Transposable elements (TEs) are a major source of genetic and regulatory variation in their host genome and are consequently thought to play important roles in evolution. Many fungal and oomycete plant pathogens have evolved dynamic and TE-rich genomic regions containing genes that are implicated in host colonization and adaptation. TEs embedded in these regions have typically been thought to accelerate the evolution of these genomic compartments, but little is known about their dynamics in strains that harbor them. Here, we used whole-genome sequencing data of 42 strains of the fungal plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae to systematically identify polymorphic TEs that may be implicated in genomic as well as in gene expression variation. We identified 2,523 TE polymorphisms and characterize a subset of 8% of the TEs as polymorphic elements that are evolutionary younger, less methylated, and more highly expressed when compared with the remaining 92% of the total TE complement. As expected, the polyrmorphic TEs are enriched in the adaptive genomic regions. Besides, we observed an association of polymorphic TEs with pathogenicity-related genes that localize nearby and that display high expression levels. Collectively, our analyses demonstrate that TE dynamics in V. dahliae contributes to genomic variation, correlates with expression of pathogenicity-related genes, and potentially impacts the evolution of adaptive genomic regions.
Keywords: genome evolution; plant pathogen; structural variation; transposable element; transposon.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.