Inferring genome trees by using a filter to eliminate phylogenetically discordant sequences and a distance matrix based on mean normalized BLASTP scores

J Bacteriol. 2002 Apr;184(8):2072-80. doi: 10.1128/JB.184.8.2072-2080.2002.


Darwin's paradigm holds that the diversity of present-day organisms has arisen via a process of genetic descent with modification, as on a bifurcating tree. Evidence is accumulating that genes are sometimes transferred not along lineages but rather across lineages. To the extent that this is so, Darwin's paradigm can apply only imperfectly to genomes, potentially complicating or perhaps undermining attempts to reconstruct historical relationships among genomes (i.e., a genome tree). Whether most genes in a genome have arisen via treelike (vertical) descent or by lateral transfer across lineages can be tested if enough complete genome sequences are used. We define a phylogenetically discordant sequence (PDS) as an open reading frame (ORF) that exhibits patterns of similarity relationships statistically distinguishable from those of most other ORFs in the same genome. PDSs represent between 6.0 and 16.8% (mean, 10.8%) of the analyzable ORFs in the genomes of 28 bacteria, eight archaea, and one eukaryote (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). In this study we developed and assessed a distance-based approach, based on mean pairwise sequence similarity, for generating genome trees. Exclusion of PDSs improved bootstrap support for basal nodes but altered few topological features, indicating that there is little systematic bias among PDSs. Many but not all features of the genome tree from which PDSs were excluded are consistent with the 16S rRNA tree.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Protein*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / chemistry
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S