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  1. Ouangraoua, Aida (Ed.)
    Abstract Previous evolutionary reconstructions have concluded that early eukaryotic ancestors including both the last common ancestor of eukaryotes and of all fungi had intron-rich genomes. By contrast, some extant eukaryotes have few introns, underscoring the complex histories of intron–exon structures, and raising the question as to why these few introns are retained. Here, we have used recently available fungal genomes to address a variety of questions related to intron evolution. Evolutionary reconstruction of intron presence and absence using 263 diverse fungal species supports the idea that massive intron reduction through intron loss has occurred in multiple clades. The intron densities estimated in various fungal ancestors differ from zero to 7.6 introns per 1 kb of protein-coding sequence. Massive intron loss has occurred not only in microsporidian parasites and saccharomycetous yeasts, but also in diverse smuts and allies. To investigate the roles of the remaining introns in highly-reduced species, we have searched for their special characteristics in eight intron-poor fungi. Notably, the introns of ribosome-associated genes RPL7 and NOG2 have conserved positions; both intron-containing genes encoding snoRNAs. Furthermore, both the proteins and snoRNAs are involved in ribosome biogenesis, suggesting that the expression of the protein-coding genes and noncoding snoRNAs may be functionallymore »coordinated. Indeed, these introns are also conserved in three-quarters of fungi species. Our study shows that fungal introns have a complex evolutionary history and underappreciated roles in gene expression.« less