Paramecium Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution

Annu Rev Genet. 2023 Nov 27:57:391-410. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-071819-104035.


The ciliate genus Paramecium served as one of the first model systems in microbial eukaryotic genetics, contributing much to the early understanding of phenomena as diverse as genome rearrangement, cryptic speciation, cytoplasmic inheritance, and endosymbiosis, as well as more recently to the evolution of mating types, introns, and roles of small RNAs in DNA processing. Substantial progress has recently been made in the area of comparative and population genomics. Paramecium species combine some of the lowest known mutation rates with some of the largest known effective populations, along with likely very high recombination rates, thereby harboring a population-genetic environment that promotes an exceptionally efficient capacity for selection. As a consequence, the genomes are extraordinarily streamlined, with very small intergenic regions combined with small numbers of tiny introns. The subject of the bulk of Paramecium research, the ancient Paramecium aurelia species complex, is descended from two whole-genome duplication events that retain high degrees of synteny, thereby providing an exceptional platform for studying the fates of duplicate genes. Despite having a common ancestor dating to several hundred million years ago, the known descendant species are morphologically indistinguishable, raising significant questions about the common view that gene duplications lead to the origins of evolutionary novelties.

Keywords: Paramecium; ciliates; evolutionary cell biology; gene duplication; genome evolution; population genomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome
  • Genomics
  • Mutation Rate
  • Paramecium* / genetics