Variation in gene expression within clones of the earthworm Dendrobaena octaedra
Mustonen, Marina; Haimi, Jari; Kesäniemi, Jenni; Högmander, Harri; Knott, K. Emily (2017-04-06)
Mustonen M, Haimi J, Kesäniemi J, Högmander H, Knott KE (2017) Variation in gene expression within clones of the earthworm Dendrobaena octaedra. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174960. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174960
Copyright: © 2017 Mustonen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Gene expression is highly plastic, which can help organisms to both acclimate and adapt to changing environments. Possible variation in gene expression among individuals with the same genotype (among clones) is not widely considered, even though it could impact the results of studies that focus on gene expression phenotypes, for example studies using clonal lines. We examined the extent of within and between clone variation in gene expression in the earthworm Dendrobaena octaedra, which reproduces through apomictic parthenogenesis. Five microsatellite markers were developed and used to confirm that offspring are genetic clones of their parent. After that, expression of 12 genes was measured from five individuals each from six clonal lines after exposure to copper contaminated soil. Variation in gene expression was higher over all genotypes than within genotypes, as initially assumed. A subset of the genes was also examined in the offspring of exposed individuals in two of the clonal lines. In this case, variation in gene expression within genotypes was as high as that observed over all genotypes. One gene in particular (chymotrypsin inhibitor) also showed significant differences in the expression levels among genetically identical individuals. Gene expression can vary considerably, and the extent of variation may depend on the genotypes and genes studied. Ensuring a large sample, with many different genotypes, is critical in studies comparing gene expression phenotypes. Researchers should be especially cautious inferring gene expression phenotypes when using only a single clonal or inbred line, since the results might be specific to only certain genotypes.
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