The ortholog conjecture posits that orthologous genes are functionally more similar than paralogous genes. This conjecture is a cornerstone of phylogenomics and is used daily by both computational and experimental biologists in predicting, interpreting, and understanding gene functions. A recent study, however, challenged the ortholog conjecture on the basis of experimentally derived Gene Ontology (GO) annotations and microarray gene expression data in human and mouse. It instead proposed that the functional similarity of homologous genes is primarily determined by the cellular context in which the genes act, explaining why a greater functional similarity of (within-species) paralogs than (between-species) orthologs was observed. Here we show that GO-based functional similarity between human and mouse orthologs, relative to that between paralogs, has been increasing in the last five years. Further, compared with paralogs, orthologs are less likely to be included in the same study, causing an underestimation in their functional similarity. A close examination of functional studies of homologs with identical protein sequences reveals experimental biases, annotation errors, and homology-based functional inferences that are labeled in GO as experimental. These problems and the temporary nature of the GO-based finding make the current GO inappropriate for testing the ortholog conjecture. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) is known to be superior to microarray for comparing the expressions of different genes or in different species. Our analysis of a large RNA-Seq dataset of multiple tissues from eight mammals and the chicken shows that the expression similarity between orthologs is significantly higher than that between within-species paralogs, supporting the ortholog conjecture and refuting the cellular context hypothesis for gene expression. We conclude that the ortholog conjecture remains largely valid to the extent that it has been tested, but further scrutiny using more and better functional data is needed.
Today's exceedingly high speed of genome sequencing, compared with the generally slow pace of functional assay, means that the functions of most genes identified from genome sequences will be annotated only through computational prediction. The primary source of information for this prediction is the functions of orthologous genes in model organisms, because orthologs are widely believed to be functionally similar, especially when compared with paralogs. This belief, known as the ortholog conjecture, was recently challenged on the basis of experimentally derived Gene Ontology (GO) annotations and microarray gene expression data, because these data revealed greater functional and expressional similarities of paralogs than orthologs. Here we show that GO-based estimates of functional similarities are temporary and unreliable, due to experimental biases, annotation errors, and homology-based functional inferences that are incorrectly labeled as experimental in GO. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) is superior to microarray for comparing the expressions of different genes or in different species, and our analysis of a large RNA-Seq dataset provides strong support to the ortholog conjecture for gene expression. We conclude that the ortholog conjecture remains largely valid to the extent that it has been tested, but further scrutiny using more and better functional data is needed.
A common assumption in comparative genomics is that orthologous genes share greater functional similarity than do paralogous genes (the “ortholog conjecture”). Many methods used to computationally predict protein function are based on this assumption, even though it is largely untested. Here we present the first large-scale test of the ortholog conjecture using comparative functional genomic data from human and mouse. We use the experimentally derived functions of more than 8,900 genes, as well as an independent microarray dataset, to directly assess our ability to predict function using both orthologs and paralogs. Both datasets show that paralogs are often a much better predictor of function than are orthologs, even at lower sequence identities. Among paralogs, those found within the same species are consistently more functionally similar than those found in a different species. We also find that paralogous pairs residing on the same chromosome are more functionally similar than those on different chromosomes, perhaps due to higher levels of interlocus gene conversion between these pairs. In addition to offering implications for the computational prediction of protein function, our results shed light on the relationship between sequence divergence and functional divergence. We conclude that the most important factor in the evolution of function is not amino acid sequence, but rather the cellular context in which proteins act.
The use of model organisms in biological research rests upon the assumption that gene and protein functions discovered in one organism are likely to be the same or similar in another organism. Hence, the assumption that experiments in mouse will tell us about the function of genes in humans. A guiding principle in the assignment of function from one organism to another is that single-copy genes (“orthologs”) are statistically more likely to provide functional information than are multi-copy genes, whether in the same organism or different organisms. Here we have tested this idea by examining genes with known functions in human and mouse. Surprisingly, we find that multi-copy genes are equally or more likely to provide accurate functional information than are single-copy genes. Our results suggest that the organism itself plays at least as large a role in determining the function of genes as does the particular sequence of the gene alone. This insight will benefit the assignment of function to genes whose roles are not yet known by widening the pool of appropriate genes from which function can be inferred.
