Reticulate evolution in eukaryotes: Origin and evolution of the nitrate assimilation pathway

PLoS Genetics
Eduard Ocaña-PallarèsIñaki Ruiz-Trillo


Genes and genomes can evolve through interchanging genetic material, this leading to reticular evolutionary patterns. However, the importance of reticulate evolution in eukaryotes, and in particular of horizontal gene transfer (HGT), remains controversial. Given that metabolic pathways with taxonomically-patchy distributions can be indicative of HGT events, the eukaryotic nitrate assimilation pathway is an ideal object of investigation, as previous results revealed a patchy distribution and suggested that the nitrate assimilation cluster of dikaryotic fungi (Opisthokonta) could have been originated and transferred from a lineage leading to Oomycota (Stramenopiles). We studied the origin and evolution of this pathway through both multi-scale bioinformatic and experimental approaches. Our taxon-rich genomic screening shows that nitrate assimilation is present in more lineages than previously reported, although being restricted to autotrophs and osmotrophs. The phylogenies indicate a pervasive role of HGT, with three bacterial transfers contributing to the pathway origin, and at least seven well-supported transfers between eukaryotes. In particular, we propose a distinct and more complex HGT path between Opisthokonta and Stramenop...Continue Reading


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