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Comprehensive and functional analysis of horizontal gene transfer events in diatoms
Vancaester, E.; Depuydt, T.; Osuna-Cruz, C.M.; Vandepoele, K. (2020). Comprehensive and functional analysis of horizontal gene transfer events in diatoms. Mol. Biol. Evol. 37(11): 3243-3257.
In: Molecular Biology and Evolution. Oxford University Press: Chicago, Ill.. ISSN 0737-4038; e-ISSN 1537-1719, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    horizontal gene transfer; diatoms; vitamin B12; selection pressure

Authors  Top 
  • Vancaester, E., more
  • Depuydt, T., more
  • Osuna-Cruz, C.M., more
  • Vandepoele, K., more

    Diatoms are a diverse group of mainly photosynthetic algae, responsible for 20% of worldwide oxygen production, which can rapidly respond to favorable conditions and often outcompete other phytoplankton. We investigated the contribution of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) to its ecological success. A large-scale phylogeny-based prokaryotic HGT detection procedure across nine sequenced diatoms showed that 3–5% of their proteome has a horizontal origin and a large influx occurred at the ancestor of diatoms. More than 90% of HGT genes are expressed, and species-specific HGT genes in Phaeodactylum tricornutum undergo strong purifying selection. Genes derived from HGT are implicated in several processes including environmental sensing and expand the metabolic toolbox. Cobalamin (vitamin B12) is an essential cofactor for roughly half of the diatoms and is only produced by bacteria. Five consecutive genes involved in the final synthesis of the cobalamin biosynthetic pathway, which could function as scavenging and repair genes, were detected as HGT. The full suite of these genes was detected in the cold-adapted diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus. This might give diatoms originating from the Southern Ocean, a region typically depleted in cobalamin, a competitive advantage. Overall, we show that HGT is a prevalent mechanism that is actively used in diatoms to expand its adaptive capabilities.

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