A recent paper (Nehrt et al., PLoS Comput. Biol. 7:e1002073, 2011) has proposed a metric for the “functional similarity” between two genes that uses only the Gene Ontology (GO) annotations directly derived from published experimental results. Applying this metric, the authors concluded that paralogous genes within the mouse genome or the human genome are more functionally similar on average than orthologous genes between these genomes, an unexpected result with broad implications if true. We suggest, based on both theoretical and empirical considerations, that this proposed metric should not be interpreted as a functional similarity, and therefore cannot be used to support any conclusions about the “ortholog conjecture” (or, more properly, the “ortholog functional conservation hypothesis”). First, we reexamine the case studies presented by Nehrt et al. as examples of orthologs with divergent functions, and come to a very different conclusion: they actually exemplify how GO annotations for orthologous genes provide complementary information about conserved biological functions. We then show that there is a global ascertainment bias in the experiment-based GO annotations for human and mouse genes: particular types of experiments tend to be performed in different model organisms. We conclude that the reported statistical differences in annotations between pairs of orthologous genes do not reflect differences in biological function, but rather complementarity in experimental approaches. Our results underscore two general considerations for researchers proposing novel types of analysis based on the GO: 1) that GO annotations are often incomplete, potentially in a biased manner, and subject to an “open world assumption” (absence of an annotation does not imply absence of a function), and 2) that conclusions drawn from a novel, large-scale GO analysis should whenever possible be supported by careful, in-depth examination of examples, to help ensure the conclusions have a justifiable biological basis.
Understanding gene function—how individual genes contribute to the biology of an organism at the molecular, cellular and organism levels—is one of the primary aims of biomedical research. It has been a longstanding tenet of model organism research that experimental knowledge obtained in one organism is often applicable to other organisms, particularly if the organisms share the relevant genes because they inherited them from their common ancestor. Nevertheless this tenet is, like any hypothesis, not beyond question. A recent paper has termed this hypothesis a “conjecture,” and performed a statistical analysis, the results of which were interpreted as evidence against the hypothesis. This statistical analysis relied on a computational representation of gene function, the Gene Ontology (GO). As representatives of the international consortium that produces the GO, we show how the apparent evidence against the “ortholog conjecture” can be better explained as an artifact of how molecular biology knowledge is accumulated. In short, a complementarity between knowledge obtained in mouse and human experimental systems was incorrectly interpreted as a disagreement. We discuss the proper interpretation of GO annotations and potential sources of bias, with an eye toward enhancing the informed use of the GO by the scientific community.
As orthologous proteins are expected to retain function more often than other homologs, they are often used for functional annotation transfer between species. However, ortholog identification methods do not take into account changes in domain architecture, which are likely to modify a protein's function. By domain architecture we refer to the sequential arrangement of domains along a protein sequence.
To assess the level of domain architecture conservation among orthologs, we carried out a large-scale study of such events between human and 40 other species spanning the entire evolutionary range. We designed a score to measure domain architecture similarity and used it to analyze differences in domain architecture conservation between orthologs and paralogs relative to the conservation of primary sequence. We also statistically characterized the extents of different types of domain swapping events across pairs of orthologs and paralogs.
The analysis shows that orthologs exhibit greater domain architecture conservation than paralogous homologs, even when differences in average sequence divergence are compensated for, for homologs that have diverged beyond a certain threshold. We interpret this as an indication of a stronger selective pressure on orthologs than paralogs to retain the domain architecture required for the proteins to perform a specific function. In general, orthologs as well as the closest paralogous homologs have very similar domain architectures, even at large evolutionary separation.
The most common domain architecture changes observed in both ortholog and paralog pairs involved insertion/deletion of new domains, while domain shuffling and segment duplication/deletion were very infrequent.
On the whole, our results support the hypothesis that function conservation between orthologs demands higher domain architecture conservation than other types of homologs, relative to primary sequence conservation. This supports the notion that orthologs are functionally more similar than other types of homologs at the same evolutionary distance.
When analyzing protein sequences using sequence similarity searches, orthologous sequences (that diverged by speciation) are more reliable predictors of a new protein's function than paralogous sequences (that diverged by gene duplication). The utility of phylogenetic information in high-throughput genome annotation ("phylogenomics") is widely recognized, but existing approaches are either manual or not explicitly based on phylogenetic trees.
Here we present RIO (Resampled Inference of Orthologs), a procedure for automated phylogenomics using explicit phylogenetic inference. RIO analyses are performed over bootstrap resampled phylogenetic trees to estimate the reliability of orthology assignments. We also introduce supplementary concepts that are helpful for functional inference. RIO has been implemented as Perl pipeline connecting several C and Java programs. It is available at http://www.genetics.wustl.edu/eddy/forester/. A web server is at http://www.rio.wustl.edu/. RIO was tested on the Arabidopsis thaliana and Caenorhabditis elegans proteomes.
The RIO procedure is particularly useful for the automated detection of first representatives of novel protein subfamilies. We also describe how some orthologies can be misleading for functional inference.
