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1.  AID/APOBEC cytosine deaminase induces genome-wide kataegis 
Biology Direct  2012;7:47.
Clusters of localized hypermutation in human breast cancer genomes, named “kataegis” (from the Greek for thunderstorm), are hypothesized to result from multiple cytosine deaminations catalyzed by AID/APOBEC proteins. However, a direct link between APOBECs and kataegis is still lacking. We have sequenced the genomes of yeast mutants induced in diploids by expression of the gene for PmCDA1, a hypermutagenic deaminase from sea lamprey. Analysis of the distribution of 5,138 induced mutations revealed localized clusters very similar to those found in tumors. Our data provide evidence that unleashed cytosine deaminase activity is an evolutionary conserved, prominent source of genome-wide kataegis events.
This article was reviewed by: Professor Sandor Pongor, Professor Shamil R. Sunyaev, and Dr Vladimir Kuznetsov.
PMCID: PMC3542020  PMID: 23249472
APOBEC; Deaminase; Mutation; Kataegis; Cancer; Diploid yeast; Hypermutation
2.  Origin and evolution of spliceosomal introns 
Biology Direct  2012;7:11.
Evolution of exon-intron structure of eukaryotic genes has been a matter of long-standing, intensive debate. The introns-early concept, later rebranded ‘introns first’ held that protein-coding genes were interrupted by numerous introns even at the earliest stages of life's evolution and that introns played a major role in the origin of proteins by facilitating recombination of sequences coding for small protein/peptide modules. The introns-late concept held that introns emerged only in eukaryotes and new introns have been accumulating continuously throughout eukaryotic evolution. Analysis of orthologous genes from completely sequenced eukaryotic genomes revealed numerous shared intron positions in orthologous genes from animals and plants and even between animals, plants and protists, suggesting that many ancestral introns have persisted since the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA). Reconstructions of intron gain and loss using the growing collection of genomes of diverse eukaryotes and increasingly advanced probabilistic models convincingly show that the LECA and the ancestors of each eukaryotic supergroup had intron-rich genes, with intron densities comparable to those in the most intron-rich modern genomes such as those of vertebrates. The subsequent evolution in most lineages of eukaryotes involved primarily loss of introns, with only a few episodes of substantial intron gain that might have accompanied major evolutionary innovations such as the origin of metazoa. The original invasion of self-splicing Group II introns, presumably originating from the mitochondrial endosymbiont, into the genome of the emerging eukaryote might have been a key factor of eukaryogenesis that in particular triggered the origin of endomembranes and the nucleus. Conversely, splicing errors gave rise to alternative splicing, a major contribution to the biological complexity of multicellular eukaryotes. There is no indication that any prokaryote has ever possessed a spliceosome or introns in protein-coding genes, other than relatively rare mobile self-splicing introns. Thus, the introns-first scenario is not supported by any evidence but exon-intron structure of protein-coding genes appears to have evolved concomitantly with the eukaryotic cell, and introns were a major factor of evolution throughout the history of eukaryotes. This article was reviewed by I. King Jordan, Manuel Irimia (nominated by Anthony Poole), Tobias Mourier (nominated by Anthony Poole), and Fyodor Kondrashov. For the complete reports, see the Reviewers’ Reports section.
PMCID: PMC3488318  PMID: 22507701
Intron sliding; Intron gain; Intron loss; Spliceosome; Splicing signals; Evolution of exon/intron structure; Alternative splicing; Phylogenetic trees; Mobile domains; Eukaryotic ancestor
3.  A late origin of the extant eukaryotic diversity: divergence time estimates using rare genomic changes 
Biology Direct  2011;6:26.
Accurate estimation of the divergence time of the extant eukaryotes is a fundamentally important but extremely difficult problem owing primarily to gross violations of the molecular clock at long evolutionary distances and the lack of appropriate calibration points close to the date of interest. These difficulties are intrinsic to the dating of ancient divergence events and are reflected in the large discrepancies between estimates obtained with different approaches. Estimates of the age of Last Eukaryotic Common Ancestor (LECA) vary approximately twofold, from ~1,100 million years ago (Mya) to ~2,300 Mya.
