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Evolution of genome architecture in archaea: spontaneous generation of a new chromosome in Haloferax volcanii

Ausiannikava, Darya; Mitchell, Laura; Marriott, Hannah; Smith, Victoria; Hawkins, Michelle; Makarova, Kira S.; Koonin, Eugene V.; Nieduszynski, Conrad A.; Allers, Thorsten


Darya Ausiannikava

Laura Mitchell

Hannah Marriott

Victoria Smith

Michelle Hawkins

Kira S. Makarova

Eugene V. Koonin

Conrad A. Nieduszynski


The common ancestry of archaea and eukaryotes is evident in their genome architecture. All eukaryotic and several archaeal genomes consist of multiple chromosomes, each replicated from multiple origins. Three scenarios have been proposed for the evolution of this genome architecture: (1) mutational diversification of a multi-copy chromosome; (2) capture of a new chromosome by horizontal transfer; (3) acquisition of new origins and splitting into two replication-competent chromosomes. We report an example of the third scenario: the multi-origin chromosome of the archaeon Haloferax volcanii has split into two elements via homologous recombination. The newly-generated elements are bona fide chromosomes, because each bears ‘chromosomal’ replication origins, rRNA loci and essential genes. The new chromosomes were stable during routine growth but additional genetic manipulation, which involves selective bottlenecks, provoked further rearrangements. To the best of our knowledge, rearrangement of a naturally-evolved prokaryotic genome to generate two new chromosomes has not been described previously.


Ausiannikava, D., Mitchell, L., Marriott, H., Smith, V., Hawkins, M., Makarova, K. S., …Allers, T. (2018). Evolution of genome architecture in archaea: spontaneous generation of a new chromosome in Haloferax volcanii. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 35(8), 1855-1868.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 13, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 16, 2018
Publication Date Aug 1, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 17, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 17, 2018
Journal Molecular Biology and Evolution
Print ISSN 0737-4038
Electronic ISSN 1537-1719
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 8
Pages 1855-1868
Keywords Chromosome, Genome architecture, Multipartite genome, Homologous recombination, Genome stability, Archaea, Haloferax volcanii
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