A recent whole-genome duplication divides populations of a globally-distributed microsporidian

Tom Williams, Sirintra Nakjang, Scott E. Campbell, Mark Freeman, Matthías Eydal, Karen Moore, Robert P. Hirt, T. Martin Embley, Bryony A P Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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The Microsporidia are a major group of intracellular fungi and important parasites of animals including insects, fish, and immunocompromised humans. Microsporidian genomes have undergone extreme reductive evolution but there are major differences in genome size and structure within the group: some areprokaryote-like in size and organisation (<3 Mb of gene-dense sequence) whilst others have more typically eukaryotic genome architectures. To gain fine-scale, population-level insight into the evolutionary dynamics of these tiny eukaryotic genomes, we performed the broadest microsporidian population genomic study tod ate, sequencing geographically isolated strains of Spraguea, a marine microsporidian infecting goosefish worldwide. Our analysis revealed that population structure across the Atlantic Ocean is associated with a conserved difference in ploidy, with American and Canadian isolates sharing an ancestral whole genome duplication that was followed by widespread pseudogenisation and sorting-out of paralogue pairs. Whilst past analyses have suggested de novo gene formation of microsporidian-specific genes, we found evidence for the origin of new genes from noncoding sequence since the divergence of these populations. Some ofthese genes experience selective constraint, suggesting the evolution of new functions and local host adaptation. Combining our data with published microsporidian genomes, we show that nucleotidecomposition across the phylum is shaped by a mutational bias favouring A and T nucleotides, which is opposed by an evolutionary force favouring an increase in genomic GC content. This work reveals ongoing dramatic reorganisation of genome structure and the evolution of new gene functions in modern microsporidians despite extensive genomic streamlining in their common ancestor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2002-2015
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date27 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • Microsporidia
  • reductive genome evolution
  • gene birth
  • population genomics


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