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October 1, 2011:  The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to Maureen Neiman and John Logsdon of the University of Iowa with a subaward to Jeffrey Boore of Genome Project Solutions entitled "Genomic Consequences of Asexuality". This will enable us to determine the complete genome sequence of the snail Potamopyrgus antipodarum, to interpret many features of genome evolution, and to identify patterns of genomic variation across the species.

ABSTRACT of the award:

Sexual reproduction is more costly than asexual reproduction, yet nearly all organisms reproduce sexually at least some of the time. Why is sexual reproduction so common despite its costs? Are there significant evolutionary consequences of asexual reproduction? What are the effects of sexual reproduction or its absence on the evolution of genes and genomes? Despite decades of study, these and related questions remain unanswered. Established genetic model systems such as fruit flies and yeast have provided important insights into the genetic and genomic consequences of sex and recombination. However, these systems are limited because they do not offer the ability to make direct comparisons between sexual and asexual organisms--and their genomes--from the same natural populations with similar genetic background and environmental history. This project will use a different organism, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a New Zealand snail, which has both sexual and independently-derived asexual lineages that make it ideally suited to address fundamental evolutionary questions of how genes and genomes evolve in the absence of sexual reproduction. This research will take advantage of the unique strengths of P. antipodarum and extend them to the genomic level, generating novel insights into the genetic consequences of sexual reproduction and its absence. Analyzing sexual and asexual lineages will make it possible to catch mutation accumulation and gene loss in the act. This research will also provide key steps forward in developing P. antipodarum into a powerful model system for many important biological questions, from host-parasite dynamics to ecotoxicology. Since a key unique element of sexual reproduction is the rapid generation of genetically diverse offspring, research outcomes will also illuminate the extent to which the preservation of genetic diversity within populations, species, and ecological communities is integral to the preservation of biological diversity.

This is award number 1122176. Information on this award from the National Science Foundation can be found here.


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