In most lineages, diversity among gene family members results from gene duplication followed by sequence divergence. Because of the genome rearrangements during the development of somatic nuclei, gene family evolution in ciliates involves more complex processes. Previous work on the ciliate Chilodonella uncinata revealed that macronuclear β-tubulin gene family members are generated by alternative processing, in which germline regions are alternatively used in multiple macronuclear chromosomes. To further study genome evolution in this ciliate, we analyzed its transcriptome and found that (1) alternative processing is extensive among gene families; and (2) such gene families are likely to be C. uncinata specific. We characterized additional macronuclear and micronuclear copies of one candidate alternatively processed gene family-a protein kinase domain containing protein (PKc)-from two C. uncinata strains. Analysis of the PKc sequences reveals that (1) multiple PKc gene family members in the macronucleus share some identical regions flanked by divergent regions; and (2) the shared identical regions are processed from a single micronuclear chromosome. We discuss analogous processes in lineages across the eukaryotic tree of life to provide further insights on the impact of genome structure on gene family evolution in eukaryotes.
Alternative processing, Ciliate, Gene family, Genome evolution, Macronucleus, Micronucleus
Gao, Feng; Song, Weibo; and Katz, Laura A., "Genome Structure Drives Patterns of Gene Family Evolution in Ciliates, a Case Study Using Chilodonella uncinata (Protista, Ciliophora, Phyllopharyngea)" (2014). Biological Sciences: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.