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Trends Genet. 2013 Aug;29(8):469-78. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Widespread decay of vitamin-related pathways: coincidence or consequence?

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EA, UK. keh53@cam.ac.uk


The advent of modern genomics has provided an unparalleled opportunity to consider the gene complement of an organism, and scrutinize metabolic pathways that are no longer active. This approach has led to an increasing number of reports of vitamin-associated pathway deterioration, with many indicating that independent gene-loss events of one or a few key genes have led to vitamin auxotrophy. Nonfunctional unitary pseudogenes belonging to these pathways are found in several species, demonstrating that these are recent evolutionary processes. Here, we examine the commonalities in the cellular roles and metabolism of vitamins that might have led to these losses. The complex pattern of vitamin auxotrophy across the eukaryotic tree of life is intimately connected with the interdependence between organisms. The importance of this process in terms of shaping communities on the one hand, and facilitating symbioses between organisms on the other, is only just beginning to be recognized.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


algae; comparative genomics; evolution; pseudogenes; symbiosis; vitamin auxotrophy

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