The rapidly growing database of completely sequenced genomes of bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes and viruses (several thousand genomes already available and many more in progress) creates both new opportunities and new challenges for genome research. Over the last year, we performed several studies that took advantage of the genomic information to establish fundamental principles of genome evolution and function. In particular, we investigated the evolution of the numerous long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) encoded in mammalian genomes. The functions of the lncRNAs remain largely unknown but their evolution appears to be constrained by purifying selection, albeit relatively weakly. To gain insights into the mode of evolution and the functional range of the lncRNA, they can be compared with much better characterized protein-coding genes. The evolutionary rate of the protein-coding genes shows a universal negative correlation with expression: highly expressed genes are on average more conserved during evolution than the genes with lower expression levels. This correlation was conceptualized in the misfolding-driven protein evolution hypothesis according to which misfolding is the principal cost incurred by protein expression. We sought to determine whether long intergenic ncRNAs (lincRNAs) follow the same evolutionary trend and indeed detected a moderate but statistically significant negative correlation between the evolutionary rate and expression level of human and mouse lincRNA genes. The magnitude of the correlation for the lincRNAs is similar to that for equal-sized sets of protein-coding genes with similar levels of sequence conservation. Additionally, the expression level of the lincRNAs is significantly and positively correlated with the predicted extent of lincRNA molecule folding (base-pairing), however, the contributions of evolutionary rates and folding to the expression level are independent. Thus, the anticorrelation between evolutionary rate and expression level appears to be a general feature of gene evolution that might be caused by similar deleterious effects of protein and RNA misfolding and/or other factors, for example, the number of interacting partners of the gene product. A separate project was dedicated to the phylogenomics of prokaryotic defense systems. The recently discovered CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune system is present in almost all archaea and many bacteria. It consists of cassettes of CRISPR repeats that incorporate spacers homologous to fragments of viral or plasmid genomes that are employed as guide RNAs in the immune response, along with numerous CRISPR-associated (cas) genes that encode proteins possessing diverse, only partially characterized activities required for the action of the system. Here, we investigate the evolution of the cas genes and show that they evolve under purifying selection that is typically much weaker than the median strength of purifying selection affecting genes in the respective genomes. The exceptions are the cas1 and cas2 genes that typically evolve at levels of purifying selection close to the genomic median. Thus, although these genes are implicated in the acquisition of spacers from alien genomes, they do not appear to be directly involved in an arms race between bacterial and archaeal hosts and infectious agents. These genes might possess functions distinct from and additional to their role in the CRISPR-Cas-mediated immune response. Taken together with evidence of the frequent horizontal transfer of cas genes reported previously and with the wide-spread microscale recombination within these genes detected in this work, these findings reveal the highly dynamic evolution of cas genes. This conclusion is in line with the involvement of CRISPR-Cas in antiviral immunity that is likely to entail a coevolutionary arms race with rapidly evolving viruses. However, we failed to detect evidence of strong positive selection in any of the cas genes. We extensively studied the evolution of the Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDV) that constitute an apparently monophyletic group consisting of at least 6 families of viruses infecting a broad variety of eukaryotic hosts. A comprehensive genome comparison and maximum-likelihood reconstruction of the NCLDV evolution revealed a set of approximately 50 conserved, core genes that could be mapped to the genome of the common ancestor of this class of eukaryotic viruses. We performed a detailed phylogenetic analysis of these core NCLDV genes and applied the constrained tree approach to show that the majority of the core genes are unlikely to be monophyletic. Several of the core genes have been independently acquired from different sources by different NCLDV lineages whereas for the majority of these genes displacement by homologs from cellular organisms in one or more groups of the NCLDV was demonstrated. Thus, a detailed study of the evolution of the genomic core of the NCLDV reveals substantial complexity and diversity of evolutionary scenarios that was largely unsuspected previously. The phylogenetic coherence between the core genes is sufficient to validate the hypothesis on the evolution of all NCLDV from a common ancestral virus although the set of ancestral genes might be smaller than previously inferred from patterns of gene presence-absence. Protein-coding genes in eukaryotes are interrupted by introns, but intron densities widely differ between eukaryotic lineages. Vertebrates, some invertebrates and green plants have intron-rich genes, with 6-7 introns per kilobase of coding sequence, whereas most of the other eukaryotes have intron-poor genes. We reconstructed the history of intron gain and loss using a probabilistic Markov model (Markov Chain Monte Carlo, MCMC) on 245 orthologous genes from 99 genomes representing the three of the five supergroups of eukaryotes for which multiple genome sequences are available. Intron-rich ancestors are confidently reconstructed for each major group, with 53 to 74% of the human intron density inferred with 95% confidence for the Last Eukaryotic Common Ancestor (LECA). The results of the MCMC reconstruction are compared with the reconstructions obtained using Maximum Likelihood (ML) and Dollo parsimony methods. An excellent agreement between the MCMC and ML inferences is demonstrated whereas Dollo parsimony introduces a noticeable bias in the estimations, typically yielding lower ancestral intron densities than MCMC and ML. Evolution of eukaryotic genes was dominated by intron loss, with substantial gain only at the bases of several major branches including plants and animals. The highest intron density, 120 to 130% of the human value, is inferred for the last common ancestor of animals. The reconstruction shows that the entire line of descent from LECA to mammals was intron-rich, a state conducive to the evolution of alternative splicing.

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Iranzo, Jaime; Puigbò, Pere; Lobkovsky, Alexander E et al. (2016) Inevitability of Genetic Parasites. Genome Biol Evol 8:2856-2869
Koonin, Eugene V (2016) Horizontal gene transfer: essentiality and evolvability in prokaryotes, and roles in evolutionary transitions. F1000Res 5:
Smith, Richard H; Hallwirth, Claus V; Westerman, Michael et al. (2016) Germline viral "fossils" guide in silico reconstruction of a mid-Cenozoic era marsupial adeno-associated virus. Sci Rep 6:28965
Lavysh, Daria; Sokolova, Maria; Minakhin, Leonid et al. (2016) The genome of AR9, a giant transducing Bacillus phage encoding two multisubunit RNA polymerases. Virology 495:185-96
Makarova, Kira S; Koonin, Eugene V; Albers, Sonja-Verena (2016) Diversity and Evolution of Type IV pili Systems in Archaea. Front Microbiol 7:667
Kozlenkov, Alexey; Wang, Minghui; Roussos, Panos et al. (2016) Substantial DNA methylation differences between two major neuronal subtypes in human brain. Nucleic Acids Res 44:2593-612
Koonin, Eugene V; Wolf, Yuri I (2016) Just how Lamarckian is CRISPR-Cas immunity: the continuum of evolvability mechanisms. Biol Direct 11:9
Krupovic, Mart; Shmakov, Sergey; Makarova, Kira S et al. (2016) Recent Mobility of Casposons, Self-Synthesizing Transposons at the Origin of the CRISPR-Cas Immunity. Genome Biol Evol 8:375-86
Mohanraju, Prarthana; Makarova, Kira S; Zetsche, Bernd et al. (2016) Diverse evolutionary roots and mechanistic variations of the CRISPR-Cas systems. Science 353:aad5147
Koonin, Eugene V (2016) The meaning of biological information. Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci 374:

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