Recent advances in the accumulation of genetic mapping and DNA sequence information from several salmonid species support the long standing view of an autopolyploid origin of these fishes (i.e., 4R). However, the paralogy relationships of the chromosomal segments descendent from earlier polyploidization events (i.e., 2R/3R) largely remain unknown, mainly due to an unbalanced pseudogenization of paralogous genes that were once resident on the ancient duplicated segments. Inter-specific conserved noncoding elements (CNE) might hold the key in identifying these regions, if they are associated with arrays of genes that have been highly conserved in syntenic blocks through evolution. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the chromosomal positions of subset of CNE in the rainbow trout genome using a comparative genomic framework.
Through a genome wide analysis, we selected 41 pairs of adjacent CNE located on various chromosomes in zebrafish and obtained their intervening, less conserved, sequence information from rainbow trout. We identified 56 distinct fragments corresponding to about 150 Kbp of sequence data that were localized to 67 different chromosomal regions in the rainbow trout genome. The genomic positions of many duplicated CNE provided additional support for some previously suggested homeologies in this species. Additionally, we now propose 40 new potential paralogous affinities by analyzing the variation in the segregation patterns of some multi-copy CNE along with the synteny association comparison using several model vertebrates. Some of these regions appear to carry signatures of the 1R, 2R or 3R duplications. A subset of these CNE markers also demonstrated high utility in identifying homologous chromosomal segments in the genomes of Atlantic salmon and Arctic charr.
CNE seem to be more efficacious than coding sequences in providing insights into the ancient paralogous affinities within the vertebrate genomes. Such a feature makes these elements extremely attractive for comparative genomics studies, as they can be treated as 'anchor' markers to investigate the association of distally located candidate genes on the homologous genomic segments of closely or distantly related organisms.