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PLoS One. 2014 Jun 12;9(6):e99480. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099480. eCollection 2014.

Inferring gene family histories in yeast identifies lineage specific expansions.

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Computational and Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, United States of America.


The complement of genes found in the genome is a balance between gene gain and gene loss. Knowledge of the specific genes that are gained and lost over evolutionary time allows an understanding of the evolution of biological functions. Here we use new evolutionary models to infer gene family histories across complete yeast genomes; these models allow us to estimate the relative genome-wide rates of gene birth, death, innovation and extinction (loss of an entire family) for the first time. We show that the rates of gene family evolution vary both between gene families and between species. We are also able to identify those families that have experienced rapid lineage specific expansion/contraction and show that these families are enriched for specific functions. Moreover, we find that families with specific functions are repeatedly expanded in multiple species, suggesting the presence of common adaptations and that these family expansions/contractions are not random. Additionally, we identify potential specialisations, unique to specific species, in the functions of lineage specific expanded families. These results suggest that an important mechanism in the evolution of genome content is the presence of lineage-specific gene family changes.

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