Biased gene transfer mimics patterns created through shared ancestry.

Academic Article


  • In phylogenetic reconstruction, two types of bacterial tyrosyl-tRNA synthetases (TyrRS) form distinct clades with many bacterial phyla represented in both clades. Very few taxa possess both forms, and maximum likelihood analysis of the distribution of TyrRS types suggests horizontal gene transfer (HGT), rather than an ancient duplication followed by differential gene loss, as the contributor to the evolutionary history of TyrRS in bacteria. However, for each TyrRS type, phylogenetic reconstruction yields phylogenies similar to the ribosomal phylogeny, revealing that frequent gene transfer has not destroyed the expected phylogeny; rather, the expected phylogenetic signal was reinforced or even created by HGT. We show that biased HGT can mimic patterns created through shared ancestry by in silico simulation. Furthermore, in cases where genomic synteny is sufficient to allow comparisons of relative gene positions, both tyrRS types occupy equivalent positions in closely related genomes, rejecting the loss hypothesis. Although the two types of bacterial TyrRS are only distantly related and only rarely coexist in a single genome, they have many features in common with alleles that are swapped between related lineages. We propose to label these functionally similar homologs as homeoalleles. We conclude that the observed phylogenetic pattern reflects both vertical inheritance and biased HGT and that the signal caused by common organismal descent is difficult to distinguish from the signal due to biased gene transfer.
  • Authors

  • Andam, Cheryl
  • Williams, David
  • Gogarten, J Peter
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 8, 2010
  • Keywords

  • Bacteria
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Tyrosine-tRNA Ligase
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 10679
  • End Page

  • 10684
  • Volume

  • 107
  • Issue

  • 23