Dynamics of gene duplication in the genomes of chlorophyll c/-producing cyanobacteria: Implications for the ecological niche

Scott R. Miller, A. Michelle Wood, Robert E. Blankenship, Maria Kim, Steven Ferriera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Gene duplication may be an important mechanism for the evolution of new functions and for the adaptive modulation of gene expression via dosage effects. Here, we analyzed the fate of gene duplicates for two strains of a novel group of cyanobacteria (genus Acaryochloris) that produces the far-red light absorbing chlorophyll d as its main photosynthetic pigment. The genomes of both strains contain an unusually high number of gene duplicates for bacteria. As has been observed for eukaryotic genomes, we find that the demography of gene duplicates can be well modeled by a birth-death process. Most duplicated Acaryochloris genes are of comparatively recent origin, are strain-specific, and tend to be located on different genetic elements. Analyses of selection on duplicates of different divergence classes suggest that a minority of paralogs exhibit near neutral evolutionary dynamics immediately following duplication but that most duplicate pairs (including those which have been retained for long periods) are under strong purifying selection against amino acid change. The likelihood of duplicate retention varied among gene functional classes, and the pronounced differences between strains in the pool of retained recent duplicates likely reflects differences in the nutrient status and other characteristics of their respective environments. We conclude that most duplicates are quickly purged from Acaryochloris genomes and that those which are retained likely make important contributions to organism ecology by conferring fitness benefits via gene dosage effects. The mechanism of enhanced duplication may involve homologous recombination between genetic elements mediated by paralogous copies of recA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-613
Number of pages13
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


  • Acaryochloris
  • Homologous recombination
  • Plasmid
  • RecA


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