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Genome Biol Evol. 2013;5(6):1200-11. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evt087.

Spliced DNA sequences in the Paramecium germline: their properties and evolutionary potential.

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Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster, Germany.


Despite playing a crucial role in germline-soma differentiation, the evolutionary significance of developmentally regulated genome rearrangements (DRGRs) has received scant attention. An example of DRGR is DNA splicing, a process that removes segments of DNA interrupting genic and/or intergenic sequences. Perhaps, best known for shaping immune-system genes in vertebrates, DNA splicing plays a central role in the life of ciliated protozoa, where thousands of germline DNA segments are eliminated after sexual reproduction to regenerate a functional somatic genome. Here, we identify and chronicle the properties of 5,286 sequences that putatively undergo DNA splicing (i.e., internal eliminated sequences [IESs]) across the genomes of three closely related species of the ciliate Paramecium (P. tetraurelia, P. biaurelia, and P. sexaurelia). The study reveals that these putative IESs share several physical characteristics. Although our results are consistent with excision events being largely conserved between species, episodes of differential IES retention/excision occur, may have a recent origin, and frequently involve coding regions. Our findings indicate interconversion between somatic--often coding--DNA sequences and noncoding IESs, and provide insights into the role of DNA splicing in creating potentially functional genetic innovation.


DNA splicing; ciliated protozoa; developmentally regulated genome rearrangements; genome evolution; internal eliminated sequences

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