Comparative expression profiling reveals widespread coordinated evolution of gene expression across eukaryotes

Nature Communications
Trevor Martin, Hunter B Fraser

Abstract

Comparative studies of gene expression across species have revealed many important insights, but have also been limited by the number of species represented. Here we develop an approach to identify orthologs between highly diverged transcriptome assemblies, and apply this to 657 RNA-seq gene expression profiles from 309 diverse unicellular eukaryotes. We analyzed the resulting data for coevolutionary patterns, and identify several hundred protein complexes and pathways whose expression levels have evolved in a coordinated fashion across the trillions of generations separating these species, including many gene sets with little or no within-species co-expression across environmental or genetic perturbations. We also detect examples of adaptive evolution, for example of tRNA ligase levels to match genome-wide codon usage. In sum, we find that comparative studies from extremely diverse organisms can reveal new insights into the evolution of gene expression, including coordinated evolution of some of the most conserved protein complexes in eukaryotes.

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