New microbial genomes are sequenced at a high pace, allowing insight into the genetics of not only cultured microbes, but a wide range of metagenomic collections such as the human microbiome. To understand the deluge of genomic data we face, computational approaches for gene functional annotation are invaluable. We introduce a novel model for computational annotation that refines two established concepts: annotation based on homology and annotation based on phyletic profiling. The phyletic profiling-based model that includes both inferred orthologs and paralogs—homologs separated by a speciation and a duplication event, respectively—provides more annotations at the same average Precision than the model that includes only inferred orthologs. For experimental validation, we selected 38 poorly annotated Escherichia coli genes for which the model assigned one of three GO terms with high confidence: involvement in DNA repair, protein translation, or cell wall synthesis. Results of antibiotic stress survival assays on E. coli knockout mutants showed high agreement with our model's estimates of accuracy: out of 38 predictions obtained at the reported Precision of 60%, we confirmed 25 predictions, indicating that our confidence estimates can be used to make informed decisions on experimental validation. Our work will contribute to making experimental validation of computational predictions more approachable, both in cost and time. Our predictions for 998 prokaryotic genomes include ∼400000 specific annotations with the estimated Precision of 90%, ∼19000 of which are highly specific—e.g. “penicillin binding,” “tRNA aminoacylation for protein translation,” or “pathogenesis”—and are freely available at http://gorbi.irb.hr/.
While both the number and the diversity of sequenced prokaryotic genomes grow rapidly, the number of specific assignments of gene functions in the databases remains low and skewed toward the model prokaryote Escherichia coli. To aid in understanding the full set of newly sequenced genes, we created a computational model for assignment of function to prokaryotic genomes. The result is an innovative framework for orthology and paralogy-aware phyletic profiling that provides a large number of computational annotations with high predictive accuracy in train/test evaluations. Our predictions include annotations for 1.3 million genes with the estimated Precision of 90%; these, and many more predictions for 998 prokaryotic genomes are freely available at http://gorbi.irb.hr/. More importantly, we show a proof of principle that our functional annotation model can be used to generate new biological hypotheses: we performed experiments on 38 E. coli knockout mutants and showed that our annotation model provides realistic estimates of predictive accuracy. With this, our work will contribute to making experimental validation of computational predictions more approachable, both in cost and time.
Gene ortholog identification is now a major objective for mining the increasing amount of sequence data generated by complete or partial genome sequencing projects. Comparative and functional genomics urgently need a method for ortholog detection to reduce gene function inference and to aid in the identification of conserved or divergent genetic pathways between several species. As gene functions change during evolution, reconstructing the evolutionary history of genes should be a more accurate way to differentiate orthologs from paralogs. Phylogenomics takes into account phylogenetic information from high-throughput genome annotation and is the most straightforward way to infer orthologs. However, procedures for automatic detection of orthologs are still scarce and suffer from several limitations.
We developed a procedure for ortholog prediction between Oryza sativa and Arabidopsis thaliana. Firstly, we established an efficient method to cluster A. thaliana and O. sativa full proteomes into gene families. Then, we developed an optimized phylogenomics pipeline for ortholog inference. We validated the full procedure using test sets of orthologs and paralogs to demonstrate that our method outperforms pairwise methods for ortholog predictions.
Our procedure achieved a high level of accuracy in predicting ortholog and paralog relationships. Phylogenomic predictions for all validated gene families in both species were easily achieved and we can conclude that our methodology outperforms similarly based methods.
We present here the PhIGs database, a phylogenomic resource for sequenced genomes. Although many methods exist for clustering gene families, very few attempt to create truly orthologous clusters sharing descent from a single ancestral gene across a range of evolutionary depths. Although these non-phylogenetic gene family clusters have been used broadly for gene annotation, errors are known to be introduced by the artifactual association of slowly evolving paralogs and lack of annotation for those more rapidly evolving. A full phylogenetic framework is necessary for accurate inference of function and for many studies that address pattern and mechanism of the evolution of the genome. The automated generation of evolutionary gene clusters, creation of gene trees, determination of orthology and paralogy relationships, and the correlation of this information with gene annotations, expression information, and genomic context is an important resource to the scientific community.
The PhIGs database currently contains 23 completely sequenced genomes of fungi and metazoans, containing 409,653 genes that have been grouped into 42,645 gene clusters. Each gene cluster is built such that the gene sequence distances are consistent with the known organismal relationships and in so doing, maximizing the likelihood for the clusters to represent truly orthologous genes. The PhIGs website contains tools that allow the study of genes within their phylogenetic framework through keyword searches on annotations, such as GO and InterPro assignments, and sequence similarity searches by BLAST and HMM. In addition to displaying the evolutionary relationships of the genes in each cluster, the website also allows users to view the relative physical positions of homologous genes in specified sets of genomes.
