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Open Access Research article

Evolutionary consequences of a large duplication event in Trypanosoma brucei: Chromosomes 4 and 8 are partial duplicons

Andrew P Jackson

Author Affiliations

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire. CB10 1SA. UK

BMC Genomics 2007, 8:432  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-432

Published: 23 November 2007

Abstract

Background

Gene order along the genome sequence of the human parasite Trypanosoma brucei provides evidence for a 0.5 Mb duplication, comprising the 3' regions of chromosomes 4 and 8. Here, the principal aim was to examine the contribution made by this duplication event to the T. brucei genome sequence, emphasising the consequences for gene content and the evolutionary change subsequently experienced by paralogous gene copies. The duplicated region may be browsed online at http://www.genedb.org/genedb/tryp/48dup_image.jsp webcite

Results

Comparisons of trypanosomatid genomes demonstrated widespread gene loss from each duplicon, but also showed that 47% of duplicated genes were retained on both chromosomes as paralogous loci. Secreted and surface-expressed genes were over-represented among retained paralogs, reflecting a bias towards important factors at the host-parasite interface, and consistent with a dosage-balance hypothesis. Genetic divergence in both coding and regulatory regions of retained paralogs was bimodal, with a deficit in moderately divergent paralogs; in particular, non-coding sequences were either conserved or entirely remodelled. The conserved paralogs included examples of remarkable sequence conservation, but also considerable divergence of both coding and regulatory regions. Sequence divergence typically displayed strong negative selection; but several features, such as asymmetric evolutionary rates, positively-selected codons and other non-neutral substitutions, suggested that divergence of some paralogs was driven by functional change. The absence of orthologs to retained paralogs in T. congolense indicated that the duplication event was specific to T. brucei.

Conclusion

The duplication of this chromosomal region doubled the dosage of many genes. Rather than creating 'more of the same', these results show that paralogs were structurally modified according to various evolutionary trajectories. The retention of paralogs, and subsequent elaboration of both their primary structures and regulatory regions, strongly suggests that this duplication was a seminal development, stimulating functional innovation and fundamentally altering the genetic repertoire of T. brucei relative to other trypanosomatids.