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Elife. 2019 May 31;8. pii: e45017. doi: 10.7554/eLife.45017.

The genomes of polyextremophilic cyanidiales contain 1% horizontally transferred genes with diverse adaptive functions.

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Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS), Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Department of Plant Biology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, United States.
Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, Arizona State University, Mesa, United States.
Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, United States.


The role and extent of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in eukaryotes are hotly disputed topics that impact our understanding of the origin of metabolic processes and the role of organelles in cellular evolution. We addressed this issue by analyzing 10 novel Cyanidiales genomes and determined that 1% of their gene inventory is HGT-derived. Numerous HGT candidates share a close phylogenetic relationship with prokaryotes that live in similar habitats as the Cyanidiales and encode functions related to polyextremophily. HGT candidates differ from native genes in GC-content, number of splice sites, and gene expression. HGT candidates are more prone to loss, which may explain the absence of a eukaryotic pan-genome. Therefore, the lack of a pan-genome and cumulative effects fail to provide substantive arguments against our hypothesis of recurring HGT followed by differential loss in eukaryotes. The maintenance of 1% HGTs, even under selection for genome reduction, underlines the importance of non-endosymbiosis related foreign gene acquisition.


Cyanidiales; evolution; evolutionary biology; genome; horizontal gene transfer; lateral gene transfer; red algae

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