Accurate analyses of genes and genomes can only be done within their full phylogenetic context. The PhIGs database and corresponding website address this problem for the scientific community. Our goal is to expand the content as more genomes are sequenced and use this framework to incorporate more analyses.
The accumulation of complete genomic sequences enhances the need for functional annotation. Associating existing functional annotation of orthologs can speed up the annotation process and even examine the existing annotation. However, current protein sequence-based ortholog databases provide ambiguous and incomplete orthology in eukaryotes. It is because that isoforms, derived by alternative splicing (AS), often share higher sequence similarity to interfere the sequence-based identification. Gene-Oriented Ortholog Database (GOOD) employs genomic locations of transcripts to cluster AS-derived isoforms prior to ortholog delineation to eliminate the interference from AS. From the gene-oriented presentation, isoforms can be clearly associated to their genes to provide comprehensive ortholog information and further be discriminated from paralogs. Aside from, displaying clusters of isoforms between orthologous genes can present the evolution variation at the transcription level. Based on orthology, GOOD additionally comprises functional annotation from the Gene Ontology (GO) database. However, there exist redundant annotations, both parent and child terms assigned to the same gene, in the GO database. It is difficult to precisely draw the numerical comparison of term counts between orthologous genes annotated with redundant terms. Instead of the description only, GOOD further provides the GO graphs to reveal hierarchical-like relationships among divergent functionalities. Therefore, the redundancy of GO terms can be examined, and the context among compared terms is more comprehensive. In sum, GOOD can improve the interpretation in the molecular function from experiments in the model organism and provide clear comparative genomic annotation across organisms.
Database URL: http://goods.ibms.sinica.edu.tw/goods/
Gene duplication is integral to evolution, providing novel opportunities for organisms to diversify in function. One fundamental pathway of functional diversification among initially redundant gene copies, or paralogs, is via alterations in their expression patterns. Although the mechanisms underlying expression divergence are not completely understood, transcription factor binding sites and nucleosome occupancy are known to play a significant role in the process. Previous attempts to detect genomic variations mediating expression divergence in orthologs have had limited success for two primary reasons. First, it is inherently challenging to compare expressions among orthologs due to variable trans-acting effects and second, previous studies have quantified expression divergence in terms of an overall similarity of expression profiles across multiple samples, thereby obscuring condition-specific expression changes. Moreover, the inherently inter-correlated expressions among homologs present statistical challenges, not adequately addressed in many previous studies. Using rigorous statistical tests, here we characterize the relationship between cis element divergence and condition-specific expression divergence among paralogous genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In particular, among all combinations of gene family and TFs analyzed, we found a significant correlation between TF binding and the condition-specific expression patterns in over 20% of the cases. In addition, incorporating nucleosome occupancy reveals several additional correlations. For instance, our results suggest that GAL4 binding plays a major role in the expression divergence of the genes in the sugar transporter family. Our work presents a novel means of investigating the cis regulatory changes potentially mediating expression divergence in paralogous gene families under specific conditions.
Determining orthology relations among genes across multiple genomes is an important problem in the post-genomic era. Identifying orthologous genes can not only help predict functional annotations for newly sequenced or poorly characterized genomes, but can also help predict new protein–protein interactions. Unfortunately, determining orthology relation through computational methods is not straightforward due to the presence of paralogs. Traditional approaches have relied on pairwise sequence comparisons to construct graphs, which were then partitioned into putative clusters of orthologous groups. These methods do not attempt to preserve the non-transitivity and hierarchic nature of the orthology relation.
We propose a new method, COCO-CL, for hierarchical clustering of homology relations and identification of orthologous groups of genes. Unlike previous approaches, which are based on pairwise sequence comparisons, our method explores the correlation of evolutionary histories of individual genes in a more global context. COCO-CL can be used as a semi-independent method to delineate the orthology/paralogy relation for a refined set of homologous proteins obtained using a less-conservative clustering approach, or as a refiner that removes putative out-paralogs from clusters computed using a more inclusive approach. We analyze our clustering results manually, with support from literature and functional annotations. Since our orthology determination procedure does not employ a species tree to infer duplication events, it can be used in situations when the species tree is unknown or uncertain.
