Horizontal gene transfer in cyanobacterial signature genes.

TitleHorizontal gene transfer in cyanobacterial signature genes.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsYerrapragada, S, Siefert, JL, Fox, GE
JournalMethods Mol Biol
Date Published2009
KeywordsCyanobacteria, Gene Transfer, Horizontal, Genes, Bacterial, Models, Genetic, Phenotype, Phylogeny, RNA, Bacterial, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Comparison of 15 phylogenetically diverse cyanobacterial genomes identified an updated list of 183 signature genes that are widely found in cyanobacteria but absent in non-cyanobacterial species. These signature genes comprise the unique portion of the core cyanobacterial phenotype, and their absence from other lineages implies that if they arose by horizontal gene transfer (HGT), it likely occurred before the last shared cyanobacterial ancestor. A remaining issue is whether or not these signature genes would be relatively immune to HGT within the cyanobacterial lineage. Phylogenetic trees for each signature gene were constructed and compared to cyanobacterial groupings based on 16S rRNA sequences, with clear incongruence considered indicative of HGT. Approximately 18% of the signature genes exhibited such anomalies, indicating that the incidence of inter-lineage HGT has been significant. A preliminary analysis of intra-lineage transfer was conducted using four Synechococcus/Prochlorococcus species. In this case, it was found that 13% of the signature genes had likely been involved in within group HGT. In order to compare this level of likely HGT to other gene types, the analysis was extended to 1380 genes shared by the four Synechococcus/Prochlorococcus species. Successful HGT events appear to be most frequent among genes involved in photosynthesis/respiration and genes of unknown function, many of which are signature genes. This is consistent with the hypothesis that genes that most directly effect competition and adaptation of similar species in neighboring niches would be most usefully transferred. Such genes may be more easily integrated into a new genomic environment due to close similarities in regulatory circuits. In summary, signature genes are not immune from HGT and in fact may be favored candidates for HGT among closely related cyanobacterial strains.

Alternate JournalMethods Mol. Biol.
PubMed ID19271195