Jan 6, 2014

Genome expansion in early eukaryotes drove the transition from lateral gene transfer to meiotic sex

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Stefan SiebertCasey W. Dunn

Abstract

Prokaryotes generally reproduce clonally but can also acquire new genetic material via lateral gene transfer (LGT). Like sex, LGT can prevent the accumulation of deleterious mutations predicted by Muller's ratchet for asexual populations. This similarity between sex and LGT raises the question why did eukaryotes abandon LGT in favor of sexual reproduction? Understanding the limitations of LGT provides insight into this evolutionary transition. We model the evolution of a haploid population undergoing LGT at a rate λ and subjected to a mutation rate μ. We take into account recombination length, L, and genome size, g, neglected by previous theoretical models. We confirm that LGT counters Muller's ratchet by reducing the rate of fixation of deleterious mutations in small genomes. We then demonstrate that this beneficial effect declines rapidly with genome size. Populations with larger genomes are subjected to a faster rate of fixation of deleterious mutations and become more vulnerable to stochastic frequency fluctuations. Muller's ratchet therefore generates a strong constraint on genome size. Importantly, we show that the degeneration of larger genomes can be resisted by increases in the recombination length, the average number ...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

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