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Genomic analyses of the Linum distyly supergene reveal convergent evolution at the molecular level

Gutiérrez-Valencia, Juanita and Fracassetti, Marco and Berdan, Emma L. and Bunikis, Ignas and Soler, Lucile and Dainat, Jacques and Kutschera, Verena E. and Losvik, Aleksandra and Désamoré, Aurélie and Hughes, P. William and Foroozani, Alireza and Laenen, Benjamin and Pesquet, Edouard and Abdelaziz, Mohamed and Pettersson, Olga Vinnere and Nystedt, Björn and Brennan, Adrian C. and Arroyo, Juan and Slotte, Tanja (2022) 'Genomic analyses of the Linum distyly supergene reveal convergent evolution at the molecular level.', Current Biology, 32 (20). pp. 4360-4371.


Supergenes govern multi-trait-balanced polymorphisms in a wide range of systems; however, our understanding of their origins and evolution remains incomplete. The reciprocal placement of stigmas and anthers in pin and thrum floral morphs of distylous species constitutes an iconic example of a balanced polymorphism governed by a supergene, the distyly S-locus. Recent studies have shown that the Primula and Turnera distyly supergenes are both hemizygous in thrums, but it remains unknown whether hemizygosity is pervasive among distyly S-loci. As hemizygosity has major consequences for supergene evolution and loss, clarifying whether this genetic architecture is shared among distylous species is critical. Here, we have characterized the genetic architecture and evolution of the distyly supergene in Linum by generating a chromosome-level genome assembly of Linum tenue, followed by the identification of the S-locus using population genomic data. We show that hemizygosity and thrum-specific expression of S-linked genes, including a pistil-expressed candidate gene for style length, are major features of the Linum S-locus. Structural variation is likely instrumental for recombination suppression, and although the non-recombining dominant haplotype has accumulated transposable elements, S-linked genes are not under relaxed purifying selection. Our findings reveal remarkable convergence in the genetic architecture and evolution of independently derived distyly supergenes, provide a counterexample to classic inversion-based supergenes, and shed new light on the origin and maintenance of an iconic floral polymorphism.

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Publisher statement:© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Date accepted:15 August 2022
Date deposited:12 October 2022
Date of first online publication:09 September 2022
Date first made open access:12 October 2022

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