Background - Gene loss, inversions, translocations, and other chromosomal rearrangements vary among species, resulting in different rates of structural genome evolution. Major chromosomal rearrangements are rare in most eukaryotes, giving large regions with the same genes in the same order and orientation across species. These regions of macrosynteny have been very useful for locating homologous genes in different species and to guide the assembly of genome sequences. Previous analyses in the fungi have indicated that macrosynteny is rare; instead, comparisons across species show no synteny or only microsyntenic regions encompassing usually five or fewer genes. To test the hypothesis that chromosomal evolution is different in the fungi compared to other eukaryotes, synteny was compared between species of the major fungal taxa. Results - These analyses identified a novel form of evolution in which genes are conserved within homologous chromosomes, but with randomized orders and orientations. This mode of evolution is designated mesosynteny, to differentiate it from micro- and macrosynteny seen in other organisms. Mesosynteny is an alternative evolutionary pathway very different from macrosyntenic conservation. Surprisingly, mesosynteny was not found in all fungal groups. Instead, mesosynteny appears to be restricted to filamentous Ascomycetes and was most striking between species in the Dothideomycetes. Conclusions - The existence of mesosynteny between relatively distantly related Ascomycetes could be explained by a high frequency of chromosomal inversions, but translocations must be extremely rare. The mechanism for this phenomenon is not known, but presumably involves generation of frequent inversions during meiosis
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