Orthologs (genes that have diverged after a speciation event) tend to have similar function, and so their prediction has become an important component of comparative genomics and genome annotation. The gold standard phylogenetic analysis approach of comparing available organismal phylogeny to gene phylogeny is not easily automated for genome-wide analysis; therefore, ortholog prediction for large genome-scale datasets is typically performed using a reciprocal-best-BLAST-hits (RBH) approach. One problem with RBH is that it will incorrectly predict a paralog as an ortholog when incomplete genome sequences or gene loss is involved. In addition, there is an increasing interest in identifying orthologs most likely to have retained similar function.
To address these issues, we present here a high-throughput computational method named Ortholuge that further evaluates previously predicted orthologs (including those predicted using an RBH-based approach) – identifying which orthologs most closely reflect species divergence and may more likely have similar function. Ortholuge analyzes phylogenetic distance ratios involving two comparison species and an outgroup species, noting cases where relative gene divergence is atypical. It also identifies some cases of gene duplication after species divergence. Through simulations of incomplete genome data/gene loss, we show that the vast majority of genes falsely predicted as orthologs by an RBH-based method can be identified. Ortholuge was then used to estimate the number of false-positives (predominantly paralogs) in selected RBH-predicted ortholog datasets, identifying approximately 10% paralogs in a eukaryotic data set (mouse-rat comparison) and 5% in a bacterial data set (Pseudomonas putida – Pseudomonas syringae species comparison). Higher quality (more precise) datasets of orthologs, which we term "ssd-orthologs" (supporting-species-divergence-orthologs), were also constructed. These datasets, as well as Ortholuge software that may be used to characterize other species' datasets, are available at (software under GNU General Public License).
The Ortholuge method reported here appears to significantly improve the specificity (precision) of high-throughput ortholog prediction for both bacterial and eukaryotic species. This method, and its associated software, will aid those performing various comparative genomics-based analyses, such as the prediction of conserved regulatory elements upstream of orthologous genes.
Accurate inference of orthologous genes is a pre-requisite for most comparative genomics studies, and is also important for functional annotation of new genomes. Identification of orthologous gene sets typically involves phylogenetic tree analysis, heuristic algorithms based on sequence conservation, synteny analysis, or some combination of these approaches. The most direct tree-based methods typically rely on the comparison of an individual gene tree with a species tree. Once the two trees are accurately constructed, orthologs are straightforwardly identified by the definition of orthology as those homologs that are related by speciation, rather than gene duplication, at their most recent point of origin. Although ideal for the purpose of orthology identification in principle, phylogenetic trees are computationally expensive to construct for large numbers of genes and genomes, and they often contain errors, especially at large evolutionary distances. Moreover, in many organisms, in particular prokaryotes and viruses, evolution does not appear to have followed a simple ‘tree-like’ mode, which makes conventional tree reconciliation inapplicable. Other, heuristic methods identify probable orthologs as the closest homologous pairs or groups of genes in a set of organisms. These approaches are faster and easier to automate than tree-based methods, with efficient implementations provided by graph-theoretical algorithms enabling comparisons of thousands of genomes. Comparisons of these two approaches show that, despite conceptual differences, they produce similar sets of orthologs, especially at short evolutionary distances. Synteny also can aid in identification of orthologs. Often, tree-based, sequence similarity- and synteny-based approaches can be combined into flexible hybrid methods.
homolog; ortholog; paralog; xenolog; orthologous groups; tree reconciliation; comparative genomics
Gene conversion events are often overlooked in analyses of genome evolution. In a conversion event, an interval of DNA sequence (not necessarily containing a gene) overwrites a highly similar sequence. The event creates relationships among genomic intervals that can confound attempts to identify orthologs and to transfer functional annotation between genomes. Here we examine 1,616,329 paralogous pairs of mouse genomic intervals, and detect conversion events in about 7.5% of them. Properties of the putative gene conversions are analyzed, such as the lengths of the paralogous pairs and the spacing between their sources and targets. Our approach is illustrated using conversion events in primate CCL gene clusters. Source code for our program is included in the 3SEQ_2D package, which is freely available at www.bx.psu.edu/miller_lab/.
algorithms; computational molecular biology; evolution
Prediction of orthologs (homologous genes that diverged because of speciation) is an integral component of many comparative genomics methods. Although orthologs are more likely to have similar function versus paralogs (genes that diverged because of duplication), recent studies have shown that their degree of functional conservation is variable. Also, there are inherent problems with several large-scale ortholog prediction approaches. To address these issues, we previously developed Ortholuge, which uses phylogenetic distance ratios to provide more precise ortholog assessments for a set of predicted orthologs. However, the original version of Ortholuge required manual intervention and was not easily accessible; therefore, we now report the development of OrtholugeDB, available online at http://www.pathogenomics.sfu.ca/ortholugedb. OrtholugeDB provides ortholog predictions for completely sequenced bacterial and archaeal genomes from NCBI based on reciprocal best Basic Local Alignment Search Tool hits, supplemented with further evaluation by the more precise Ortholuge method. The OrtholugeDB web interface facilitates user-friendly and flexible ortholog analysis, from single genes to genomes, plus flexible data download options. We compare Ortholuge with similar methods, showing how it may more consistently identify orthologs with conserved features across a wide range of taxonomic distances. OrtholugeDB facilitates rapid, and more accurate, bacterial and archaeal comparative genomic analysis and large-scale ortholog predictions.
