Genome reduction by deletion of paralogs in the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus

Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Oct;28(10):2751-60. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr081. Epub 2011 Apr 29.


Several isolates of the marine cyanobacterial genus Prochlorococcus have smaller genome sizes than those of the closely related genus Synechococcus. In order to test whether loss of protein-coding genes has contributed to genome size reduction in Prochlorococcus, we reconstructed events of gene family evolution over a strongly supported phylogeny of 12 Prochlorococcus genomes and 9 Synechococcus genomes. Significantly, more events both of loss of paralogs within gene families and of loss of entire gene families occurred in Prochlorococcus than in Synechococcus. The number of nonancestral gene families in genomes of both genera was positively correlated with the extent of genomic islands (GIs), consistent with the hypothesis that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is associated with GIs. However, even when only isolates with comparable extents of GIs were compared, significantly more events of gene family loss and of paralog loss were seen in Prochlorococcus than in Synechococcus, implying that HGT is not the primary reason for the genome size difference between the two genera.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genome Size / genetics*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Genomics
  • Phylogeny
  • Prochlorococcus / classification
  • Prochlorococcus / genetics*
  • Sequence Deletion / genetics*
  • Synechococcus / classification
  • Synechococcus / genetics