Research ArticleEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Unprecedented reorganization of holocentric chromosomes provides insights into the enigma of lepidopteran chromosome evolution

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Science Advances  12 Jun 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 6, eaau3648
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3648

Abstract

Chromosome evolution presents an enigma in the mega-diverse Lepidoptera. Most species exhibit constrained chromosome evolution with nearly identical haploid chromosome counts and chromosome-level gene collinearity among species more than 140 million years divergent. However, a few species possess radically inflated chromosomal counts due to extensive fission and fusion events. To address this enigma of constraint in the face of an exceptional ability to change, we investigated an unprecedented reorganization of the standard lepidopteran chromosome structure in the green-veined white butterfly (Pieris napi). We find that gene content in P. napi has been extensively rearranged in large collinear blocks, which until now have been masked by a haploid chromosome number close to the lepidopteran average. We observe that ancient chromosome ends have been maintained and collinear blocks are enriched for functionally related genes suggesting both a mechanism and a possible role for selection in determining the boundaries of these genome-wide rearrangements.

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