Evolutionary jumps in bacterial GC content.
|Evolutionary jumps in bacterial GC content.
|Year of Publication
|Mahajan S, Agashe D
|2022 May 17
Genomic GC content is a fundamental molecular trait linked with many key genomic features such as codon and amino acid use. Across bacteria, GC content is surprisingly diverse and has been studied for many decades; yet its evolution remains incompletely understood. Since it is difficult to observe GC content evolve on laboratory time-scales, phylogenetic comparative approaches are instrumental; but this dimension is rarely studied systematically in the case of bacterial GC content. We applied phylogenetic comparative models to analyse GC content evolution in multiple bacterial groups across two major bacterial phyla. We find that GC content diversifies via a combination of gradual evolution and evolutionary "jumps". Surprisingly, unlike prior reports that solely focused on reductions in GC, we found a comparable number of jumps with both increased and decreased GC content. Overall, many of the identified jumps occur in lineages beyond the well-studied peculiar examples of endosymbiotic and AT-rich marine bacteria, and do not support the predicted role of oxygen dependence. Our analysis of rapid and large shifts in GC content thus identifies new clades and novel contexts to further understand the ecological and evolutionary drivers of this important genomic trait.