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Background: Dictyostelia are a well-studied group of organisms with colonial multicellularity, which are members of the mostly unicellular Amoebozoa. A phylogeny based on SSU rDNA data subdivided all Dictyostelia into four major groups, but left the position of the root and of six group-intermediate taxa unresolved. Recent phylogenies inferred from 30 or 213 proteins from sequenced genomes, positioned the root between two branches, each containing two major groups, but lacked data to position the group-intermediate taxa. Since the positions of these early diverging taxa are crucial for understanding the evolution of phenotypic complexity in Dictyostelia, we sequenced six representative genomes of early diverging taxa.
Results: We retrieved orthologs of 47 housekeeping proteins with an average size of 890 amino acids from six newly sequenced and eight published genomes of Dictyostelia and unicellular Amoebozoa and inferred phylogenies from single and concatenated protein sequence alignments. Concatenated alignments of all 47 proteins, and four out of five subsets of nine concatenated proteins all produced the same consensus phylogeny with 100% statistical support. Trees inferred from just two out of the 47 proteins, individually reproduced the consensus phylogeny, highlighting that single gene phylogenies will rarely reflect correct species relationships. However, sets of two or three concatenated proteins again reproduced the consensus phylogeny, indicating that a small selection of genes suffices for low cost classification of as yet unincorporated or newly discovered dictyostelid and amoebozoan taxa by gene amplification.
Conclusions: The multi-locus consensus phylogeny shows that groups 1 and 2 are sister clades in branch I, with the group-intermediate taxon D. polycarpum positioned as outgroup to group 2. Branch II consists of groups 3 and 4, with the group-intermediate taxon Polysphondylium violaceum positioned as sister to group 4, and the group-intermediate taxon Dictyostelium polycephalum branching at the base of that whole clade. Given the data, the approximately unbiased test rejects all alternative topologies favoured by SSU rDNA and individual proteins with high statistical support. The test also rejects monophyletic origins for the genera Acytostelium, Polysphondylium and Dictyostelium. The current position of Acytostelium ellipticum in the consensus phylogeny indicates that somatic cells were lost twice in Dictyostelia.
- Multi-locus phylogeny
- Evolution of soma
- Evolution of multicellularity