No Evidence That Nitrogen Limitation Influences the Elemental Composition of Isopod Transcriptomes and Proteomes

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The field of stoichiogenomics aims at understanding the influence of nutrient limitations on the elemental composition of the genome, transcriptome, and proteome. The 20 amino acids and the 4 nt differ in the number of nutrients they contain, such as nitrogen (N). Thus, N limitation shall theoretically select for changes in the composition of proteins or RNAs through preferential use of N-poor amino acids or nucleotides, which will decrease the N-budget of an organism. While these N-saving mechanisms have been evidenced in microorganisms, they remain controversial in multicellular eukaryotes. In this study, we used 13 surface and subterranean isopod species pairs that face strongly contrasted N limitations, either in terms of quantity or quality. We combined in situ nutrient quantification and transcriptome sequencing to test if N limitation selected for N-savings through changes in the expression and composition of the transcriptome and proteome. No evidence of N-savings was found in the total N-budget of transcriptomes or proteomes or in the average protein N-cost. Nevertheless, subterranean species evolving in N-depleted habitats displayed lower N-usage at their third codon positions. To test if this convergent compositional change was driven by natural selection, we developed a method to detect the strand-asymmetric signature that stoichiogenomic selection should leave in the substitution pattern. No such signature was evidenced, indicating that the observed stoichiogenomic-like patterns were attributable to nonadaptive processes. The absence of stoichiogenomic signal despite strong N limitation within a powerful phylogenetic framework casts doubt on the existence of stoichiogenomic mechanisms in metazoans.

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