Three amphioxus reference genomes reveal gene and chromosome evolution of chordates


The slow-evolving invertebrate amphioxus has an irreplaceable role in advancing our understanding of the vertebrate origin and innovations. Here we resolve the nearly complete chromosomal genomes of three amphioxus species, one of which best recapitulates the 17 chordate ancestor linkage groups. We reconstruct the fusions, retention, or rearrangements between descendants of whole-genome duplications, which gave rise to the extant microchromosomes likely existed in the vertebrate ancestor. Similar to vertebrates, the amphioxus genome gradually establishes its three-dimensional chromatin architecture at the onset of zygotic activation and forms two topologically associated domains at the Hox gene cluster. We find that all three amphioxus species have ZW sex chromosomes with little sequence differentiation, and their putative sex-determining regions are nonhomologous to each other. Our results illuminate the unappreciated interspecific diversity and developmental dynamics of amphioxus genomes and provide high-quality references for understanding the mechanisms of chordate functional genome evolution.

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America