Comparative Genomics of Apomictic Root-Knot Nematodes: Hybridization, Ploidy, and Dynamic Genome Change

Amir Szitenberg, Laura Salazar-Jaramillo, Vivian C Blok, Dominik R Laetsch, Soumi Joseph, Valerie M Williamson, Mark L Blaxter, David H Lunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The root-knot nematodes (genus Meloidogyne) are important plant parasites causing substantial agricultural losses. The Meloidogyne incognita group (MIG) of species, most of which are obligatory apomicts (mitotic parthenogens), are extremely polyphagous and important problems for global agriculture. While understanding the genomic basis for their variable success on different crops could benefit future agriculture, analyses of their genomes are challenging due to complex evolutionary histories that may incorporate hybridization, ploidy changes, and chromosomal fragmentation. Here, we sequence 19 genomes, representing five species of key root-knot nematodes collected from different geographic origins. We show that a hybrid origin that predated speciation within the MIG has resulted in each species possessing two divergent genomic copies. Additionally, the apomictic MIG species are hypotriploids, with a proportion of one genome present in a second copy. The hypotriploid proportion varies among species. The evolutionary history of the MIG genomes is revealed to be very dynamic, with noncrossover recombination both homogenizing the genomic copies, and acting as a mechanism for generating divergence between species. Interestingly, the automictic MIG species M. floridensis differs from the apomict species in that it has become homozygous throughout much of its genome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2844-2861
Number of pages18
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Meloidogyne
  • genome evolution
  • phylogenomics
  • coverage ratio
  • recombination

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