Parallel Evolution of Chromatin Structure Underlying Metabolic Adaptation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Parallel evolution occurs when a similar trait emerges in independent evolutionary lineages. Although changes in protein coding and gene transcription have been investigated as underlying mechanisms for parallel evolution, parallel changes in chromatin structure have never been reported. Here, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and a distantly related yeast species, Dekkera bruxellensis, are investigated because both species have independently evolved the capacity of aerobic fermentation. By profiling and comparing genome sequences, transcriptomic landscapes, and chromatin structures, we revealed that parallel changes in nucleosome occupancy in the promoter regions of mitochondria-localized genes led to concerted suppression of mitochondrial functions by glucose, which can explain the metabolic convergence in these two independent yeast species. Further investigation indicated that similar mutational processes in the promoter regions of these genes in the two independent evolutionary lineages underlay the parallel changes in chromatin structure. Our results indicate that, despite several hundred million years of separation, parallel changes in chromatin structure, can be an important adaptation mechanism for different organisms. Due to the important role of chromatin structure changes in regulating gene expression and organism phenotypes, the novel mechanism revealed in this study could be a general phenomenon contributing to parallel adaptation in nature.


  • Jian Cheng
  • Xiaoxian Guo
  • Pengli Cai
  • Xiaozhi Cheng
  • Jure Piškur
  • Yanhe Ma
  • Huifeng Jiang
  • Zhenglong Gu
External organisations
  • Cornell University
  • University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics


  • aerobic fermentation, chromatin, gene regulation evolution, parallel evolution
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2870-2878
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Nov 1
Publication categoryResearch