Nine different regions totaling 9.7 Mb of the 4.02 Gb Aegilops tauschii genome were sequenced using the Sanger sequencing technology and compared with orthologous Brachypodium distachyon, Oryza sativa (rice), and Sorghum bicolor (sorghum) genomic sequences. The ancestral gene content in these regions was inferred and used to estimate gene deletion and gene duplication rates along each branch of the phylogenetic tree relating the four species. The total gene number in the extant Ae. tauschii genome was estimated to be 36,371. The gene deletion and gene duplication rates and total gene numbers in the four genomes were used to estimate the total gene number in each node of the phylogenetic tree. The common ancestor of the Brachypodieae and Triticeae lineages was estimated to have had 28,558 genes, and the common ancestor of the Panicoideae, Ehrhartoideae, and Pooideae subfamilies was estimated to have had 27,152 or 28,350 genes, depending on the ancestral gene scenario. Relative to the Brachypodieae and Triticeae common ancestor, the gene number was reduced in B. distachyon by 3,026 genes and increased in Ae. tauschii by 7,813 genes. The sum of gene deletion and gene duplication rates, which reflects the rate of gene synteny loss, was correlated with the rate of structural chromosome rearrangements and was highest in the Ae. tauschii lineage and lowest in the rice lineage. The high rate of gene space evolution in the Ae. tauschii lineage accounts for the fact that, contrary to the expectations, the level of synteny between the phylogenetically more related Ae. tauschii and B. distachyon genomes is similar to the level of synteny between the Ae. tauschii genome and the genomes of the less related rice and sorghum. The ratio of gene duplication to gene deletion rates in these four grass species closely parallels both the total number of genes in a species and the overall genome size. Because the overall genome size is to a large extent a function of the repeated sequence content in a genome, we suggest that the amount and activity of repeated sequences are important factors determining the number of genes in a genome
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