A genomic schism in birds revealed by phylogenetic analysis of DNA strings


Edwards SV, Fertil B, Giron A, Deschavanne PJ. A genomic schism in birds revealed by phylogenetic analysis of DNA strings. Systematic Biology [Internet]. 2002;51 :599-613.


The molecular systematics of vertebrates has been based entirely on alignments of primary structures of macromolecules; however, higher order features of DNA sequences not used in traditional studies also contain valuable phylogenetic information. Recent molecular data sets conflict over the phylogenetic placement of flightless birds (ratites - paleognaths), but placement of this clade critically influences interpretation of character change in birds. To help resolve this issue, we applied a new bioinformatics approach to the largest molecular data set currently available. We distilled nearly one megabase (1 million base pairs) of heterogeneous avian genomic DNA from 20 birds and an alligator into genomic signatures, defined as the complete set of frequencies of short sequence motifs (strings), thereby providing a way to directly compare higher order features of nonhomologous DNA sequences. Phylogenetic analysis and principal component analysis of the signatures strongly support the traditional hypothesis of basal ratites and monophyly of the nonratite birds (neognaths) and imply that ratite genomes are linguistically primitive within birds, despite their base compositional similarity to neognath genomes. Our analyses show further that the phylogenetic signal of genomic signatures are strongest among deep splits within vertebrates. Despite clear problems with phylogenetic analysis of genomic signatures, our study raises intriguing issues about the biological and genomic differences that fundamentally differentiate paleognaths and neognaths. [Bioinformatics; CpG island; genomics; isochore; ratite.]

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