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Mol Biol Evol. 2014 Mar;31(3):625-35. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst254. Epub 2013 Dec 12.

Reduced nuclear genomes maintain high gene transcription levels.

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Integrated Microbial Biodiversity Program, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Reductive genome evolution is seen in organisms living in close association with each other, such as in endosymbiosis, symbiosis, and parasitism. The reduced genomes of endosymbionts and parasites often exhibit similar features such as high gene densities and A+T compositional bias. Little is known about how the regulation of gene expression has been affected in organisms with highly compacted genomes. We studied gene transcription patterns in "nucleomorph" genomes, which are relic nuclear genomes of algal endosymbionts found in cryptophytes and chlorarachniophytes. We examined nuclear and nucleomorph gene transcription patterns using RNA-Seq transcriptome and genome mapping analyses in representatives of both lineages. In all four examined genomes, the most highly transcribed nucleomorph gene category was found to be plastid-associated genes. Remarkably, only 0.49-3.37% of the nucleomorph genomes of these organisms did not have any mRNA counterpart in our RNA-Seq data sets, and nucleomorph genes show equal or higher levels of transcription than their counterparts in the nuclear genomes. We hypothesize that elevated levels of nucleomorph gene transcription may serve to counteract the degradation or modification of protein function due to the loss of interacting proteins in the nucleomorph and nucleomorph-associated subcellular compartments.


algae; endosymbiosis; genome reduction; nucleomorphs; transcription

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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