The Extinction Dynamics of Bacterial Pseudogenes

PLoS Genet. 2010 Aug 5;6(8):e1001050. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001050.

Abstract

Pseudogenes are usually considered to be completely neutral sequences whose evolution is shaped by random mutations and chance events. It is possible, however, for disrupted genes to generate products that are deleterious due either to the energetic costs of their transcription and translation or to the formation of toxic proteins. We found that after their initial formation, the youngest pseudogenes in Salmonella genomes have a very high likelihood of being removed by deletional processes and are eliminated too rapidly to be governed by a strictly neutral model of stochastic loss. Those few highly degraded pseudogenes that have persisted in Salmonella genomes correspond to genes with low expression levels and low connectivity in gene networks, such that their inactivation and any initial deleterious effects associated with their inactivation are buffered. Although pseudogenes have long been considered the paradigm of neutral evolution, the distribution of pseudogenes among Salmonella strains indicates that removal of many of these apparently functionless regions is attributable to positive selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Gene Deletion*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Pseudogenes*
  • Salmonella / classification
  • Salmonella / genetics*