Differential gene retention in plastids of common recent origin

Mol Biol Evol. 2010 Jul;27(7):1530-7. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq032. Epub 2010 Feb 1.


The cyanobacterium-derived plastids of algae and plants have supported the diversification of much of extant eukaryotic life. Inferences about early events in plastid evolution must rely on reconstructing events that occurred over a billion years ago. In contrast, the photosynthetic amoeba Paulinella chromatophora provides an exceptional model to study organelle evolution in a prokaryote-eukaryote (primary) endosymbiosis that occurred approximately 60 mya. Here we sequenced the plastid genome (0.977 Mb) from the recently described Paulinella FK01 and compared the sequence with the existing data from the sister taxon Paulinella M0880/a. Alignment of the two plastid genomes shows significant conservation of gene order and only a handful of minor gene rearrangements. Analysis of gene content reveals 66 differential gene losses that appear to be outright gene deletions rather than endosymbiotic gene transfers to the host nuclear genome. Phylogenomic analysis validates the plastid ancestor as a member of the Synechococcus-Prochlorococcus group, and the cyanobacterial provenance of all plastid genes suggests that these organelles were not targets of interphylum gene transfers after endosymbiosis. Inspection of 681 DNA alignments of protein-encoding genes shows that the vast majority have dN/dS ratios <<1, providing evidence for purifying selection. Our study demonstrates that plastid genomes in sister taxa are strongly constrained by selection but follow distinct trajectories during the earlier phases of organelle evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Genome, Plastid*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Paullinia / classification
  • Paullinia / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plastids / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Symbiosis