Many functional, structural and evolutionary features of human genes have been observed to correlate with expression breadth and/or gene age. Here, we systematically explore these correlations.
Gene age and expression breadth are strongly correlated, but contribute independently to the variation of functional, structural and evolutionary features, even when we take account of variation in mRNA expression level. Human genes without orthologs in distant species ('young' genes) tend to be tissue-specific in their expression. As computational inference of gene function often relies on the existence of homologs in other species, and experimental characterization is facilitated by broad and high expression, young, tissue-specific human genes are often the least characterized. At the same time, young genes are most likely to be medically relevant.
Our results indicate that functional characterization of human genes is biased against young, tissue-specific genes that are mostly medically relevant. The biases should not be taken lightly because they may pose serious obstacles to our understanding of the molecular basis of human diseases. Future studies should thus be designed to specifically explore the properties of primate-specific genes.
Many of the eukaryotic phylogenomic analyses published to date were based on alignments of hundreds to thousands of genes. Frequently, in such analyses, the most realistic evolutionary models currently available are often used to minimize the impact of systematic error. However, controversy remains over whether or not idiosyncratic gene family dynamics (i.e., gene duplications and losses) and incorrect orthology assignments are always appropriately taken into account. In this paper, we present an innovative strategy for overcoming orthology assignment problems. Rather than identifying and eliminating genes with paralogy problems, we have constructed a data set comprised exclusively of conserved single-copy protein domains that, unlike most of the commonly used phylogenomic data sets, should be less confounded by orthology miss-assignments. To evaluate the power of this approach, we performed maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses to infer the evolutionary relationships within the opisthokonts (which includes Metazoa, Fungi, and related unicellular lineages). We used this approach to test 1) whether Filasterea and Ichthyosporea form a clade, 2) the interrelationships of early-branching metazoans, and 3) the relationships among early-branching fungi. We also assessed the impact of some methods that are known to minimize systematic error, including reducing the distance between the outgroup and ingroup taxa or using the CAT evolutionary model. Overall, our analyses support the Filozoa hypothesis in which Ichthyosporea are the first holozoan lineage to emerge followed by Filasterea, Choanoflagellata, and Metazoa. Blastocladiomycota appears as a lineage separate from Chytridiomycota, although this result is not strongly supported. These results represent independent tests of previous phylogenetic hypotheses, highlighting the importance of sophisticated approaches for orthology assignment in phylogenomic analyses.
Capsaspora; Filasterea; Filozoa; Holozoa; Ichthyosporea; multicellularity
We present BLAST on Orthologous groups (BLASTO), a modified BLAST tool for searching orthologous group data. It treats each orthologous group as a unit and outputs a ranked list of orthologous groups instead of single sequences. By filtering out redundancy and putative paralogs, sequence comparisons to orthologous groups, instead of to single sequences in the database, can improve both functional prediction and phylogenetic inference. BLASTO computes the significance score of each orthologous group based on the individual BLAST hits in the orthologous group, using the number of taxa in the group as an optional weight. This allows users to control the species diversity of the orthologous groups. BLASTO incorporates the best-known multispecies ortholog databases, including NCBI Clusters of Orthologous Group, NCBI euKaryotic Orthologous Group database, OrthoMCL, MultiParanoid and TIGR Eukaryotic Gene Orthologues database, and offers a useful platform to integrate orthology information into functional inference and evolutionary studies of individual sequences. BLASTO is accessible online at http://oxytricha.princeton.edu/BlastO.
