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Hundreds of novel composite genes and chimeric genes with bacterial origins contributed to haloarchaeal evolution

Méheust, Raphaël, Watson, Andrew K., Lapointe, François-Joseph, Papke, R. Thane, Lopez, Philippe, Bapteste, Eric
Genome biology 2018 v.19 no.1 pp. 75
Archaea, amino acids, ancestry, bacteria, biochemical pathways, gene pool, genes, hosts, isoelectric point, phylogeny, physiology, proteins, sugars
BACKGROUND: Haloarchaea, a major group of archaea, are able to metabolize sugars and to live in oxygenated salty environments. Their physiology and lifestyle strongly contrast with that of their archaeal ancestors. Amino acid optimizations, which lowered the isoelectric point of haloarchaeal proteins, and abundant lateral gene transfers from bacteria have been invoked to explain this deep evolutionary transition. We use network analyses to show that the evolution of novel genes exclusive to Haloarchaea also contributed to the evolution of this group. RESULTS: We report the creation of 320 novel composite genes, both early in the evolution of Haloarchaea during haloarchaeal genesis and later in diverged haloarchaeal groups. One hundred and twenty-six of these novel composite genes derived from genetic material from bacterial genomes. These latter genes, largely involved in metabolic functions but also in oxygenic lifestyle, constitute a different gene pool from the laterally acquired bacterial genes formerly identified. These novel composite genes were likely advantageous for their hosts, since they show significant residence times in haloarchaeal genomes—consistent with a long phylogenetic history involving vertical descent and lateral gene transfer—and encode proteins with optimized isoelectric points. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our work encourages a systematic search for composite genes across all archaeal major groups, in order to better understand the origins of novel prokaryotic genes, and in order to test to what extent archaea might have adjusted their lifestyles by incorporating and recycling laterally acquired bacterial genetic fragments into new archaeal genes.