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Gene expression in a paleopolyploid: a transcriptome resource for the ciliate Paramecium tetraurelia

Olivier Arnaiz1, Jean-François Goût24, Mireille Bétermier1, Khaled Bouhouche3, Jean Cohen1, Laurent Duret2, Aurélie Kapusta1, Eric Meyer3 and Linda Sperling1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre de Génétique Moléculaire, Université Paris-Sud, CNRS FRE3144, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

2 Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, Université de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5558, Villeurbanne, France

3 Institut de Biologie de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, CNRS UMR8197, INSERM U1024, Paris, France

4 Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:547  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-547

Published: 8 October 2010



The genome of Paramecium tetraurelia, a unicellular model that belongs to the ciliate phylum, has been shaped by at least 3 successive whole genome duplications (WGD). These dramatic events, which have also been documented in plants, animals and fungi, are resolved over evolutionary time by the loss of one duplicate for the majority of genes. Thanks to a low rate of large scale genome rearrangement in Paramecium, an unprecedented large number of gene duplicates of different ages have been identified, making this organism an outstanding model to investigate the evolutionary consequences of polyploidization. The most recent WGD, with 51% of pre-duplication genes still in 2 copies, provides a snapshot of a phase of rapid gene loss that is not accessible in more ancient polyploids such as yeast.


We designed a custom oligonucleotide microarray platform for P. tetraurelia genome-wide expression profiling and used the platform to measure gene expression during 1) the sexual cycle of autogamy, 2) growth of new cilia in response to deciliation and 3) biogenesis of secretory granules after massive exocytosis. Genes that are differentially expressed during these time course experiments have expression patterns consistent with a very low rate of subfunctionalization (partition of ancestral functions between duplicated genes) in particular since the most recent polyploidization event.


A public transcriptome resource is now available for Paramecium tetraurelia. The resource has been integrated into the ParameciumDB model organism database, providing searchable access to the data. The microarray platform, freely available through NimbleGen Systems, provides a robust, cost-effective approach for genome-wide expression profiling in P. tetraurelia. The expression data support previous studies showing that at short evolutionary times after a whole genome duplication, gene dosage balance constraints and not functional change are the major determinants of gene retention.