Whole Genome Duplication in Yeast Arose by Inter-Species Hybridization, Not Intra-Species Genome Duplication As Commonly Believed; Unexpected Findings Suggest New Paradigm for Evolution of Whole Genome Duplications

Researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Spain, have proposed a new theory to explain the origin of whole-genome duplication at the beginning of the yeast lineage. Yeasts are single-celled fungi that originated over 100 million years ago. The ability of these organisms to ferment carbohydrates is widely used for food and drink fermentation. Yeasts are also one of the most commonly used model organisms in research. For example, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is used to make bread, wine, and beer, was the first eukaryotic organism to be sequenced (in 1996) and is a key model organism for studying molecular and cellular biology. Once the yeast genome sequences became available, researchers were able to determine that the yeast genome contains more than 50 repeated fragments. Since then, the scientific community has accepted the theory that yeast underwent a whole-genome duplication, a phenomenon that is not isolated and can also be found in other species. For instance, we know that whole-genome duplications were important in the early evolution of vertebrates and that it is a very common phenomenon in plants, especially cultivated ones. The CRG scientists Dr. Marina Marcet-Houben and Dr. Toni Gabaldón [CRG group leader and ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) Research Professor] have now studied the origins of the whole-genome duplication in yeast to gain a more thorough understanding of this phenomenon, which is thought to have played a key role the evolution and adaption of the species. Their results were published online on August 7, 2015 in the open-acces journal PLoS Biology.
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