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The evolution of genomic GC content undergoes a rapid reversal within the genus Plasmodium.

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The evolution of genomic GC content undergoes a rapid reversal within the genus Plasmodium.

Genome. 2014 Sep;57(9):507-11

Authors: Nikbakht H, Xia X, Hickey DA

Abstract
The genome of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum is extremely AT rich. This bias toward a low GC content is a characteristic of several, but not all, species within the genus Plasmodium. We compared 4283 orthologous pairs of protein-coding sequences between Plasmodium falciparum and the less AT-biased Plasmodium vivax. Our results indicate that the common ancestor of these two species was also extremely AT rich. This means that, although there was a strong bias toward A+T during the early evolution of the ancestral Plasmodium lineage, there was a subsequent reversal of this trend during the more recent evolution of some species, such as P. vivax. Moreover, we show that not only is the P. vivax genome losing its AT richness, it is actually gaining a very significant degree of GC richness. This example illustrates the potential volatility of nucleotide content during the course of molecular evolution. Such reversible fluxes in nucleotide content within lineages could have important implications for phylogenetic reconstruction based on molecular sequence data.

PMID: 25633864 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]