The unparalleled growth in the availability of genomic data offers both a challenge to develop orthology detection methods that are simultaneously accurate and high throughput and an opportunity to improve orthology detection by leveraging evolutionary evidence in the accumulated sequenced genomes. Here, we report a novel orthology detection method, termed QuartetS, that exploits evolutionary evidence in a computationally efficient manner. Based on the well-established evolutionary concept that gene duplication events can be used to discriminate homologous genes, QuartetS uses an approximate phylogenetic analysis of quartet gene trees to infer the occurrence of duplication events and discriminate paralogous from orthologous genes. We used function- and phylogeny-based metrics to perform a large-scale, systematic comparison of the orthology predictions of QuartetS with those of four other methods [bi-directional best hit (BBH), outgroup, OMA and QuartetS-C (QuartetS followed by clustering)], involving 624 bacterial genomes and >2 million genes. We found that QuartetS slightly, but consistently, outperformed the highly specific OMA method and that, while consuming only 0.5% additional computational time, QuartetS predicted 50% more orthologs with a 50% lower false positive rate than the widely used BBH method. We conclude that, for large-scale phylogenetic and functional analysis, QuartetS and QuartetS-C should be preferred, respectively, in applications where high accuracy and high throughput are required.
Gene duplication is a normal evolutionary process. If there is no selective advantage in keeping the duplicated gene, it is usually reduced to a pseudogene and disappears from the genome. However, some paralogs are retained. These gene products are likely to be beneficial to the organism, e.g. in adaptation to new environmental conditions. The aim of our analysis is to investigate the properties of paralog-forming genes in prokaryotes, and to analyse the role of these retained paralogs by relating gene properties to life style of the corresponding prokaryotes.
Paralogs were identified in a number of prokaryotes, and these paralogs were compared to singletons of persistent orthologs based on functional classification. This showed that the paralogs were associated with for example energy production, cell motility, ion transport, and defence mechanisms. A statistical overrepresentation analysis of gene and protein annotations was based on paralogs of the 200 prokaryotes with the highest fraction of paralog-forming genes. Biclustering of overrepresented gene ontology terms versus species was used to identify clusters of properties associated with clusters of species. The clusters were classified using similarity scores on properties and species to identify interesting clusters, and a subset of clusters were analysed by comparison to literature data. This analysis showed that paralogs often are associated with properties that are important for survival and proliferation of the specific organisms. This includes processes like ion transport, locomotion, chemotaxis and photosynthesis. However, the analysis also showed that the gene ontology terms sometimes were too general, imprecise or even misleading for automatic analysis.
Properties described by gene ontology terms identified in the overrepresentation analysis are often consistent with individual prokaryote lifestyles and are likely to give a competitive advantage to the organism. Paralogs and singletons dominate different categories of functional classification, where paralogs in particular seem to be associated with processes involving interaction with the environment.
The potential contribution of upstream sequence variation to the unique features of orthologous genes is just beginning to be unraveled. A core subset of stress-associated bZIP transcription factors from rice (Oryza sativa) formed ten clusters of orthologous groups (COG) with genes from the monocot sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and dicot Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). The total cis-regulatory information content of each stress-associated COG was examined by phylogenetic footprinting to reveal ortholog-specific, lineage-specific and species-specific conservation patterns.
The most apparent pattern observed was the occurrence of spatially conserved ‘core modules’ among the COGs but not among paralogs. These core modules are comprised of various combinations of two to four putative transcription factor binding site (TFBS) classes associated with either developmental or stress-related functions. Outside the core modules are specific stress (ABA, oxidative, abiotic, biotic) or organ-associated signals, which may be functioning as ‘regulatory fine-tuners’ and further define lineage-specific and species-specific cis-regulatory signatures. Orthologous monocot and dicot promoters have distinct TFBS classes involved in disease and oxidative-regulated expression, while the orthologous rice and sorghum promoters have distinct combinations of root-specific signals, a pattern that is not particularly conserved in Arabidopsis.
Patterns of cis-regulatory conservation imply that each ortholog has distinct signatures, further suggesting that they are potentially unique in a regulatory context despite the presumed conservation of broad biological function during speciation. Based on the observed patterns of conservation, we postulate that core modules are likely primary determinants of basal developmental programming, which may be integrated with and further elaborated by additional intrinsic or extrinsic signals in conjunction with lineage-specific or species-specific regulatory fine-tuners. This synergy may be critical for finer-scale spatio-temporal regulation, hence unique expression profiles of homologous transcription factors from different species with distinct zones of ecological adaptation such as rice, sorghum and Arabidopsis. The patterns revealed from these comparisons set the stage for further empirical validation by functional genomics.
