Genome Landscape and Evolutionary Plasticity of Chromosomes in Malaria Mosquitoes


Background: Nonrandom distribution of rearrangements is a common feature of eukaryotic chromosomes that is not well understood in terms of genome organization and evolution. In the major African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, polymorphic inversions are highly nonuniformly distributed among five chromosomal arms and are associated with epidemiologically important adaptations. However, it is not clear whether the genomic content of the chromosomal arms is associated with inversion polymorphism and fixation rates.

Methodology/Principal Findings: To better understand the evolutionary dynamics of chromosomal inversions, we created a physical map for an Asian malaria mosquito, Anopheles stephensi, and compared it with the genome of An. gambiae. We also developed and deployed novel Bayesian statistical models to analyze genome landscapes in individual chromosomal arms An. gambiae. Here, we demonstrate that, despite the paucity of inversion polymorphisms on the X chromosome, this chromosome has the fastest rate of inversion fixation and the highest density of transposable elements, simple DNA repeats, and GC content. The highly polymorphic and rapidly evolving autosomal 2R arm had overrepresentation of genes involved in cellular response to stress supporting the role of natural selection in maintaining adaptive polymorphic inversions. In addition, the 2R arm had the highest density of regions involved in segmental duplications that clustered in the breakpoint-rich zone of the arm. In contrast, the slower evolving 2L, 3R, and 3L, arms were enriched with matrixattachment regions that potentially contribute to chromosome stability in the cell nucleus.

Conclusions/Significance: These results highlight fundamental differences in evolutionary dynamics of the sex chromosome and autosomes and revealed the strong association between characteristics of the genome landscape and rates of chromosomal evolution. We conclude that a unique combination of various classes of genes and repetitive DNA in each arm, rather than a single type of repetitive element, is likely responsible for arm-specific rates of rearrangements.

vector anopheles-funestus, transposable element, drosophila-melanogaster, segmental duplications, gambiae complex, species complex, nuclear lamins, gene ontology, inversion 2la, speciation