Paleozoic diversification of terrestrial chitin-degrading bacterial lineages
Gruen, Danielle S.
Wolfe, Joanna M.
Fournier, Gregory P.
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Background Establishing the divergence times of groups of organisms is a major goal of evolutionary biology. This is especially challenging for microbial lineages due to the near-absence of preserved physical evidence (diagnostic body fossils or geochemical biomarkers). Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) can serve as a temporal scaffold between microbial groups and other fossil-calibrated clades, potentially improving these estimates. Specifically, HGT to or from organisms with fossil-calibrated age estimates can propagate these constraints to additional groups that lack fossils. While HGT is common between lineages, only a small subset of HGT events are potentially informative for dating microbial groups. Results Constrained by published fossil-calibrated studies of fungal evolution, molecular clock analyses show that multiple clades of Bacteria likely acquired chitinase homologs via HGT during the very late Neoproterozoic into the early Paleozoic. These results also show that, following these HGT events, recipient terrestrial bacterial clades likely diversified ~ 300–500 million years ago, consistent with established timescales of arthropod and plant terrestrialization. Conclusions We conclude that these age estimates are broadly consistent with the dispersal of chitinase genes throughout the microbial world in direct response to the evolution and ecological expansion of detrital-chitin producing groups. The convergence of multiple lines of evidence demonstrates the utility of HGT-based dating methods in microbial evolution. The pattern of inheritance of chitinase genes in multiple terrestrial bacterial lineages via HGT processes suggests that these genes, and possibly other genes encoding substrate-specific enzymes, can serve as a “standard candle” for dating microbial lineages across the Tree of Life.
© The Author(s), 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Gruen, D. S., Wolfe, J. M., & Fournier, G. P.. Paleozoic diversification of terrestrial chitin-degrading bacterial lineages. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 19, (2019): 34, doi:10.1186/s12862-019-1357-8.
Suggested CitationWHOI Gruen, D. S., Wolfe, J. M., & Fournier, G. P. (2019). Paleozoic diversification of terrestrial chitin-degrading bacterial lineages. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 19, 34
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