Genome rearrangement distances and gene order phylogeny in gamma-proteobacteria
Genome rearrangements have been studied in 30 gamma-proteobacterial complete genomes by comparing the order of a reduced set of genes on the chromosome. This set included those genes fulfilling several characteristics, the main ones being that an ortholog was present in every genome and that none of them had been acquired by horizontal gene transfer. Genome rearrangement distances were estimated based on either the number of breakpoints or the minimal number of inversions separating two genomes. Breakpoint and inversion distances were highly correlated, indicating that inversions were the main type of rearrangement event in gamma-Proteobacteria. In general, the progressive increase in sequence-based distances between genome pairs was associated with the increase in their rearrangement-based distances but with several groups of distances not following this pattern. Compared with free-living enteric bacteria, the lineages of Pasteurellaceae were evolving, on average, to relatively higher rates of between 2.02 and 1.64, while the endosymbiotic bacterial lineages of Buchnera aphidicola and Wigglesworthia glossinidia were evolving at moderately higher rates of 1.38 and 1.35, respectively. Because we know that the rearrangement rate in the Bu. aphidicola lineage was close to zero during the last 100- 150 Myr of evolution, we deduced that a much higher rate took place in the first period of lineage evolution after the divergence of the Escherichia coli lineage. On the other hand, the lineage of the endosymbiont Blochmannia floridanus did present an almost identical rate to free-living enteric bacteria, indicating that the increase in the genome rearrangement rate is not a general change associated with bacterial endosymbiosis. Phylogenetic reconstruction based on rearrangement distances showed a different topology from the one inferred by sequence information. This topology broke the proposed monophyly of the three endosymbiotic lineages and placed Bl. floridanus as a closer relative to E. coli than Yersinia pestis. These results indicate that the phylogeny of these insect endosymbionts is still an open question that will require the development of specific phylogenetic methods to confirm whether the sisterhood of the three endosymbiotic lineages is real or a consequence of a long-branch attraction phenomenon.