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PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4568. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004568. Epub 2009 Feb 23.

Phylogenomics: gene duplication, unrecognized paralogy and outgroup choice.

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  • 1National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Comparative genomics has revealed the ubiquity of gene and genome duplication and subsequent gene loss. In the case of gene duplication and subsequent loss, gene trees can differ from species trees, thus frequent gene duplication poses a challenge for reconstruction of species relationships. Here I address the case of multi-gene sets of putative orthologs that include some unrecognized paralogs due to ancestral gene duplication, and ask how outgroups should best be chosen to reduce the degree of non-species tree (NST) signal. Consideration of expected internal branch lengths supports several conclusions: (i) when a single outgroup is used, the degree of NST signal arising from gene duplication is either independent of outgroup choice, or is minimized by use of a maximally closely related post-duplication (MCRPD) outgroup; (ii) when two outgroups are used, NST signal is minimized by using one MCRPD outgroup, while the position of the second outgroup is of lesser importance; and (iii) when two outgroups are used, the ability to detect gene trees that are inconsistent with known aspects of the species tree is maximized by use of one MCRPD, and is either independent of the position of the second outgroup, or is maximized for a more distantly related second outgroup. Overall, these results generalize the utility of closely-related outgroups for phylogenetic analysis.

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