We applied the genome-wide analysis of rare genomic changes associated with conserved amino acids (RGC_CAs) and used several independent techniques to obtain date estimates for the divergence of the major lineages of eukaryotes with calibration intervals for insects, land plants and vertebrates. The results suggest an early divergence of monocot and dicot plants, approximately 340 Mya, raising the possibility of plant-insect coevolution. The divergence of bilaterian animal phyla is estimated at ~400-700 Mya, a range of dates that is consistent with cladogenesis immediately preceding the Cambrian explosion. The origin of opisthokonts (the supergroup of eukaryotes that includes metazoa and fungi) is estimated at ~700-1,000 Mya, and the age of LECA at ~1,000-1,300 Mya. We separately analyzed the red algal calibration interval which is based on single fossil. This analysis produced time estimates that were systematically older compared to the other estimates. Nevertheless, the majority of the estimates for the age of the LECA using the red algal data fell within the 1,200-1,400 Mya interval.
The inference of a "young LECA" is compatible with the latest of previously estimated dates and has substantial biological implications. If these estimates are valid, the approximately 1 to 1.4 billion years of evolution of eukaryotes that is open to comparative-genomic study probably was preceded by hundreds of millions years of evolution that might have included extinct diversity inaccessible to comparative approaches.
This article was reviewed by William Martin, Herve Philippe (nominated by I. King Jordan), and Romain Derelle.
PMCID: PMC3125394  PMID: 21595937
bilateria; opisthokonts; angiosperms; last eukaryotic common ancestor; molecular dating
4.  Evolution of DNA polymerases: an inactivated polymerase-exonuclease module in Pol ε and a chimeric origin of eukaryotic polymerases from two classes of archaeal ancestors 
Biology Direct  2009;4:11.
Evolution of DNA polymerases, the key enzymes of DNA replication and repair, is central to any reconstruction of the history of cellular life. However, the details of the evolutionary relationships between DNA polymerases of archaea and eukaryotes remain unresolved.
We performed a comparative analysis of archaeal, eukaryotic, and bacterial B-family DNA polymerases, which are the main replicative polymerases in archaea and eukaryotes, combined with an analysis of domain architectures. Surprisingly, we found that eukaryotic Polymerase ε consists of two tandem exonuclease-polymerase modules, the active N-terminal module and a C-terminal module in which both enzymatic domains are inactivated. The two modules are only distantly related to each other, an observation that suggests the possibility that Pol ε evolved as a result of insertion and subsequent inactivation of a distinct polymerase, possibly, of bacterial descent, upstream of the C-terminal Zn-fingers, rather than by tandem duplication. The presence of an inactivated exonuclease-polymerase module in Pol ε parallels a similar inactivation of both enzymatic domains in a distinct family of archaeal B-family polymerases. The results of phylogenetic analysis indicate that eukaryotic B-family polymerases, most likely, originate from two distantly related archaeal B-family polymerases, one form giving rise to Pol ε, and the other one to the common ancestor of Pol α, Pol δ, and Pol ζ. The C-terminal Zn-fingers that are present in all eukaryotic B-family polymerases, unexpectedly, are homologous to the Zn-finger of archaeal D-family DNA polymerases that are otherwise unrelated to the B family. The Zn-finger of Polε shows a markedly greater similarity to the counterpart in archaeal PolD than the Zn-fingers of other eukaryotic B-family polymerases.
Evolution of eukaryotic DNA polymerases seems to have involved previously unnoticed complex events. We hypothesize that the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes encoded three DNA polymerases, namely, two distinct B-family polymerases and a D-family polymerase all of which contributed to the evolution of the eukaryotic replication machinery. The Zn-finger might have been acquired from PolD by the B-family form that gave rise to Pol ε prior to or in the course of eukaryogenesis, and subsequently, was captured by the ancestor of the other B-family eukaryotic polymerases. The inactivated polymerase-exonuclease module of Pol ε might have evolved by fusion with a distinct polymerase, rather than by duplication of the active module of Pol ε, and is likely to play an important role in the assembly of eukaryotic replication and repair complexes.
