Field of Science

Evolution of Meiotic Genes: The Case of Spo11

In the vein of shameless self-promotion, it's my pleasure to announce that a recent paper from my lab has just been published as an Advance Access article in Molecular Biology & Evolution: Protist Homologs of the Meiotic Spo11 Gene and Topoisomerase VI Reveal an Evolutionary History of Gene Duplication and Lineage-Specific Loss (Shehre-Banoo Malik, Marilee A. Ramesh, Alissa M. Hulstrand & John M. Logsdon, Jr., Molecular Biology & Evolution, in press).

This paper is the first in a series of papers that is emerging from Banoo Malik's PhD thesis and is a result of a long-standing project with former postdoc Marilee Ramesh (now at Roanoke College). It's also the first of a number of meiotic "gene stories" that we have been untangling over the past few years. The image shown is a summary of the phylogenetic distribution of Spo11 homologs that we determined. The paper is not Open Access (sorry); however, if you are interested in reading it and do not have a subscription to MB&E, drop me an email.
Spo11 is a meiotic protein of fundamental importance as it is a conserved meiosis-specific transesterase required for meiotic recombination initiation in fungi, animals and plants. Spo11 is homologous to the archaebacterial topoisomerase VIA (Top6A) gene, and its homologs are broadly distributed among eukaryotes, with some eukaryotes having more than one homolog. However, the evolutionary relationships among these genes are unclear, with some debate as to whether eukaryotic homologs originated by lateral gene transfer. We have identified and characterized protist Spo11 homologs by degenerate PCR and sequencing and by analyses of sequences from public databases. Our phylogenetic analyses show that Spo11 homologs evolved by two ancient eukaryotic gene duplication events prior to the last common ancestor of extant eukaryotes, resulting in three eukaryotic paralogs: Spo11-1, Spo11-2 and Spo11-3. Spo11-1 orthologs encode meiosis-specific proteins and are distributed broadly among eukaryotic lineages, though Spo11-1 is absent from some protists. This absence coincides with the presence of Spo11-2 orthologs, which are meiosis-specific in Arabidopsis and are found in plants, red algae and some protists, but absent in animals and fungi. Spo11-3 encodes a Top6A subunit that interacts with topoisomerase VIB (Top6B) subunits, which together play a role in vegetative growth in Arabidopsis. We identified Spo11-3 (Top6A) and Top6B homologs in plants, red algae, and a few protists, establishing a broader distribution of these genes among eukaryotes, indicating their likely vertical descent followed by lineage-specific loss.


  1. Regarding the open access issue ... are you not allowed to post the PDF on your web site rather than having to send it out by email? or do you want to filter access via email requests?

  2. Under the publishing agreement, I'm not allowed to post the article on my website for one year. After that it's OA. I can't imagine that I would be prohibited to send it to inquiring colleagues.

    I wasn't trying to filter access for those requests, but that is an interesting idea. How about this? I'll send Jonathan a copy of the paper later today. Anyone who can't get this paper by subscription and doesn't want to me to know that they are reading it can contact Jonathan for a copy. ;-}.

  3. One might ask: "why didn't you go OA with this paper?" Well, it turns out that MB&E offers an OA option for publication. However, for me it would cost an additional $1500 beyond normal page charges. That's alot of supplies or something... And this is lower than the $2800 standard charge because U. Iowa is an institutional subscriber. In this case, the tradeoff was not there. It also appears that I am not alone with this conclusion. Of the 45 articles listed on Advance Access at MB&E only 4 of them are Open Access.

  4. I think you chose poorly here. I believe scientific papers are somewhat like compound interest - the more quickly they get read after they come out the bigger the long term impact will be. With this option, many many people will basically not see your paper.

    I realize $1500 is certainly not nothing. But I think the virulence of your ideas is related to their dispersal rate. And you just chose to partially cripple their dispersal rate. I have found with my OA publications that they seem to get more overall attention that I expect while non OA publications get less. I would recommend rethinking your choice here. Furthermore, I would recommend publishing in journals that use creative common licenses because then your ideas will really spread.

  5. You noted that you are NOT allowed to post your article on your Website for one year but you "can't imagine that I would be prohibited to send it to inquiring colleagues." Who, then, is it that the publisher thinks (and you apparently agree) might want to access the article on your website and should be blocked from doing so? People, like me, with no institutional affiliation who are seeking to write for the public about biological research?


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS