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In contrast to the canonical view that genomes cycle only between haploid and diploid states, many eukaryotes have dynamic genomes that change content throughout an individual’s life cycle. However, the few detailed studies of microeukaryotic life cycles render our understanding of eukaryotic genome dynamism incomplete. Foraminifera (Rhizaria) are an ecologically important, yet understudied, clade of microbial eukaryotes with complex life cycles that include changes in ploidy and genome organization. Here, we apply fluorescence microscopy and image analysis techniques to over 2,800 nuclei in 110 cells to characterize the life cycle of Allogromia laticollaris strain Cold Spring Harbor (CSH), one of few cultivable foraminifera species. We show that haploidy and diploidy are brief moments in the A. laticollaris life cycle and that A. laticollaris nuclei endoreplicate up to 12,000 times the haploid genome size. We find that A. laticollaris reorganizes a highly endoreplicated nucleus into thousands of haploid genomes through a non-canonical mechanism called Zerfall, in which the nuclear envelope degrades and extrudes chromatin into the cytoplasm. Based on these findings, along with changes in nuclear architecture across the life cycle, we believe that A. laticollaris uses spatio-temporal mechanisms to delineate germline and somatic DNA within a single nucleus. The analyses here extend our understanding of the genome dynamics across the eukaryotic tree of life.

IMPORTANCEIn traditional depictions of eukaryotes (i.e., cells with nuclei), life cycles alternate only between haploid and diploid phases, overlooking studies of diverse microeukaryotic lineages (e.g., amoebae, ciliates, and flagellates) that show dramatic variation in DNA content throughout their life cycles. Endoreplication of genomes enables cells to grow to large sizes and perhaps to also respond to changes in their environments. Few microeukaryotic life cycles have been studied in detail, which limits our understanding of how eukaryotes regulate and transmit their DNA across generations. Here, we use microscopy to study the life cycle of Allogromia laticollaris strain CSH, an early-diverging lineage within the Foraminifera (an ancient clade of predominantly marine amoebae). We show that DNA content changes significantly throughout their life cycle and further describe an unusual process called Zerfall, by which this species reorganizes a large nucleus with up to 12,000 genome copies into hundreds of small gametic nuclei, each with a single haploid genome. Our results are consistent with the idea that all eukaryotes demarcate germline DNA to pass on to offspring amidst more flexible somatic DNA and extend the known diversity of eukaryotic life cycles.


genome evolution, eukaryotic life cycles, polyploidy, nuclear architecture, endoreplication, amoebae, protists, microbial eukaryote







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Copyright © 2024 Timmons et al.


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