Evolutionary origins and impacts of genome architecture in ciliates

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019 Jul;1447(1):110-118. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14108. Epub 2019 May 10.


Genome architecture is well diversified among eukaryotes in terms of size and content, with many being radically shaped by ancient and ongoing genome conflicts with transposable elements (e.g., the large transposon-rich genomes common among plants). In ciliates, a group of microbial eukaryotes with distinct somatic and germ-line genomes present in a single cell, the consequences of these genome conflicts are most apparent in their developmentally programmed genome rearrangements. This complicated developmental phenomenon has largely overshadowed and outpaced our understanding of how germ-line and somatic genome architectures have influenced the evolutionary dynamism and potential in these taxa. In our review, we highlight three central concepts: how the evolution of atypical ciliate germ-line genome architectures is linked to ancient genome conflicts; how the complex, epigenetically guided transformation of germline to soma during development can generate widespread genetic variation; and how these features, coupled with their unusual life cycle, have increased the rate of molecular evolution linked to genome architecture in these taxa.

Keywords: ciliates; evolution; genome architecture; genome evolution; transposable elements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ciliophora / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans