Linkage between sexual and asexual lineages: genome evolution in Bacillus stick insects


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The sexually reproducing stick insects Bacillus rossius and B. grandii are sharply differentiated in terms of allozyme gene alleles; B. atticus is a polyclonal automictic parthenogen sister to B. grandii grandii. Although well differentiated for coding genes, these hybridize to produce diploid (B. whitei=rossius/grandii) or triploid (B. lynceorum=rossius/grandii/atticus) clonal forms which reproduce apomictically. Allozyme analyses of unisexual Bacillus clearly establish their relationships from bisexual ancestor species as does the existence in all of them of several clones (especially in B. atticus) whose egg maturation allows regular recombination to occur. Bacillus taxa share the Bag320 satellite DNA family within different reproductive frameworks, allowing satellite variant homogenization to be uncoupled from fixation. The nested analysis of monomers reveals different patterns of sequence diversity: sexual reproduction includes both homogenization and variant fixation, whereas the slowing of molecular turnover processes and the absence of syngamy in the parthenogens realizes a similar range of sequence diversity at the level of the individual and supra-individual, but with no fixation. On the other hand, the actual values of sequence diversity appear mostly linked to species traits – range size, copy number of repeats, number of hybrid crosses – and possibly transposon activity, rather than to the reproductive mode. In addition, the mitochondrial genome reveals a comparable level of cox2 sequence variability in sexual and parthenogenetic taxa, thus adding to clonal variability. From Bacillus and other stick insect complexes, an overall picture of genomic diversification of parthenogens is therefore beginning to emerge. To define those animals that reproduce by non-canonical sexual modes (i.e. parthenogenesis, hybridogenesis), but make use of egg and meiotic mechanisms, the term meta-sexual is proposed. © 2003 The Linnean Society of London. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 79, 137–150.