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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Genome degeneration in obligate parasites and endosymbionts Gangaeva, Anna Evgenyevna


Microorganisms are a goidmine for evolutionary genetics as their genomes can evolve at an extraordinary rate which results in some of the most extravagant adaptations in terms of genome structure and function as well as survival in the most unusual environments. One trend observed in several evolutionary scenarios is genome degeneration. It is most prominent in endosymbionts and obligate intracellular parasites and is a consequence of many constraints encountered in the intracellular environment. The process involves loss of many protein-coding genes, resulting in greater dependence on the host, and loss of non-coding DNA such as intergenic regions, which has a direct impact on regulation of genome function. I have chosen two evolutionarily distinct systems to analyze the stages and functional consequences of genome degeneration, namely the impact of genome compression on transcription in an obligate parasite Antonospora locustae (genus Microsporidia), and gene content in the mitochondrion of a diatom endosymbiont found in the dinoflagellate Durinskia baltica. I have successfully mapped transcriptional start and termination sites from 14 loci in Antonospora locustae, and cloned fragments of two genes that are part of the electron transport chain from the mitochondrion of the diatom endosymbiont in Durinskia baltica. My analysis reveals that transcription in A. locustae is always initiated immediately upstream of the open reading frame at a single point for every locus, whereas transcriptional termination can occur at several points for a single gene and, in some instances overlaps with a downstream reading frame. The identification ofNADH5 and ATPase9 from the mitochondrion of the endosymbiont in D. baltica is further evidence for the preservation of function in this enigmatic organelle.

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