Operon-based approach for the inference of rRNA and tRNA evolutionary histories in bacteria
Leung, Carson K
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Abstract Background In bacterial genomes, rRNA and tRNA genes are often organized into operons, i.e. segments of closely located genes that share a single promoter and are transcribed as a single unit. Analyzing how these genes and operons evolve can help us understand what are the most common evolutionary events affecting them and give us a better picture of ancestral codon usage and protein synthesis. Results We introduce BOPAL, a new approach for the inference of evolutionary histories of rRNA and tRNA genes in bacteria, which is based on the identification of orthologous operons. Since operons can move around in the genome but are rarely transformed (e.g. rarely broken into different parts), this approach allows for a better inference of orthologous genes in genomes that have been affected by many rearrangements, which in turn helps with the inference of more realistic evolutionary scenarios and ancestors. Conclusions From our comparisons of BOPAL with other gene order alignment programs using simulated data, we have found that BOPAL infers evolutionary events and ancestral gene orders more accurately than other methods based on alignments. An analysis of 12 Bacillus genomes also showed that BOPAL performs just as well as other programs at building ancestral histories in a minimal amount of events.