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      Are algal genes in nonphotosynthetic protists evidence of historical plastid endosymbioses?

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          Abstract

          Background

          How photosynthetic organelles, or plastids, were acquired by diverse eukaryotes is among the most hotly debated topics in broad scale eukaryotic evolution. The history of plastid endosymbioses commonly is interpreted under the "chromalveolate" hypothesis, which requires numerous plastid losses from certain heterotrophic groups that now are entirely aplastidic. In this context, discoveries of putatively algal genes in plastid-lacking protists have been cited as evidence of gene transfer from a photosynthetic endosymbiont that subsequently was lost completely. Here we examine this evidence, as it pertains to the chromalveolate hypothesis, through genome-level statistical analyses of similarity scores from queries with two diatoms, Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Thalassiosira pseudonana, and two aplastidic sister taxa, Phytophthora ramorum and P. sojae.

          Results

          Contingency tests of specific predictions of the chromalveolate model find no evidence for an unusual red algal contribution to Phytophthora genomes, nor that putative cyanobacterial sequences that are present entered these genomes through a red algal endosymbiosis. Examination of genes unrelated to plastid function provide extraordinarily significant support for both of these predictions in diatoms, the control group where a red endosymbiosis is known to have occurred, but none of that support is present in genes specifically conserved between diatoms and oomycetes. In addition, we uncovered a strong association between overall sequence similarities among taxa and relative sizes of genomic data sets in numbers of genes.

          Conclusion

          Signal from "algal" genes in oomycete genomes is inconsistent with the chromalveolate hypothesis, and better explained by alternative models of sequence and genome evolution. Combined with the numerous sources of intragenomic phylogenetic conflict characterized previously, our results underscore the potential to be mislead by a posteriori interpretations of variable phylogenetic signals contained in complex genome-level data. They argue strongly for explicit testing of the different a priori assumptions inherent in competing evolutionary hypotheses.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Orthologs, paralogs, and evolutionary genomics.

          Orthologs and paralogs are two fundamentally different types of homologous genes that evolved, respectively, by vertical descent from a single ancestral gene and by duplication. Orthology and paralogy are key concepts of evolutionary genomics. A clear distinction between orthologs and paralogs is critical for the construction of a robust evolutionary classification of genes and reliable functional annotation of newly sequenced genomes. Genome comparisons show that orthologous relationships with genes from taxonomically distant species can be established for the majority of the genes from each sequenced genome. This review examines in depth the definitions and subtypes of orthologs and paralogs, outlines the principal methodological approaches employed for identification of orthology and paralogy, and considers evolutionary and functional implications of these concepts.
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            Horizontal gene transfer in eukaryotic evolution.

            Horizontal gene transfer (HGT; also known as lateral gene transfer) has had an important role in eukaryotic genome evolution, but its importance is often overshadowed by the greater prevalence and our more advanced understanding of gene transfer in prokaryotes. Recurrent endosymbioses and the generally poor sampling of most nuclear genes from diverse lineages have also complicated the search for transferred genes. Nevertheless, the number of well-supported cases of transfer from both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, many with significant functional implications, is now expanding rapidly. Major recent trends include the important role of HGT in adaptation to certain specialized niches and the highly variable impact of HGT in different lineages.
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              Phylogenetic classification and the universal tree.

               W. Doolittle (1999)
              From comparative analyses of the nucleotide sequences of genes encoding ribosomal RNAs and several proteins, molecular phylogeneticists have constructed a "universal tree of life," taking it as the basis for a "natural" hierarchical classification of all living things. Although confidence in some of the tree's early branches has recently been shaken, new approaches could still resolve many methodological uncertainties. More challenging is evidence that most archaeal and bacterial genomes (and the inferred ancestral eukaryotic nuclear genome) contain genes from multiple sources. If "chimerism" or "lateral gene transfer" cannot be dismissed as trivial in extent or limited to special categories of genes, then no hierarchical universal classification can be taken as natural. Molecular phylogeneticists will have failed to find the "true tree," not because their methods are inadequate or because they have chosen the wrong genes, but because the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree. However, taxonomies based on molecular sequences will remain indispensable, and understanding of the evolutionary process will ultimately be enriched, not impoverished.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Genomics
                BMC Genomics
                BioMed Central
                1471-2164
                2009
                20 October 2009
                : 10
                : 484
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Biology, East Carolina University, Greenville, USA
                [2 ]Department of Computer Science, East Carolina University, Greenville, USA
                Article
                1471-2164-10-484
                10.1186/1471-2164-10-484
                2770532
                19843329
                9ee825e1-1093-46e2-98d5-7838038c20f2
                Copyright © 2009 Stiller et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research Article

                Genetics

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