This article was reviewed by Patrick Forterre, Arcady Mushegian, and Chris Ponting. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2669801  PMID: 19296856
5.  A highly conserved family of inactivated archaeal B family DNA polymerases 
Biology Direct  2008;3:32.
A widespread and highly conserved family of apparently inactivated derivatives of archaeal B-family DNA polymerases is described. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the inactivated forms comprise a distinct clade among archaeal B-family polymerases and that, within this clade, Euryarchaea and Crenarchaea are clearly separated from each other and from a small group of bacterial homologs. These findings are compatible with an ancient duplication of the DNA polymerase gene followed by inactivation and parallel loss in some of the lineages although contribution of horizontal gene transfer cannot be ruled out. The inactivated derivative of the archaeal DNA polymerase could form a complex with the active paralog and play a structural role in DNA replication.
This article was reviewed by Purificacion Lopez-Garcia and Chris Ponting. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2527604  PMID: 18684330
6.  Accumulation of GC donor splice signals in mammals 
Biology Direct  2008;3:30.
The GT dinucleotide in the first two intron positions is the most conserved element of the U2 donor splice signals. However, in a small fraction of donor sites, GT is replaced by GC. A substantial enrichment of GC in donor sites of alternatively spliced genes has been observed previously in human, nematode and Arabidopsis, suggesting that GC signals are important for regulation of alternative splicing. We used parsimony analysis to reconstruct evolution of donor splice sites and inferred 298 GT > GC conversion events compared to 40 GC > GT conversion events in primate and rodent genomes. Thus, there was substantive accumulation of GC donor splice sites during the evolution of mammals. Accumulation of GC sites might have been driven by selection for alternative splicing.
This article was reviewed by Jerzy Jurka and Anton Nekrutenko. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2490688  PMID: 18613975
7.  U12 intron positions are more strongly conserved between animals and plants than U2 intron positions 
Biology Direct  2008;3:19.
We report that the positions of minor, U12 introns are conserved in orthologous genes from human and Arabidopsis to an even greater extent than the positions of the major, U2 introns. The U12 introns, especially, conserved ones are concentrated in 5'-portions of plant and animal genes, where the U12 to U2 conversions occurs preferentially in the 3'-portions of genes. These results are compatible with the hypothesis that the high level of conservation of U12 intron positions and their persistence in genomes despite the unidirectional U12 to U2 conversion are explained by the role of the slowly excised U12 introns in down-regulation of gene expression.
This article was reviewed by John Logsdon and Manyuan Long. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2426677  PMID: 18479526
8.  Homoplasy in genome-wide analysis of rare amino acid replacements: the molecular-evolutionary basis for Vavilov's law of homologous series 
Biology Direct  2008;3:7.
Rare genomic changes (RGCs) that are thought to comprise derived shared characters of individual clades are becoming an increasingly important class of markers in genome-wide phylogenetic studies. Recently, we proposed a new type of RGCs designated RGC_CAMs (after Conserved Amino acids-Multiple substitutions) that were inferred using genome-wide identification of amino acid replacements that were: i) located in unambiguously aligned regions of orthologous genes, ii) shared by two or more taxa in positions that contain a different, conserved amino acid in a much broader range of taxa, and iii) require two or three nucleotide substitutions. When applied to animal phylogeny, the RGC_CAM approach supported the coelomate clade that unites deuterostomes with arthropods as opposed to the ecdysozoan (molting animals) clade. However, a non-negligible level of homoplasy was detected.
We provide a direct estimate of the level of homoplasy caused by parallel changes and reversals among the RGC_CAMs using 462 alignments of orthologous genes from 19 eukaryotic species. It is shown that the impact of parallel changes and reversals on the results of phylogenetic inference using RGC_CAMs cannot explain the observed support for the Coelomata clade. In contrast, the evidence in support of the Ecdysozoa clade, in large part, can be attributed to parallel changes. It is demonstrated that parallel changes are significantly more common in internal branches of different subtrees that are separated from the respective common ancestor by relatively short times than in terminal branches separated by longer time intervals. A similar but much weaker trend was detected for reversals. The observed evolutionary trend of parallel changes is explained in terms of the covarion model of molecular evolution. As the overlap between the covarion sets in orthologous genes from different lineages decreases with time after divergence, the likelihood of parallel changes decreases as well.
