Burki F, Flegontov P, Oborník M, Cihlář J, Pain A, Lukeš J, Keeling PJ
Genome Biol Evol 4 (6) 626-635 [2012-00-00; online 2012-05-16]
The transition from endosymbiont to organelle in eukaryotic cells involves the transfer of significant numbers of genes to the host genomes, a process known as endosymbiotic gene transfer (EGT). In the case of plastid organelles, EGTs have been shown to leave a footprint in the nuclear genome that can be indicative of ancient photosynthetic activity in present-day plastid-lacking organisms, or even hint at the existence of cryptic plastids. Here, we evaluated the impact of EGT on eukaryote genomes by reanalyzing the recently published EST dataset for Chromera velia, an interesting test case of a photosynthetic alga closely related to apicomplexan parasites. Previously, 513 genes were reported to originate from red and green algae in a 1:1 ratio. In contrast, by manually inspecting newly generated trees indicating putative algal ancestry, we recovered only 51 genes congruent with EGT, of which 23 and 9 were of red and green algal origin, respectively, whereas 19 were ambiguous regarding the algal provenance. Our approach also uncovered 109 genes that branched within a monocot angiosperm clade, most likely representing a contamination. We emphasize the lack of congruence and the subjectivity resulting from independent phylogenomic screens for EGT, which appear to call for extreme caution when drawing conclusions for major evolutionary events.