Genomics of Sorocarpic Amoebae
Abstract: Sorocarpy is the aggregation of unicellular organisms to form multicellular fruiting bodies (sorocarps). This thesis is about the two best-known groups of sorocarpic amoebae, Dictyostelids and Acrasids.Paper I describes assembly and analysis of a multigene dataset to identify the root of the dictyostelid tree. Phylogenetic analyses of 213 genes (conserved in all sequenced dictyostelid genomes and an outgroup) place the root between Groups 1+2 and 3+4 (now: Cavenderiaceae + Acytosteliaceae and Raperosteliaceae + Dictyosteliaceae). Resolution of the dictyostelid root made it possible to proceed with a major taxonomic revision of the group.Paper II focuses on the taxonomic revision of Dictyostelia based on molecular phylogeny and SSU ribosomal RNA sequence signatures. The two major divisions were treated at the rank of order as Acytosteliales ord. nov. and Dictyosteliales. The two major clades within each of these orders were given the rank of family. Twelve genera were recognized. This is the first revision of a major protist taxon using molecular signatures and offers guidelines for taxonomic revision of protist groups where morphology is insufficient. Paper III presents the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) of Acrasis kona. Over a quarter of the genome consists of novel open reading frames, while 16 genes present in the mtDNA of its relative, Naegleria gruberi, are missing. We identified many of these genes in the A. kona nuclear DNA, and used phylogenetic analyses to show that most of these genes arose by transfer from mtDNA. Paper IV presents the nuclear genome of A. kona, the second genome sequence of a free-living excavate. The 44 Mb genome has 15,868 open reading frames of which 4,987 are novel. A surprising number of genes are most similar to homologs in distant relatives, suggesting acquisition by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Most HGT candidates are expressed and many constitute multi-gene families and/or have acquired introns and membrane targeting sequences. Strong HGT candidates include some genes essential to development and signaling in Dictyostelia. Flagellar motility and meiosis genes are also present and conserved, suggesting cryptic flagellar and sexual stages.
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