Outsourcing the nucleus: nuclear pore complex genes are no longer encoded in nucleomorph genomes

Nadja Neumann, Daniel C Jeffares, Anthony M Poole

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The nuclear pore complex (NPC) facilitates transport between nucleus and cytoplasm. The protein constituents of the NPC, termed nucleoporins (Nups), are conserved across a wide diversity of eukaryotes. In apparent exception to this, no nucleoporin genes have been identified in nucleomorph genomes. Nucleomorphs, nuclear remnants of once free-living eukaryotes, took up residence as secondary endosymbionts in cryptomonad and chlorarachniophyte algae. As these genomes are highly reduced, Nup genes may have been lost, or relocated to the host nucleus. However, Nup genes are often poorly conserved between species, so absence may be an artifact of low sequence similarity. We therefore constructed an evolutionary bioinformatic screen to establish whether the apparent absence of Nup genes in nucleomorph genomes is due to genuine absence or the inability of current methods to detect homologues. We searched green plant (Arabidopsis and rice), green alga (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) and red alga (Cyanidioschyzon merolae) genomes, plus two nucleomorph genomes (Bigelowiella natans and Guillardia theta) with profile hidden Markov models (HMMs) from curated alignments of known vertebrate/yeast Nups. Since the plant, algal and nucleomorph genomes all belong to the kingdom Plantae, and are evolutionarily distant from the outgroup (vertebrate/yeast) training set, we use the plant and algal genomes as internal positive controls for the sensitivity of the searches in nucleomorph genomes. We find numerous Nup homologues in all plant and free-living algal species, but none in either nucleomorph genome. BLAST searches using identified plant and algal Nups also failed to detect nucleomorph homologues. We conclude that nucleomorph Nup genes have either been lost, being replaced by host Nup genes, or, that nucleomorph Nup genes have been transferred to the host nucleus twice independently; once in the evolution of the red algal nucleomorph and once in the green algal nucleomorph.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalEvolutionary bioinformatics online
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2007

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