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Open Access Research article

Multiple genome alignment for identifying the core structure among moderately related microbial genomes

Ikuo Uchiyama

Author Affiliations

Department of Theoretical Biology, National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Nishigonaka 38, Myodaiji, Okazaki, Aichi 444-8585 Japan

BMC Genomics 2008, 9:515  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-515

Published: 31 October 2008

Abstract

Background

Identifying the set of intrinsically conserved genes, or the genomic core, among related genomes is crucial for understanding prokaryotic genomes where horizontal gene transfers are common. Although core genome identification appears to be obvious among very closely related genomes, it becomes more difficult when more distantly related genomes are compared. Here, we consider the core structure as a set of sufficiently long segments in which gene orders are conserved so that they are likely to have been inherited mainly through vertical transfer, and developed a method for identifying the core structure by finding the order of pre-identified orthologous groups (OGs) that maximally retains the conserved gene orders.

Results

The method was applied to genome comparisons of two well-characterized families, Bacillaceae and Enterobacteriaceae, and identified their core structures comprising 1438 and 2125 OGs, respectively. The core sets contained most of the essential genes and their related genes, which were primarily included in the intersection of the two core sets comprising around 700 OGs. The definition of the genomic core based on gene order conservation was demonstrated to be more robust than the simpler approach based only on gene conservation. We also investigated the core structures in terms of G+C content homogeneity and phylogenetic congruence, and found that the core genes primarily exhibited the expected characteristic, i.e., being indigenous and sharing the same history, more than the non-core genes.

Conclusion

The results demonstrate that our strategy of genome alignment based on gene order conservation can provide an effective approach to identify the genomic core among moderately related microbial genomes.