Perils of paralogy: Using HSP70 genes for inferring organismal phylogenies

  • Martin A
  • Burg T
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Conserved genes have found their way into the mainstream of molecular systematics. Many of these genes are members of multigene families. A difficulty with using single genes of multigene families for phylogenetic inference is that genes from one species may be paralogous to those from another taxon. We focus attention on this problem using heat shock 70 (HSP70) genes. Using polymerase chain reaction techniques with genomic DNA, we isolated and sequenced 123 distinct sequences from 12 species of sharks. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the sequences cluster with constituitively expressed cytoplasmic heat shock-like genes. Three highly divergent gene clades were sampled. A number of similar sequences were sampled from each species within each distinct gene clade. Comparison of published species trees with an HSP70 gene tree inferred using Bayesian phylogenetic analysis revealed several cases of gene duplication and differential sorting of gene lineages within this group of sharks. Gene tree parsimony based on the objective criteria of duplication and losses showed that previously published hypotheses of species relationships and two novel hypothesis based on Bayesian phylogenetics were concordant with the history of HSP70 gene duplication and loss. By contrast, two published hypotheses based on morphological data were not significantly different from the null hypothesis of a random association between species relatedness and the HSP70 gene tree. These results suggest that gene tree parsimony using data from multigene families can be used for inferring species relationships or testing published alternative hypotheses. More importantly, the results suggest that systematic studies relying on phylogenetic inferences from HSP70 genes may by plagued by unrecognized paralogy of sampled genes. Our results underscore the distinction between gene and species trees and highlight an underappreciated source of discordance between gene trees and organismal phylogeny, i.e., unrecognized paralogy of sampled genes.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Gene tree parsimony
  • HSP70
  • Molecular systematics
  • Multigene families
  • Orthology
  • Paralogy
  • Sharks

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