University of Oulu

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.

Variation in gene expression within clones of the earthworm Dendrobaena octaedra

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Author: Mustonen, Marina1; Haimi, Jari1; Kesäniemi, Jenni2;
Organizations: 1University of Jyvaskyla, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyvaskyla, Jyvaskyla, Finland
2University of Oulu, Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3University of Jyvaskyla, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Jyvaskyla, Jyvaskyla, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Public Library of Science, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-06-26


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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Series: PLoS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
ISSN-E: 1932-6203
ISSN-L: 1932-6203
Volume: 12
Issue: 4
Article number: e0174960
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174960
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was supported by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation (project number 2015038) and the Doctoral Programme in Biological and Environmental Science at University of Jyväskylä.
Dataset Reference: Microsatellite sequences for Dendrobaena octaedra are in GenBank (BankIt1871234: DO1 KU160480, DO2 KU160481, DO3 KU160482, DO4 KU160483, DO6 KU160484). The transcripts from which we have designed the primers are the property of Dr. Martin Holmstrup and we are not at liberty to submit them to a public database. Transcripts are available on request from Dr. Martin Holmstrup (Aarhus University, Vejsovej 25, building B3.16, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark. Email:, phone: +4587158823).
Copyright information: 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.