Genome compaction and stability in microsporidian intracellular parasites

Curr Biol. 2004 May 25;14(10):891-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.04.041.


Microsporidian genomes are extraordinary among eukaryotes for their extreme reduction: although they are similar in form to other eukaryotic genomes, they are typically smaller than many prokaryotic genomes. At the same time, their rates of sequence evolution are among the highest for eukaryotic organisms. To explore the effects of compaction on nuclear genome evolution, we sequenced 685,000 bp of the Antonospora locustae genome (formerly Nosema locustae) and compared its organization with the recently completed genome of the human parasite Encephalitozoon cuniculi. Despite being very distantly related, the genomes of these two microsporidian species have retained an unexpected degree of synteny: 13% of genes are in the same context, and 30% of the genes were separated by a small number of short rearrangements. Microsporidian genomes are, therefore, paradoxically composed of rapidly evolving sequences harbored within a slowly evolving genome, although these two processes are sometimes considered to be coupled. Microsporidian genomes show that eukaryotic genomes (like genes) do not evolve in a clock-like fashion, and genome stability may result from compaction in addition to a lack of recombination, as has been traditionally thought to occur in bacterial and organelle genomes.

PMID:15186746 | DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2004.04.041