Background: Sexual reproduction involving the fusion of egg and sperm is prevailing among eukaryotes. In contrast, the nematode Diploscapter coronatus, a close relative of the model Caenorhabditis elegans, reproduces parthenogenetically. Neither males nor sperm have been observed and some steps of meiosis are apparently skipped in this species. To uncover the genomic changes associated with the evolution of parthenogenesis in this nematode, we carried out a genome analysis. Results: We obtained a 170 Mbp draft genome in only 511 scaffolds with a N50 length of 1 Mbp. Nearly 90% of these scaffolds constitute homologous pairs with a 5.7% heterozygosity on average and inversions and translocations, meaning that the 170 Mbp sequences correspond to the diploid genome. Fluorescent staining shows that the D. coronatus genome consists of two chromosomes (2n=2). In our genome annotation, we found orthologs of 59% of the C. elegans genes. However, a number of genes were missing or very divergent. These include genes involved in sex determination (e.g. xol-1, tra-2) and meiosis (e.g. the kleisins rec-8 and coh-3/4) giving a possible explanation for the absence of males and the second meiotic division. The high degree of heterozygosity allowed us to analyze the expression level of individual alleles. Most of the homologous pairs show very similar expression levels but others exhibit a 2-5-fold difference. Conclusions: Our high-quality draft genome of D. coronatus reveals the peculiarities of the genome of parthenogenesis and provides some clues to the genetic basis for parthenogenetic reproduction. This draft genome should be the basis to elucidate fundamental questions related to parthenogenesis such as its origin and mechanisms through comparative analyses with other nematodes. Furthermore, being the closest outgroup to the genus Caenorhabditis, the draft genome will help to disclose many idiosyncrasies of the model C. elegans and its congeners in future studies.
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