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Yeasts serve as hosts to several types of genetic parasites. Few studies have addressed the evolutionary trajectory of yeast genes that control the stable co-existence of these parasites with their host cell. In Saccharomyces yeasts, the retrovirus-like Ty retrotransposons must access the nucleus. We show that several genes encoding components of the yeast nuclear pore complex have experienced natural selection for substitutions that change the encoded protein sequence. By replacing these S. cerevisiae genes with orthologs from other Saccharomyces species, we discovered that natural sequence changes have affected the mobility of Ty retrotransposons. Specifically, changing the genetic sequence of NUP84 or NUP82 to match that of other Saccharomyces species alters the mobility of S. cerevisiae Ty1 and Ty3. Importantly, all tested housekeeping functions of NUP84 and NUP82 remained equivalent across species. Signatures of natural selection, resulting in altered interactions with viruses and parasitic genetic elements, are common in host defense proteins. Yet, few instances have been documented in essential housekeeping proteins. The nuclear pore complex is the gatekeeper of the nucleus. This study shows how the evolution of this large, ubiquitous eukaryotic complex can alter the replication of a molecular parasite, but concurrently maintain essential host functionalities regarding nucleocytoplasmic trafficking.


Paul A Rowley, Kurt Patterson, Suzanne B Sandmeyer, Sara L Sawyer. Control of yeast retrotransposons mediated through nucleoporin evolution. PLoS genetics. 2018 Apr;14(4):e1007325

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PMID: 29694349

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