Neurospora and the dead-end hypothesis: genomic consequences of selfing in the model genus

Evolution. 2013 Dec;67(12):3600-16. doi: 10.1111/evo.12206. Epub 2013 Aug 5.


It is becoming increasingly evident that adoption of different reproductive strategies, such as sexual selfing and asexuality, greatly impacts genome evolution. In this study, we test theoretical predictions on genomic maladaptation of selfing lineages using empirical data from the model fungus Neurospora. We sequenced the genomes of four species representing distinct transitions to selfing within the history of the genus, as well as the transcriptome of one of these, and compared with available data from three outcrossing species. Our results provide evidence for a relaxation of purifying selection in protein-coding genes and for a reduced efficiency of transposable element silencing by Repeat Induced Point mutation. A reduction in adaptive evolution was also identified in the form of reduced codon usage bias in highly expressed genes of selfing Neurospora, but this result may be confounded by mutational bias. Potentially counteracting these negative effects, the nucleotide substitution rate and the spread of transposons is reduced in selfing species. We suggest that differences in substitution rate relate to the absence, in selfing Neurospora, of the asexual pathway producing conidia. Our results support the dead-end theory and show that Neurospora genomes bear signatures of both sexual and asexual reproductive mode.

Keywords: Evolutionary genomics; mating systems; molecular evolution; mutations; reproductive strategies; selection-natural.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Codon
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Fungal*
  • Mutation Rate
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Neurospora / genetics*
  • Neurospora / physiology
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Reproduction, Asexual / genetics


  • Codon
  • DNA Transposable Elements