Sexual reproduction allows transposable elements (TEs) to proliferate, leading to rapid divergence between populations and species. A significant outcome of divergence in the TE landscape is evident in hybrid dysgenic syndromes, a strong form of genomic incompatibility that can arise when (TE) family abundance differs between two parents. When TEs inherited from the father are absent in the mother's genome, TEs can become activated in the progeny, causing germline damage and sterility. Studies in Drosophila indicate that dysgenesis can occur when TEs inherited paternally are not matched with a pool of corresponding TE silencing PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) provisioned by the female germline. Using the D. virilis syndrome of hybrid dysgenesis as a model, we characterize the effects that divergence in TE profile between parents has on offspring. Overall, we show that divergence in the TE landscape is associated with persisting differences in germline TE expression when comparing genetically identical females of reciprocal crosses and these differences are transmitted to the next generation. Moreover, chronic and persisting TE expression coincides with increased levels of genic piRNAs associated with reduced gene expression. Combined with these effects, we further demonstrate that gene expression is idiosyncratically influenced by differences in the genic piRNA profile of the parents that arise though polymorphic TE insertions. Overall, these results support a model in which early germline events in dysgenesis establish a chronic, stable state of both TE and gene expression in the germline that is maintained through adulthood and transmitted to the next generation. This work demonstrates that divergence in the TE profile is associated with diverse piRNA-mediated transgenerational effects on gene expression within populations.
Erwin, Alexandra A., Mauricio A. Galdos, Michelle L. Wickersheim, Chris C. Harrison, Kendra D. Marr, Jack M. Colicchio, and Justin P. Blumenstiel. "PiRNAs Are Associated with Diverse Transgenerational Effects on Gene and Transposon Expression in a Hybrid Dysgenic Syndrome of D. Virilis." PLoS Genet PLOS Genetics 11.8 (2015): n. pag. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005332