Testis single-cell RNA-seq reveals the dynamics of de novo gene transcription and germline mutational bias in Drosophila

Elife. 2019 Aug 16;8:e47138. doi: 10.7554/eLife.47138.


The testis is a peculiar tissue in many respects. It shows patterns of rapid gene evolution and provides a hotspot for the origination of genetic novelties such as de novo genes, duplications and mutations. To investigate the expression patterns of genetic novelties across cell types, we performed single-cell RNA-sequencing of adult Drosophila testis. We found that new genes were expressed in various cell types, the patterns of which may be influenced by their mode of origination. In particular, lineage-specific de novo genes are commonly expressed in early spermatocytes, while young duplicated genes are often bimodally expressed. Analysis of germline substitutions suggests that spermatogenesis is a highly reparative process, with the mutational load of germ cells decreasing as spermatogenesis progresses. By elucidating the distribution of genetic novelties across spermatogenesis, this study provides a deeper understanding of how the testis maintains its core reproductive function while being a hotbed of evolutionary innovation.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; Drosophila; de novo gene; evolutionary biology; expression dynamics; genetics; genomics; mutational load; single-cell sequencing; spermatogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • RNA-Seq*
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Spermatocytes / pathology
  • Spermatocytes / physiology*
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Testis / pathology
  • Testis / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic