Background: Malaria mosquitoes have had a remarkable stability in the number of chromosomes in their karyotype (2n = 6) during 100 million years of evolution. Moreover, autosomal arms were assumed to maintain their integrity even if their associations with each other changed via whole-arm translocations. Here we use high-coverage comparative physical genome mapping of three Anopheles species to test the extent of evolutionary conservation of chromosomal arms in malaria mosquitoes.
Results: In this study, we developed a physical genome map for Anopheles atroparvus, one of the dominant malaria vectors in Europe. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) of DNA probes with the ovarian nurse cell polytene chromosomes and synteny comparison, we anchored 56 genomic scaffolds to the An. atroparvus chromosomes. The obtained physical map represents 89.6% of the An. atroparvus genome. This genome has the second highest mapping coverage among Anophelinae assemblies after An. albimanus, which has 98.2% of the genome assigned to its chromosomes. A comparison of the An. atroparvus, An. albimanus, and An. gambiae genomes identified partial-arm translocations between the autosomal arms that break down the integrity of chromosome elements in evolution affecting the structure of the genetic material in the pericentromeric regions. Unlike An. atroparvus and An. albimanus, all chromosome elements of An. gambiae are fully syntenic with chromosome elements of the putative ancestral Anopheles karyotype. We also detected nonrandom distribution of large conserved synteny blocks and confirmed a higher rate of inversion fixation in the X chromosome compared with autosomes.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the power of physical mapping for understanding the genome evolution in malaria mosquitoes. The results indicate that syntenic relationships among chromosome elements of Anopheles species have not been fully preserved because of multiple partial-arm translocations.
Keywords: Anopheles atroparvus; Chromosome evolution; Fluorescence in situ hybridization; Mosquito genome; Partial-arm translocation; Physical mapping; Polytene chromosomes.