Gene transcriptional profiles in gonads of Bacillus taxa (Phasmida) with different cytological mechanisms of automictic parthenogenesis

Giobbe Forni, Alexander S. Mikheyev, Andrea Luchetti*, Barbara Mantovani

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    The evolution of automixis – i.e., meiotic parthenogenesis – requires several features, including ploidy restoration after meiosis and maintenance of fertility. Characterizing the relative contribution of novel versus pre-existing genes and the similarities in their expression and sequence evolution is fundamental to understand the evolution of reproductive novelties. Here we identify gonads-biased genes in two Bacillus automictic stick-insects and compare their expression profile and sequence evolution with a bisexual congeneric species. The two parthenogens restore ploidy through different cytological mechanisms: in Bacillus atticus, nuclei derived from the first meiotic division fuse to restore a diploid egg nucleus, while in Bacillus rossius, diploidization occurs in some cells of the haploid blastula through anaphase restitution. Parthenogens’ gonads transcriptional program is found to be largely assembled from genes that were already present before the establishment of automixis. The three species transcriptional profiles largely reflect their phyletic relationships, yet we identify a shared core of genes with gonad-biased patterns of expression in parthenogens which are either male gonads-biased in the sexual species or are not differentially expressed there. At the sequence level, just a handful of gonads-biased genes were inferred to have undergone instances of positive selection exclusively in the parthenogen species. This work is the first to explore the molecular underpinnings of automixis in a comparative framework: it delineates how reproductive novelties can be sustained by genes whose origin precedes the establishment of the novelty itself and shows that different meiotic mechanisms of reproduction can be associated with a shared molecular ground plan.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number14
    JournalZoological Letters
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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