The American Paddlefish Genome Provides Novel Insights into Chromosomal Evolution and Bone Mineralization in Early Vertebrates

Mol Biol Evol. 2021 Apr 13;38(4):1595-1607. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msaa326.


Sturgeons and paddlefishes (Acipenseriformes) occupy the basal position of ray-finned fishes, although they have cartilaginous skeletons as in Chondrichthyes. This evolutionary status and their morphological specializations make them a research focus, but their complex genomes (polyploidy and the presence of microchromosomes) bring obstacles and challenges to molecular studies. Here, we generated the first high-quality genome assembly of the American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) at a chromosome level. Comparative genomic analyses revealed a recent species-specific whole-genome duplication event, and extensive chromosomal changes, including head-to-head fusions of pairs of intact, large ancestral chromosomes within the paddlefish. We also provide an overview of the paddlefish SCPP (secretory calcium-binding phosphoprotein) repertoire that is responsible for tissue mineralization, demonstrating that the earliest flourishing of SCPP members occurred at least before the split between Acipenseriformes and teleosts. In summary, this genome assembly provides a genetic resource for understanding chromosomal evolution in polyploid nonteleost fishes and bone mineralization in early vertebrates.

Keywords: American paddlefish; bone mineralization; chromosome evolution; early vertebrates; sturgeon and paddlefish; whole-genome duplication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Calcification, Physiologic / genetics*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Chromosomes*
  • Fishes / genetics*
  • Genes, Homeobox
  • Genome*
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins