Sander Thierens

PLAZA (Elixir)


  1. Audoor, S., Bilcke, G., Pargana, K., Belišová, D., Thierens, S., Van Bel, M., … Vyverman, W. (2024). Transcriptional chronology reveals conserved genes involved in pennate diatom sexual reproduction. MOLECULAR ECOLOGY, 33(8).
    Sexual reproduction is a major driver of adaptation and speciation in eukaryotes. In diatoms, siliceous microalgae with a unique cell size reduction-restitution life cycle and among the world's most prolific primary producers, sex also acts as the main mechanism for cell size restoration through the formation of an expanding auxospore. However, the molecular regulators of the different stages of sexual reproduction and size restoration are poorly explored. Here, we combined RNA sequencing with the assembly of a 55 Mbp reference genome for Cylindrotheca closterium to identify patterns of gene expression during different stages of sexual reproduction. These were compared with a corresponding transcriptomic time series of Seminavis robusta to assess the degree of expression conservation. Integrative orthology analysis revealed 138 one-to-one orthologues that are upregulated during sex in both species, among which 56 genes consistently upregulated during cell pairing and gametogenesis, and 11 genes induced when auxospores are present. Several early, sex-specific transcription factors and B-type cyclins were also upregulated during sex in other pennate and centric diatoms, pointing towards a conserved core regulatory machinery for meiosis and gametogenesis across diatoms. Furthermore, we find molecular evidence that the pheromone-induced cell cycle arrest is short-lived in benthic diatoms, which may be linked to their active mode of mate finding through gliding. Finally, we exploit the temporal resolution of our comparative analysis to report the first marker genes for auxospore identity called AAE1-3 ("Auxospore-Associated Expression"). Altogether, we introduce a multi-species model of the transcriptional dynamics during size restoration in diatoms and highlight conserved gene expression dynamics during different stages of sexual reproduction.