Contrasting outcomes of genome reduction in mikrocytids and microsporidians.

Žárský V, Karnkowska A, Boscaro V, Trznadel M, Whelan TA, Hiltunen-Thorén M, Onut-Brännström I, Abbott CL, Fast NM, Burki F, Keeling PJ

BMC Biol. 21 (1) 137 [2023-06-06; online 2023-06-06]

Intracellular symbionts often undergo genome reduction, losing both coding and non-coding DNA in a process that ultimately produces small, gene-dense genomes with few genes. Among eukaryotes, an extreme example is found in microsporidians, which are anaerobic, obligate intracellular parasites related to fungi that have the smallest nuclear genomes known (except for the relic nucleomorphs of some secondary plastids). Mikrocytids are superficially similar to microsporidians: they are also small, reduced, obligate parasites; however, as they belong to a very different branch of the tree of eukaryotes, the rhizarians, such similarities must have evolved in parallel. Since little genomic data are available from mikrocytids, we assembled a draft genome of the type species, Mikrocytos mackini, and compared the genomic architecture and content of microsporidians and mikrocytids to identify common characteristics of reduction and possible convergent evolution. At the coarsest level, the genome of M. mackini does not exhibit signs of extreme genome reduction; at 49.7 Mbp with 14,372 genes, the assembly is much larger and gene-rich than those of microsporidians. However, much of the genomic sequence and most (8075) of the protein-coding genes code for transposons, and may not contribute much of functional relevance to the parasite. Indeed, the energy and carbon metabolism of M. mackini share several similarities with those of microsporidians. Overall, the predicted proteome involved in cellular functions is quite reduced and gene sequences are extremely divergent. Microsporidians and mikrocytids also share highly reduced spliceosomes that have retained a strikingly similar subset of proteins despite having reduced independently. In contrast, the spliceosomal introns in mikrocytids are very different from those of microsporidians in that they are numerous, conserved in sequence, and constrained to an exceptionally narrow size range (all 16 or 17 nucleotides long) at the shortest extreme of known intron lengths. Nuclear genome reduction has taken place many times and has proceeded along different routes in different lineages. Mikrocytids show a mix of similarities and differences with other extreme cases, including uncoupling the actual size of a genome with its functional reduction.

Fabien Burki

SciLifeLab Fellow

PubMed 37280585

DOI 10.1186/s12915-023-01635-w

Crossref 10.1186/s12915-023-01635-w

pmc: PMC10245619
pii: 10.1186/s12915-023-01635-w

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