Journal Article

Re-evaluating the Green versus Red Signal in Eukaryotes with Secondary Plastid of Red Algal Origin

Fabien Burki, Pavel Flegontov, Miroslav Oborník, Jaromír Cihlář, Arnab Pain, Julius Lukeš and Patrick J. Keeling

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 4, issue 6, pages 626-635
Published in print January 2012 |
Published online May 2012 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI:

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  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
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The transition from endosymbiont to organelle in eukaryotic cells involves the transfer of significant numbers of genes to the host genomes, a process known as endosymbiotic gene transfer (EGT). In the case of plastid organelles, EGTs have been shown to leave a footprint in the nuclear genome that can be indicative of ancient photosynthetic activity in present-day plastid-lacking organisms, or even hint at the existence of cryptic plastids. Here, we evaluated the impact of EGT on eukaryote genomes by reanalyzing the recently published EST dataset for Chromera velia, an interesting test case of a photosynthetic alga closely related to apicomplexan parasites. Previously, 513 genes were reported to originate from red and green algae in a 1:1 ratio. In contrast, by manually inspecting newly generated trees indicating putative algal ancestry, we recovered only 51 genes congruent with EGT, of which 23 and 9 were of red and green algal origin, respectively, whereas 19 were ambiguous regarding the algal provenance. Our approach also uncovered 109 genes that branched within a monocot angiosperm clade, most likely representing a contamination. We emphasize the lack of congruence and the subjectivity resulting from independent phylogenomic screens for EGT, which appear to call for extreme caution when drawing conclusions for major evolutionary events.

Keywords: Endosymbiotic gene transfer; plastid evolution; protist; algae; chromera

Journal Article.  4704 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

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