NWDB Conference - Slides from Eric Haag and Update

NWDB Conference - Slides from Eric Haag and Update

Earlier I reported on the informative talks and posters at the Northwest Developmental Biology conference -

Reporting on the Northwest Developmental Biology Conference (1)

Reporting on the Northwest Developmental Biology Conference (2)

Eric Haag presented at the conference on genome deletion of various members of _Caenorhabditis _ species. This topic may interest our readers since many of them work on genome assembly. When Eric first noticed the smaller genome sizes for some of his hermaphrodite samples, the genome center he was working with thought the observation was from assembly glitch or other non-biological issues. However, he spent time to work through the difference and determine that the difference was indeed of biological origin.

He was kind enough to send us his slides and we attach them here. They contain most parts of his talk except for a subset of unpublished results.


Eric also added a number of corrections to our previous discussion of his work, which we present below verbatim.

1. It’s important to understand that I discussed quite a number of different species in my talk, all of which are the genus Caenorhabditis, but only one of which was C.


2. The deletions I discussed happened in the recent evolutionary history of C.

elegans, C. briggsae, and other less-studied species, all united (we think) only by

having adopted a self-fertile hermaphrodite mode of sex. Philosophically I’m not

sure when to say the deletions occurred with respect to taxonomy (i.e. was the

pre-hermaphroditic C. elegans ancestor already “C. elegans” or something else? But

hopefully you get the point: C. elegans, as conventionally defined as an extant

taxon, is already shrunken.

3. The deletions shouldn’t be characterized as “programmed,” because that implies

precisely regulated and highly predictable loss, and we don’t have evidence for

that. What we do have is evidence for loss that is predictable in quantity and to a

lesser extent by broad chromosomal domain (i.e. more in the ends, less in the

middle). These features are probably due to the interaction of stochastic

mutational events (which may have certain biases) and the landscape of genetic

redundancy at the time the lineage switches to self-fertility.

The genome shrinkage stuff was part of a set of vignettes related to the

consequences of becoming a self-fertile hermaphrodite. I mentioned genome shrinkage

(the issue above), deregulation of sex-biased gene expression, and increased

vulnerability to harm by mating with obligately outcrossing relatives. I summarized

that half of the talk by suggesting that these consequences eventually slam the door

on returning to an outcrossing mode of reproduction, and make selfing species more

subject to extinction when the environment changes.

I can also summarize the first part of the talk as being about how independently

evolved hermaphroditic species, C. elegans and C. briggsae, have both repeated and

idiosyncratic aspects to the way they regulate the key trait that makes that

possible–XX sperm production. That was based to a large extent on work from my lab,

but also with major contributions from the groups of Judith Kimble, Tim Schedl, Ron

Ellis, and David Pilgrim (who was also a meeting co-organizer).

Written by M. //