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“Twisted Tales: Insights into Genome Diversity of Ciliates Using Single-Cell ‘omics”


The emergence of robust single-cell 'omics techniques enables studies of uncultivable species, allowing for the (re)discovery of diverse genomic features. In this study, we combine single-cell genomics and transcriptomics to explore genome evolution in ciliates (a > 1 Gy old clade). Analysis of the data resulting from these single-cell 'omics approaches show: 1) the description of the ciliates in the class Karyorelictea as "primitive" is inaccurate because their somatic macronuclei contain loci of varying copy number (i.e., they have been processed by genome rearrangements from the zygotic nucleus); 2) gene-sized somatic chromosomes exist in the class Litostomatea, consistent with Balbiani's (1890) observation of giant chromosomes in this lineage; and 3) gene scrambling exists in the underexplored Postciliodesmatophora (the classes Heterotrichea and Karyorelictea, abbreviated here as the Po-clade), one of two major clades of ciliates. Together these data highlight the complex evolutionary patterns underlying germline genome architectures in ciliates and provide a basis for further exploration of principles of genome evolution in diverse microbial lineages.

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