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Mol Genet Genomics. 2007 Oct;278(4):393-402. Epub 2007 Jun 26.

Dating the early evolution of plants: detection and molecular clock analyses of orthologs.

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Plant Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Schaenzlestr. 1, 79104, Freiburg, Germany.


Orthologs generally are under selective pressure against loss of function, while paralogs usually accumulate mutations and finally die or deviate in terms of function or regulation. Most ortholog detection methods contaminate the resulting datasets with a substantial amount of paralogs. Therefore we aimed to implement a straightforward method that allows the detection of ortholog clusters with a reduced amount of paralogs from completely sequenced genomes. The described cross-species expansion of the reciprocal best BLAST hit method is a time-effective method for ortholog detection, which results in 68% truly orthologous clusters and the procedure specifically enriches single-copy orthologs. The detection of true orthologs can provide a phylogenetic toolkit to better understand evolutionary processes. In a study across six photosynthetic eukaryotes, nuclear genes of putative mitochondrial origin were shown to be over-represented among single copy orthologs. These orthologs are involved in fundamental biological processes like amino acid metabolism or translation. Molecular clock analyses based on this dataset yielded divergence time estimates for the red/green algae (1,142 MYA), green algae/land plant (725 MYA), mosses/seed plant (496 MYA), gymno-/angiosperm (385 MYA) and monocotyledons/core eudicotyledons (301 MYA) divergence times.

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