Parallel evolution of amphioxus and vertebrate small-scale gene duplications

Genome Biol. 2022 Nov 18;23(1):243. doi: 10.1186/s13059-022-02808-6.


Background: Amphioxus are non-vertebrate chordates characterized by a slow morphological and molecular evolution. They share the basic chordate body-plan and genome organization with vertebrates but lack their 2R whole-genome duplications and their developmental complexity. For these reasons, amphioxus are frequently used as an outgroup to study vertebrate genome evolution and Evo-Devo. Aside from whole-genome duplications, genes continuously duplicate on a smaller scale. Small-scale duplicated genes can be found in both amphioxus and vertebrate genomes, while only the vertebrate genomes have duplicated genes product of their 2R whole-genome duplications. Here, we explore the history of small-scale gene duplications in the amphioxus lineage and compare it to small- and large-scale gene duplication history in vertebrates.

Results: We present a study of the European amphioxus (Branchiostoma lanceolatum) gene duplications thanks to a new, high-quality genome reference. We find that, despite its overall slow molecular evolution, the amphioxus lineage has had a history of small-scale duplications similar to the one observed in vertebrates. We find parallel gene duplication profiles between amphioxus and vertebrates and conserved functional constraints in gene duplication. Moreover, amphioxus gene duplicates show levels of expression and patterns of functional specialization similar to the ones observed in vertebrate duplicated genes. We also find strong conservation of gene synteny between two distant amphioxus species, B. lanceolatum and B. floridae, with two major chromosomal rearrangements.

Conclusions: In contrast to their slower molecular and morphological evolution, amphioxus' small-scale gene duplication history resembles that of the vertebrate lineage both in quantitative and in functional terms.

Keywords: Amphioxus; Branchiostoma lanceolatum; Comparative genomics; Gene duplication; Genome assembly; Ohnolog; Small-scale duplication; Vertebrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Duplication
  • Lancelets* / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Vertebrates / genetics
  • Vertebrates / metabolism