The level of homoplasy observed here appears to be low enough to justify the utility of RGC_CAMs and other types of RGCs for resolution of hard problems in phylogeny. Parallel changes, one of the major classes of events leading to homoplasy, occur much more often in relatively recently diverged lineages than in those separated from their last common ancestor by longer time intervals of time. This pattern seems to provide the molecular-evolutionary underpinning of Vavilov's law of homologous series and is readily interpreted within the framework of the covarion model of molecular evolution.
This article was reviewed by Alex Kondrashov, Nicolas Galtier, and Maximilian Telford and Robert Lanfear (nominated by Laurence Hurst).
PMCID: PMC2292158  PMID: 18346278
9.  Method of predicting Splice Sites based on signal interactions 
Biology Direct  2006;1:10.
Predicting and proper ranking of canonical splice sites (SSs) is a challenging problem in bioinformatics and machine learning communities. Any progress in SSs recognition will lead to better understanding of splicing mechanism. We introduce several new approaches of combining a priori knowledge for improved SS detection. First, we design our new Bayesian SS sensor based on oligonucleotide counting. To further enhance prediction quality, we applied our new de novo motif detection tool MHMMotif to intronic ends and exons. We combine elements found with sensor information using Naive Bayesian Network, as implemented in our new tool SpliceScan.
According to our tests, the Bayesian sensor outperforms the contemporary Maximum Entropy sensor for 5' SS detection. We report a number of putative Exonic (ESE) and Intronic (ISE) Splicing Enhancers found by MHMMotif tool. T-test statistics on mouse/rat intronic alignments indicates, that detected elements are on average more conserved as compared to other oligos, which supports our assumption of their functional importance. The tool has been shown to outperform the SpliceView, GeneSplicer, NNSplice, Genio and NetUTR tools for the test set of human genes. SpliceScan outperforms all contemporary ab initio gene structural prediction tools on the set of 5' UTR gene fragments.
Designed methods have many attractive properties, compared to existing approaches. Bayesian sensor, MHMMotif program and SpliceScan tools are freely available on our web site.
This article was reviewed by Manyuan Long, Arcady Mushegian and Mikhail Gelfand.
PMCID: PMC1526722  PMID: 16584568
10.  Mutational hotspots in the TP53 gene and, possibly, other tumor suppressors evolve by positive selection 
Biology Direct  2006;1:4.
The mutation spectra of the TP53 gene and other tumor suppressors contain multiple hotspots, i.e., sites of non-random, frequent mutation in tumors and/or the germline. The origin of the hotspots remains unclear, the general view being that they represent highly mutable nucleotide contexts which likely reflect effects of different endogenous and exogenous factors shaping the mutation process in specific tissues. The origin of hotspots is of major importance because it has been suggested that mutable contexts could be used to infer mechanisms of mutagenesis contributing to tumorigenesis.
Here we apply three independent tests, accounting for non-uniform base compositions in synonymous and non-synonymous sites, to test whether the hotspots emerge via selection or due to mutational bias. All three tests consistently indicate that the hotspots in the TP53 gene evolve, primarily, via positive selection. The results were robust to the elimination of the highly mutable CpG dinucleotides. By contrast, only one, the least conservative test reveals the signature of positive selection in BRCA1, BRCA2, and p16. Elucidation of the origin of the hotspots in these genes requires more data on somatic mutations in tumors.
The results of this analysis seem to indicate that positive selection for gain-of-function in tumor suppressor genes is an important aspect of tumorigenesis, blurring the distinction between tumor suppressors and oncogenes.
This article was reviewed by Sandor Pongor, Christopher Lee and Mikhail Blagosklonny.
PMCID: PMC1403748  PMID: 16542006

Results 1-10 (10)