Silencing of Germline-Expressed Genes by DNA Elimination in Somatic Cells

Jianbin Wang, Makedonka Mitreva, Matthew Berriman, Alicia Thorne, Vincent Magrini, Georgios Koutsovoulos, Sujai Kumar, Mark L. Blaxter, Richard E. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Chromatin diminution is the programmed elimination of specific DNA sequences during development. It occurs in diverse species, but the function(s) of diminution and the specificity of sequence loss remain largely unknown. Diminution in the nematode Ascaris suum occurs during early embryonic cleavages and leads to the loss of germline genome sequences and the formation of a distinct genome in somatic cells. We found that ∼43 Mb (∼13%) of genome sequence is eliminated in A. suum somatic cells, including ∼12.7 Mb of unique sequence. The eliminated sequences and location of the DNA breaks are the same in all somatic lineages from a single individual and between different individuals. At least 685 genes are eliminated. These genes are preferentially expressed in the germline and during early embryogenesis. We propose that diminution is a mechanism of germline gene regulation that specifically removes a large number of genes involved in gametogenesis and early embryogenesis. Wang et al. sequence and compare the germline and somatic genomes of the nematode Ascaris suum. Their analysis reveals that multiple somatic lineages perform chromatin diminution in parallel, that the same genes are excised in each case, and that 685 of these excised genes are preferentially expressed in the germline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1080
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 13 2012


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