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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
The Putative orthologous Groups 2 Database (POGs2) (http://pogs.uoregon.edu/) integrates information about the inferred proteomes of four plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana, Zea mays, Orza sativa, and Populus trichocarpa) in a display that facilitates comparisons among orthologs and extrapolation of annotations among species. A single-page view collates key functional data for members of each Putative Orthologous Group (POG): graphical representations of InterPro domains, predicted and established intracellular locations, and imported gene descriptions. The display incorporates POGs predicted by two different algorithms as well as gene trees, allowing users to evaluate the validity of POG memberships. The web interface provides ready access to sequences and alignments of POG members, as well as sequences, alignments, and domain architectures of closely-related paralogs. A simple and flexible search interface permits queries by BLAST and by any combination of gene identifier, keywords, domain names, InterPro identifiers, and intracellular location. The concurrent display of domain architectures for orthologous proteins highlights errors in gene models and false-negatives in domain predictions. The POGs2 layout is also useful for exploring candidate genes identified by transposon tagging, QTL mapping, map-based cloning, and proteomics, and for navigating between orthologous groups that belong to the same gene family.
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.
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.
A benchmarking of the most popular orthologous identification methods using functional genomics data identifies the two best methods.
The transfer of functional annotations from model organism proteins to human proteins is one of the main applications of comparative genomics. Various methods are used to analyze cross-species orthologous relationships according to an operational definition of orthology. Often the definition of orthology is incorrectly interpreted as a prediction of proteins that are functionally equivalent across species, while in fact it only defines the existence of a common ancestor for a gene in different species. However, it has been demonstrated that orthologs often reveal significant functional similarity. Therefore, the quality of the orthology prediction is an important factor in the transfer of functional annotations (and other related information). To identify protein pairs with the highest possible functional similarity, it is important to qualify ortholog identification methods.
To measure the similarity in function of proteins from different species we used functional genomics data, such as expression data and protein interaction data. We tested several of the most popular ortholog identification methods. In general, we observed a sensitivity/selectivity trade-off: the functional similarity scores per orthologous pair of sequences become higher when the number of proteins included in the ortholog groups decreases.
By combining the sensitivity and the selectivity into an overall score, we show that the InParanoid program is the best ortholog identification method in terms of identifying functionally equivalent proteins.
Molecular phylogenetics relies on accurate identification of orthologous sequences among the taxa of interest. Most orthology inference programs available for use in phylogenomics rely on small sets of pre-defined orthologs from model organisms or phenetic approaches such as all-versus-all sequence comparisons followed by Markov graph-based clustering. Such approaches have high sensitivity but may erroneously include paralogous sequences. We developed PhyloTreePruner, a software utility that uses a phylogenetic approach to refine orthology inferences made using phenetic methods. PhyloTreePruner checks single-gene trees for evidence of paralogy and generates a new alignment for each group containing only sequences inferred to be orthologs. Importantly, PhyloTreePruner takes into account support values on the tree and avoids unnecessarily deleting sequences in cases where a weakly supported tree topology incorrectly indicates paralogy. A test of PhyloTreePruner on a dataset generated from 11 completely sequenced arthropod genomes identified 2,027 orthologous groups sampled for all taxa. Phylogenetic analysis of the concatenated supermatrix yielded a generally well-supported topology that was consistent with the current understanding of arthropod phylogeny. PhyloTreePruner is freely available from http://sourceforge.net/projects/phylotreepruner/.
