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PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4357. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004357. Epub 2009 Feb 3.

The tree versus the forest: the fungal tree of life and the topological diversity within the yeast phylome.

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Bioinformatics Department, Centro de Investigación Príncipe Felipe, València, Spain.


A recurrent topic in phylogenomics is the combination of various sequence alignments to reconstruct a tree that describes the evolutionary relationships within a group of species. However, such approach has been criticized for not being able to properly represent the topological diversity found among gene trees. To evaluate the representativeness of species trees based on concatenated alignments, we reconstruct several fungal species trees and compare them with the complete collection of phylogenies of genes encoded in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome. We found that, despite high levels of among-gene topological variation, the species trees do represent widely supported phylogenetic relationships. Most topological discrepancies between gene and species trees are concentrated in certain conflicting nodes. We propose to map such information on the species tree so that it accounts for the levels of congruence across the genome. We identified the lack of sufficient accuracy of current alignment and phylogenetic methods as an important source for the topological diversity encountered among gene trees. Finally, we discuss the implications of the high levels of topological variation for phylogeny-based orthology prediction strategies.

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