Orthologs; Cis-elements; Stress; bZIP transcription factor; Phylogenetic footprinting
Gene duplication is a crucial mechanism of evolutionary innovation. A substantial fraction of eukaryotic genomes consists of paralogous gene families. We assess the extent of ancestral paralogy, which dates back to the last common ancestor of all eukaryotes, and examine the origins of the ancestral paralogs and their potential roles in the emergence of the eukaryotic cell complexity. A parsimonious reconstruction of ancestral gene repertoires shows that 4137 orthologous gene sets in the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) map back to 2150 orthologous sets in the hypothetical first eukaryotic common ancestor (FECA) [paralogy quotient (PQ) of 1.92]. Analogous reconstructions show significantly lower levels of paralogy in prokaryotes, 1.19 for archaea and 1.25 for bacteria. The only functional class of eukaryotic proteins with a significant excess of paralogous clusters over the mean includes molecular chaperones and proteins with related functions. Almost all genes in this category underwent multiple duplications during early eukaryotic evolution. In structural terms, the most prominent sets of paralogs are superstructure-forming proteins with repetitive domains, such as WD-40 and TPR. In addition to the true ancestral paralogs which evolved via duplication at the onset of eukaryotic evolution, numerous pseudoparalogs were detected, i.e. homologous genes that apparently were acquired by early eukaryotes via different routes, including horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from diverse bacteria. The results of this study demonstrate a major increase in the level of gene paralogy as a hallmark of the early evolution of eukaryotes.
Gene duplications have a major role in the evolution of new biological functions. Theoretical studies often assume that a duplication per se is selectively neutral and that, following a duplication, one of the gene copies is freed from purifying (stabilizing) selection, which creates the potential for evolution of a new function.
In search of systematic evidence of accelerated evolution after duplication, we used data from 26 bacterial, six archaeal, and seven eukaryotic genomes to compare the mode and strength of selection acting on recently duplicated genes (paralogs) and on similarly diverged, unduplicated orthologous genes in different species. We find that the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitutions (Kn/Ks) in most paralogous pairs is <<1 and that paralogs typically evolve at similar rates, without significant asymmetry, indicating that both paralogs produced by a duplication are subject to purifying selection. This selection is, however, substantially weaker than the purifying selection affecting unduplicated orthologs that have diverged to the same extent as the analyzed paralogs. Most of the recently duplicated genes appear to be involved in various forms of environmental response; in particular, many of them encode membrane and secreted proteins.
The results of this analysis indicate that recently duplicated paralogs evolve faster than orthologs with the same level of divergence and similar functions, but apparently do not experience a phase of neutral evolution. We hypothesize that gene duplications that persist in an evolving lineage are beneficial from the time of their origin, due primarily to a protein dosage effect in response to variable environmental conditions; duplications are likely to give rise to new functions at a later phase of their evolution once a higher level of divergence is reached.
Functional divergence between homologous proteins is expected to affect amino acid sequences in two main ways, which can be considered as proxies of biochemical divergence: a “covarion-like” pattern of correlated changes in evolutionary rates, and switches in conserved residues (“conserved but different”). Although these patterns have been used in case studies, a large-scale analysis is needed to estimate their frequency and distribution. We use a phylogenomic framework of animal genes to answer three questions: 1) What is the prevalence of such patterns? 2) Can we link such patterns at the amino acid level with selection inferred at the codon level? 3) Are patterns different between paralogs and orthologs? We find that covarion-like patterns are more frequently detected than “constant but different,” but that only the latter are correlated with signal for positive selection. Finally, there is no obvious difference in patterns between orthologs and paralogs.
covarion; positive selection; whole-genome duplication; vertebrate evolution; rate shift; heterotachy
The structure and function of transfer RNA (tRNA) genes have been extensively studied for several decades, yet the general mechanisms controlling tRNA gene family evolution remain unclear, primarily because previous phylogenetics-based methods fail to distinguish between paralogs and orthologs that are highly similar in sequence. We have developed a system for identifying orthologs of tRNAs using flanking sequences to identify regions of conserved synteny and used it to annotate sets of orthologous tRNA genes across the 12 sequenced species of Drosophila. These data have allowed us to place the gains and losses of individual tRNA genes on each branch of the Drosophila tree and estimate rates of tRNA gene turnover. Our results show extensive rearrangement of the Drosophila tRNA gene complement over the last 60 My. We estimate a combined average rate of 2.18 ± 0.10 tRNA gene gains and losses per million years across the Drosophila lineage. We have identified 192 tRNAs that are ancestral to the genus, of which 157 are “core” tRNAs conserved in at least 11 of 12 extant species. We provide evidence that the core set of tRNA genes encode a nearly complete set of anticodons and have different properties from other “peripheral” tRNA genes, such as preferential location outside large tRNA clusters and higher sequence conservation. We also demonstrate that tRNA isoacceptor and alloacceptor changes by anticodon shifts have occurred several times in Drosophila, annotating 16 such events in functional tRNAs during the evolution of the genus.
transfer RNA; genome evolution; noncoding RNA; tRNA identity; synteny map; gene duplication