Asexual squamates are the only true parthenogenetic vertebrates and thus offer a unique opportunity to examine the consequences and opportunities of vertebrate genome evolution in the absence of sex (Fujita et al. 2020; Fujita and Moritz 2009). One of the major research goals of the lab is to quantify the genome dynamics in the early stages of asexuality, an endeavor that is crucial for understanding the ubiquity of sex (and the paucity of asexuality in vertebrates). Compared to sexuals, we expect parthenogens to exhibit more mitochondrial anomalies, complete linkage at all genomic spatial scales, and higher numbers of deleterious mutations in protein-coding genes, as we found in mitochondrial genomes of parthenogenetic Bynoe’s gecko (Fujita et al. 2007; Boussau et al. 2011). The magnitude of each of these consequences will provide a rare insight into the patterns and rates of vertebrate genome evolution in the absence of sex, an exceptional opportunity provided by parthenogenetic lineages that is unavailable in mammals and birds. With my collaborators, including Drs. Sonal Singhal, Tony Gamble, and Craig Moritz, will will leverage genome sequencing technologies, including long-read and haplotype sequencing, to address three major questions: (1) What is the phylogenetic distribution of genomic imprinting? (2) How have mutations, from point mutations to repetitive element insertions, accumulated? (3) Do epigenetic processes play a role in generating genomic diversity?
If you are interested in studying the genomes of asexual vertebrates, please contact me!
Fujita, M. K., S. Singhal, T. O. Brunes, and J. A. Maldonado. 2020. Evolutionary Dynamics and Consequences of Parthenogenesis in Vertebrates. Annual Reviews in Ecology, Systematics, and Evolution 51:191-214.
Fujita, M.K., and C. Moritz. 2009. Origin and evolution of parthenogenetic genomes in lizards: current state and future directions. Cytogenetic and Genome Research 127:261-272.
Fujita, M.K., J.L. Boore, C. Moritz. 2007. Multiple origins and rapid evolution of duplicated mitochondrial genes in parthenogenetic geckos (Heteronotia binoei; Squamata, Gekkonidae). Molecular Biology and Evolution 24:2775-2786.
Boussau, B., J. M. Brown, and M. K. Fujita. 2011. Nonadaptive evolution of mitochondrial genome structure. Evolution 65:2706-2711.