Comparative rates of evolution in endosymbiotic nuclear genomes

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Background: The nucleomorphs associated with secondary plastids of cryptomonads and chlorarachniophytes are the sole examples of organelles with eukaryotic nuclear genomes. Although not as widespread as their prokaryotic equivalents in mitochondria and plastids, nucleomorph genomes share similarities in terms of reduction and compaction. They also differ in several aspects, not least in that they encode proteins that target to the plastid, and so function in a different compartment from that in which they are encoded. Results: Here, we test whether the phylogenetically distinct nucleomorph genomes of the cryptomonad, Guillardia theta, and the chlorarachniophyte, Bigelowiella natans, have experienced similar evolutionary pressures during their transformation to reduced organelles. We compared the evolutionary rates of genes from nuclear, nucleomorph, and plastid genomes, all of which encode proteins that function in the same cellular compartment, the plastid, and are thus subject to similar selection pressures. Furthermore, we investigated the divergence of nucleomorphs within cryptomonads by comparing G. theta and Rhodomonas salina. Conclusion: Chlorarachniophyte nucleomorph genes have accumulated errors at a faster rate than other genomes within the same cell, regardless of the compartment where the gene product functions. In contrast, most nucleomorph genes in cryptomonads have evolved faster than genes in other genomes on average, but genes for plastid-targeted proteins are not overly divergent, and it appears that cryptomonad nucleomorphs are not presently evolving rapidly and have therefore stabilized. Overall, these analyses suggest that the forces at work in the two lineages are different, despite the similarities between the structures of their genomes. © 2006 Patron et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.




Patron, N. J., Rogers, M. B., & Keeling, P. J. (2006). Comparative rates of evolution in endosymbiotic nuclear genomes. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 6.

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