phylogenomic; orthology; paralogy; gene tree
Delineating ancestral gene relations among a large set of sequenced eukaryotic genomes allowed us to rigorously examine links between evolutionary and functional traits. We classified 86% of over 1.36 million protein-coding genes from 40 vertebrates, 23 arthropods, and 32 fungi into orthologous groups and linked over 90% of them to Gene Ontology or InterPro annotations. Quantifying properties of ortholog phyletic retention, copy-number variation, and sequence conservation, we examined correlations with gene essentiality and functional traits. More than half of vertebrate, arthropod, and fungal orthologs are universally present across each lineage. These universal orthologs are preferentially distributed in groups with almost all single-copy or all multicopy genes, and sequence evolution of the predominantly single-copy orthologous groups is markedly more constrained. Essential genes from representative model organisms, Mus musculus, Drosophila melanogaster, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, are significantly enriched in universal orthologs within each lineage, and essential-gene-containing groups consistently exhibit greater sequence conservation than those without. This study of eukaryotic gene repertoire evolution identifies shared fundamental principles and highlights lineage-specific features, it also confirms that essential genes are highly retained and conclusively supports the “knockout-rate prediction” of stronger constraints on essential gene sequence evolution. However, the distinction between sequence conservation of single- versus multicopy orthologs is quantitatively more prominent than between orthologous groups with and without essential genes. The previously underappreciated difference in the tolerance of gene duplications and contrasting evolutionary modes of “single-copy control” versus “multicopy license” may reflect a major evolutionary mechanism that allows extended exploration of gene sequence space.
orthologs; essential genes; molecular evolution; vertebrates; arthropods; fungi
Orthology is one of the cornerstones of gene function prediction. Dividing the phylogenetic relations between genes into either orthologs or paralogs is however an oversimplification. Already in two-species gene-phylogenies, the complicated, non-transitive nature of phylogenetic relations results in inparalogs and outparalogs. For situations with more than two species we lack semantics to specifically describe the phylogenetic relations, let alone to exploit them. Published procedures to extract orthologous groups from phylogenetic trees do not allow identification of orthology at various levels of resolution, nor do they document the relations between the orthologous groups.
We introduce "levels of orthology" to describe the multi-level nature of gene relations. This is implemented in a program LOFT (Levels of Orthology From Trees) that assigns hierarchical orthology numbers to genes based on a phylogenetic tree. To decide upon speciation and gene duplication events in a tree LOFT can be instructed either to perform classical species-tree reconciliation or to use the species overlap between partitions in the tree. The hierarchical orthology numbers assigned by LOFT effectively summarize the phylogenetic relations between genes. The resulting high-resolution orthologous groups are depicted in colour, facilitating visual inspection of (large) trees. A benchmark for orthology prediction, that takes into account the varying levels of orthology between genes, shows that the phylogeny-based high-resolution orthology assignments made by LOFT are reliable.
The "levels of orthology" concept offers high resolution, reliable orthology, while preserving the relations between orthologous groups. A Windows as well as a preliminary Java version of LOFT is available from the LOFT website .
The concept of orthology is key to decoding evolutionary relationships among genes across different species using comparative genomics. QuartetS is a recently reported algorithm for large-scale orthology detection. Based on the well-established evolutionary principle that gene duplication events discriminate paralogous from orthologous genes, QuartetS has been shown to improve orthology detection accuracy while maintaining computational efficiency.
QuartetS-DB is a new orthology database constructed using the QuartetS algorithm. The database provides orthology predictions among 1621 complete genomes (1365 bacterial, 92 archaeal, and 164 eukaryotic), covering more than seven million proteins and four million pairwise orthologs. It is a major source of orthologous groups, containing more than 300,000 groups of orthologous proteins and 236,000 corresponding gene trees. The database also provides over 500,000 groups of inparalogs. In addition to its size, a distinguishing feature of QuartetS-DB is the ability to allow users to select a cutoff value that modulates the balance between prediction accuracy and coverage of the retrieved pairwise orthologs. The database is accessible at https://applications.bioanalysis.org/quartetsdb.
QuartetS-DB is one of the largest orthology resources available to date. Because its orthology predictions are underpinned by evolutionary evidence obtained from sequenced genomes, we expect its accuracy to continue to increase in future releases as the genomes of additional species are sequenced.
Orthologs; Orthology detection; Orthology database
Identifying corresponding genes (orthologs) in different species is an important step in genome-wide comparative analysis. In particular, one-to-one correspondences between genes in different species greatly simplify certain problems such as transfer of function annotation and genome rearrangement studies. Positional homologs are the direct descendants of a single ancestral gene in the most recent common ancestor and by definition form one-to-one correspondence.
In this work, we present a simple yet effective method (BBH-LS) for the identification of positional homologs from the comparative analysis of two genomes. Our BBH-LS method integrates sequence similarity and gene context similarity in order to get more accurate ortholog assignments. Specifically, BBH-LS applies the bidirectional best hit heuristic to a combination of sequence similarity and gene context similarity scores.
