Ancient gene duplications have shaped developmental stage-specific expression in Pristionchus pacificus


  • P. Baskaran
  • C. Roedelsperger
  • N. Prabh
  • V. Serobyan
  • G.V. Markov
  • A. Hirsekorn
  • C. Dieterich


  • BMC Evolutionary Biology


  • BMC Evol Biol 15 (1): 185


  • Background: The development of multicellular organisms is accompanied by gene expression changes in differentiating cells. Profiling stage-specific expression during development may reveal important insights into gene sets that contributed to the morphological diversity across the animal kingdom. Results: We sequenced RNA-seq libraries throughout a developmental timecourse of the nematode Pristionchus pacificus. The transcriptomes reflect early larval stages, adult worms including late larvae, and growth-arrested dauer larvae and allowed the identification of developmentally regulated gene clusters. Our data reveals similar trends as previous transcriptome profiling of dauer worms and represents the first expression data for early larvae in P. pacificus. Gene expression clusters characterizing early larval stages show most significant enrichments of chaperones, while collagens are most significantly enriched in transcriptomes of late larvae and adult worms. By combining expression data with phylogenetic analysis, we found that developmentally regulated genes are found in paralogous clusters that have arisen through lineage-specific duplications after the split from the Caenorhabditis elegans branch. Conclusions: We propose that gene duplications of developmentally regulated genes represent a plausible evolutionary mechanism to increase the dosage of stage-specific expression. Consequently, this may contribute to the substantial divergence in expression profiles that has been observed across larger evolutionary time scales.