Protein kinase gene declines linearly with elevation: a shared genomic feature across species and continents in lichenized fungi suggests role in climate adaptation

  • Intraspecific genomic variability affects a species’ adaptive potential towards climatic conditions. Variation in gene content across populations and environments may point at genomic adaptations to specific environments. The lichen symbiosis, a stable association of fungal and photobiont partners, offers an excellent system to study environmentally driven gene content variation. Many species have remarkable environmental tolerances, and often form populations in different climate zones. Here we combine comparative and population genomics to assess the presence and absence of genes in high elevation and low elevation genomes of two lichenized fungi of the genus Umbilicaria. The two species have non-overlapping ranges, but occupy similar climatic niches in North America (U. phaea) and Europe (U. pustulata): high elevation populations are located in the cold temperate zone and low elevation populations in the Mediterranean zone. We assessed gene content variation along replicated elevation gradients in each of the two species, based on a total of 2050 individuals across 26 populations. Specifically, we assessed shared orthologs across species within the same climate zone, and tracked which genes increase or decrease in abundance within populations along elevation. In total, we found 16 orthogroups with shared orthologous genes in genomes at low elevation and 13 at high elevation. Coverage analysis revealed one ortholog that is exclusive to genomes at low elevation. Conserved domain search revealed domains common to the protein kinases (PKs) superfamily. We traced the discovered ortholog in populations along five replicated elevation gradients on both continents. The protein kinase gene linearly declined in abundance with increasing elevation, and was absent in the highest populations. We consider the parallel loss of an ortholog in two species and in two geographic settings a rare find, and a step forward in understanding the genomic underpinnings of climatic tolerances in lichenized fungi. In addition, the tracking of gene content variation provides a widely applicable framework for retrieving biogeographical determinants of gene presence/absence patterns. Our work provides insights into gene content variation of lichenized fungi in relation to climatic gradients, suggesting a new research direction with implications for understanding evolutionary trajectories of complex symbioses in relation to climatic change.

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Author:Dominik MergesORCiDGND, Francesco Dal GrandeORCiD, Henrique ValimORCiDGND, Garima SinghORCiDGND, Imke SchmittORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):bioRxiv
Document Type:Preprint
Year of Completion:2022
Year of first Publication:2022
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2023/04/20
Page Number:22
Institutes:Angeschlossene und kooperierende Institutionen / Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
Biowissenschaften / Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY-ND - Namensnennung - Keine Bearbeitungen 4.0 International