA populations. Crossing two geographically distinct strains of C. reinhardtii, and sequencing both the genomes and sRNAomes of parents and recombinants, I was able catalogue both genetic and epigenetic variation in the parental strains providing unique insight into the inheritance of small RNAs in this alga. In this thesis, I first compare the genomes of the parental strains, identifying polymorphisms and assessing genetic variation in RNA silencing pathway components. I then describe the sRNA profiles of the parental strains, identifying differentially expressed sRNA loci. I then describe my approach to identifying transgressively expressed sRNA loci in the hybrids. While many sRNA loci in the recombinants exhibit additive sRNA expression, I found multiple transgressively expressed sRNA loci. Using the available bioinformatics tools, I identified potential miRNAs and phased secondary sRNAs within the list of transgressively expressed loci. Target analysis of one of the transgressively expressed miRNAs linked it with the transgressive expression of certain phased loci, suggesting a potential for sRNAs to be able to set up heritable epigenetic marks in recombinant C. reinhardtii cells.
epigenetics, epigenome, RNA silencing, algae, genetics, genome sequencing, recombination, hybridization, small RNAs, siRNAs, phasiRNAs, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
Funding provided by the Lewin-Fritsch Studentship (Downing College), Lander Studentship (Downing College) and the Gene Silencing Group in the Department of Plant Sciences.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.22065
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