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Comparative genomics reveals contraction in olfactory receptor genes in bats.
Gene loss and gain during genome evolution are thought to play important roles in adaptive phenotypic diversification. Among mammals, bats possess the smallest genomes and have evolved the unique abilities of powered flight and laryngeal echolocation. To investigate whether gene family evolution has contributed to the genome downsizing and phenotypic diversification in this group, we performed comparative evolutionary analyses of complete proteome data for eight bat species, including echolocating and non-echolocating forms, together with the proteomes of 12 other laurasiatherian mammals. Our analyses revealed extensive gene loss in the most recent ancestor of bats, and also of carnivores (both >1,000 genes), although this gene contraction did not appear to correlate with the reduction in genome size in bats. Comparisons of highly dynamic families suggested that expansion and contraction affected genes with similar functions (immunity, response to stimulus) in all laurasiatherian lineages. However, the magnitude and direction of these changes varied greatly among groups. In particular, our results showed contraction of the Olfactory Receptor (OR) gene repertoire in the last common ancestor of all bats, as well as that of the echolocating species studied. In contrast, non-echolocating fruit bats showed evidence of expansion in ORs, supporting a "trade-off" between sensory modalities.
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