Phylo SI: A new genome-wide approach for prokaryotic phylogeny

Anton Shifman, Noga Ninyo, Uri Gophna, Sagi Snir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

The evolutionary history of all life forms is usually represented as a vertical tree-like process. In prokaryotes, however, the vertical signal is partly obscured by the massive influence of horizontal gene transfer (HGT). The HGT creates widespread discordance between evolutionary histories of different genes as genomes become mosaics of gene histories. Thus, the Tree of Life (TOL) has been questioned as an appropriate representation of the evolution of prokaryotes. Nevertheless a common hypothesis is that prokaryotic evolution is primarily tree-like, and a routine effort is made to place new isolates in their appropriate location in the TOL. Moreover, it appears desirable to exploit non-tree-like evolutionary processes for the task of microbial classification. In this work, we present a novel technique that builds on the straightforward observation that gene order conservation ('synteny') decreases in time as a result of gene mobility. This is particularly true in prokaryotes, mainly due to HGT. Using a 'synteny index' (SI) that measures the average synteny between a pair of genomes, we developed the phylogenetic reconstruction tool 'Phylo SI'. Phylo SI offers several attractive properties such as easy bootstrapping, high sensitivity in cases where phylogenetic signal is weak and computational efficiency. Phylo SI was tested both on simulated data and on two bacterial data sets and compared with two well-established phylogenetic methods. Phylo SI is particularly efficient on short evolutionary distances where synteny footprints remain detectable, whereas the nucleotide substitution signal is too weak for reliable sequence-based phylogenetic reconstruction. The method is publicly available at http://research.haifa.ac.il/ssagi/software/PhyloSI.zip.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2391-2404
Number of pages14
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Funding

FundersFunder number
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
Israel Science Foundation
University of Haifa

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