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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Meiosis genes in Daphnia pulex and the role of parthenogenesis in genome evolution

Andrew M Schurko1, John M Logsdon1 and Brian D Eads2*

Author Affiliations

1 Roy J Carver Center for Comparative Genomics and Department of Biology, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA

2 The Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics and Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-78

Published: 21 April 2009



Thousands of parthenogenetic animal species have been described and cytogenetic manifestations of this reproductive mode are well known. However, little is understood about the molecular determinants of parthenogenesis. The Daphnia pulex genome must contain the molecular machinery for different reproductive modes: sexual (both male and female meiosis) and parthenogenetic (which is either cyclical or obligate). This feature makes D. pulex an ideal model to investigate the genetic basis of parthenogenesis and its consequences for gene and genome evolution. Here we describe the inventory of meiotic genes and their expression patterns during meiotic and parthenogenetic reproduction to help address whether parthenogenesis uses existing meiotic and mitotic machinery, or whether novel processes may be involved.


We report an inventory of 130 homologs representing over 40 genes encoding proteins with diverse roles in meiotic processes in the genome of D. pulex. Many genes involved in cell cycle regulation and sister chromatid cohesion are characterized by expansions in copy number. In contrast, most genes involved in DNA replication and homologous recombination are present as single copies. Notably, RECQ2 (which suppresses homologous recombination) is present in multiple copies while DMC1 is the only gene in our inventory that is absent in the Daphnia genome. Expression patterns for 44 gene copies were similar during meiosis versus parthenogenesis, although several genes displayed marked differences in expression level in germline and somatic tissues.


We propose that expansions in meiotic gene families in D. pulex may be associated with parthenogenesis. Taking into account our findings, we provide a mechanistic model of parthenogenesis, highlighting steps that must differ from meiosis including sister chromatid cohesion and kinetochore attachment.