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EvoDevo  2011 

New genomes, new taxa and deep questions in the eukaryotic tree of life: a meeting report on the EMBO comparative genomics conference

DOI: 10.1186/2041-9139-2-22

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'We scientists are like the lovers in 1950s films, absolutely insatiable. After one genome will come another, and another, and we will not stop until we have sequenced all of them' said microbiologist Antonio Lazcano more than a decade ago. The truth is that this year's EMBO conference series on the Comparative Genomics of Eukaryotic Microorganisms has proven Lazcano to be somehow right. Importantly, however, these new genomes are giving us useful insights into eukaryotic diversity, biology and evolution. Even more importantly, thanks to high-throughput sequencing technologies the cost of sequencing is rapidly dropping providing researchers with the opportunity not only to analyze hundreds of genomes but to obtain the first genome data from previously neglected eukaryotic taxa. Below we report some of the highlights of the meeting that both emphasize this trend and are potentially relevant to the readers of EvoDevo.It is clear that there exists a huge bias in genomic sampling efforts across the diversity of the eukaryotic tree. For example, the Opisthokonta, the clade that includes Fungi and Metazoa, continues to be by far the most well-sampled eukaryotic superclade, whereas genomic data on Excavata and Rhizaria remain scarce. In this meeting more than half of the presentations concerned the analysis of genomes and/or transcriptomes of Fungi, which is not surprising given that more than 200 fungal genomes have been sequenced to date. Such comprehensive genome sampling enables studies at the level of population genomics, some of which are providing important insights into the subtelomeric regions. It is becoming widely accepted that subtelomeric genes show increased rates of duplication and undergo frequent ectopic recombination without the need for meiosis. Thus, these subtelomeric regions may play important roles in the origin of evolutionary innovation and, specifically, in the generation of genetic diversity. Good examples of this, presented by Kevin Verstrepen (


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