We applied our method to the human, mouse, and rat genomes and found that BBH-LS produced the best results when using both sequence and gene context information equally. Compared to the state-of-the-art algorithms, such as MSOAR2, BBH-LS is able to identify more positional homologs with fewer false positives.
Orthologs are genes in different species that evolved from a common ancestral gene by speciation. Currently, with the rapid growth of transcriptome data of various species, more reliable orthology information is prerequisite for further studies. However, detection of orthologs could be erroneous if pairwise distance-based methods, such as reciprocal BLAST searches, are utilized. Thus, as a sub-database of H-InvDB, an integrated database of annotated human genes (http://h-invitational.jp/), we constructed a fully curated database of evolutionary features of human genes, called ‘Evola’. In the process of the ortholog detection, computational analysis based on conserved genome synteny and transcript sequence similarity was followed by manual curation by researchers examining phylogenetic trees. In total, 18 968 human genes have orthologs among 11 vertebrates (chimpanzee, mouse, cow, chicken, zebrafish, etc.), either computationally detected or manually curated orthologs. Evola provides amino acid sequence alignments and phylogenetic trees of orthologs and homologs. In ‘dN/dS view’, natural selection on genes can be analyzed between human and other species. In ‘Locus maps’, all transcript variants and their exon/intron structures can be compared among orthologous gene loci. We expect the Evola to serve as a comprehensive and reliable database to be utilized in comparative analyses for obtaining new knowledge about human genes. Evola is available at http://www.h-invitational.jp/evola/.
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
The legume pod borer, Maruca vitrata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), is an insect pest species of crops grown by subsistence farmers in tropical regions of Africa. We present the de novo assembly of 3729 contigs from 454- and Sanger-derived sequencing reads for midgut, salivary, and whole adult tissues of this non-model species. Functional annotation predicted that 1320 M. vitrata protein coding genes are present, of which 631 have orthologs within the Bombyx mori gene model. A homology-based analysis assigned M. vitrata genes into a group of paralogs, but these were subsequently partitioned into putative orthologs following phylogenetic analyses. Following sequence quality filtering, a total of 1542 putative single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were predicted within M. vitrata contig assemblies. Seventy one of 1078 designed molecular genetic markers were used to screen M. vitrata samples from five collection sites in West Africa. Population substructure may be present with significant implications in the insect resistance management recommendations pertaining to the release of biological control agents or transgenic cowpea that express Bacillus thuringiensis crystal toxins. Mutation data derived from transcriptome sequencing is an expeditious and economical source for genetic markers that allow evaluation of ecological differentiation.
The Osa1 Genome Annotation of rice (Oryza sativa L. ssp. japonica cv. Nipponbare) is the product of a semi-automated pipeline that does not explicitly predict pseudogenes. As such, it is likely to mis-annotate pseudogenes as functional genes. A total of 22,033 gene models within the Osa1 Release 5 were investigated as potential pseudogenes as these genes exhibit at least one feature potentially indicative of pseudogenes: lack of transcript support, short coding region, long untranslated region, or, for genes residing within a segmentally duplicated region, lack of a paralog or significantly shorter corresponding paralog.
A total of 1,439 pseudogenes, identified among genes with pseudogene features, were characterized by similarity to fully-supported gene models and the presence of frameshifts or premature translational stop codons. Significant difference in the length of duplicated genes within segmentally-duplicated regions was the optimal indicator of pseudogenization. Among the 816 pseudogenes for which a probable origin could be determined, 75% originated from gene duplication events while 25% were the result of retrotransposition events. A total of 12% of the pseudogenes were expressed. Finally, F-box proteins, BTB/POZ proteins, terpene synthases, chalcone synthases and cytochrome P450 protein families were found to harbor large numbers of pseudogenes.
These pseudogenes still have a detectable open reading frame and are thus distinct from pseudogenes detected within intergenic regions which typically lack definable open reading frames. Families containing the highest number of pseudogenes are fast-evolving families involved in ubiquitination and secondary metabolism.
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.