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Genome-wide gene order distances support clustering the gram-positive bacteria.


Initially using 143 genomes, we developed a method for calculating the pair-wise distance between prokaryotic genomes using a Monte Carlo method to estimate the conservation of gene order. The method was based on repeatedly selecting five or six non-adjacent random orthologs from each of two genomes and determining if the chosen orthologs were in the same order. The raw distances were then corrected for gene order convergence using an adaptation of the Jukes-Cantor model, as well as using the common distance correction D' = -ln(1-D). First, we compared the distances found via the order of six orthologs to distances found based on ortholog gene content and small subunit rRNA sequences. The Jukes-Cantor gene order distances are reasonably well correlated with the divergence of rRNA (R (2) = 0.24), especially at rRNA Jukes-Cantor distances of less than 0.2 (R (2) = 0.52). Gene content is only weakly correlated with rRNA divergence (R (2) = 0.04) over all distances, however, it is especially strongly correlated at rRNA Jukes-Cantor distances of less than 0.1 (R (2) = 0.67). This initial work suggests that gene order may be useful in conjunction with other methods to help understand the relatedness of genomes. Using the gene order distances in 143 genomes, the relations of prokaryotes were studied using neighbor joining and agreement subtrees. We then repeated our study of the relations of prokaryotes using gene order in 172 complete genomes better representing a wider-diversity of prokaryotes. Consistently, our trees show the Actinobacteria as a sister group to the bulk of the Firmicutes. In fact, the robustness of gene order support was found to be considerably greater for uniting these two phyla than for uniting any of the proteobacterial classes together. The results are supportive of the idea that Actinobacteria and Firmicutes are closely related, which in turn implies a single origin for the gram-positive cell.

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