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1.  Non-homologous isofunctional enzymes: A systematic analysis of alternative solutions in enzyme evolution 
Biology Direct  2010;5:31.
Evolutionarily unrelated proteins that catalyze the same biochemical reactions are often referred to as analogous - as opposed to homologous - enzymes. The existence of numerous alternative, non-homologous enzyme isoforms presents an interesting evolutionary problem; it also complicates genome-based reconstruction of the metabolic pathways in a variety of organisms. In 1998, a systematic search for analogous enzymes resulted in the identification of 105 Enzyme Commission (EC) numbers that included two or more proteins without detectable sequence similarity to each other, including 34 EC nodes where proteins were known (or predicted) to have distinct structural folds, indicating independent evolutionary origins. In the past 12 years, many putative non-homologous isofunctional enzymes were identified in newly sequenced genomes. In addition, efforts in structural genomics resulted in a vastly improved structural coverage of proteomes, providing for definitive assessment of (non)homologous relationships between proteins.
We report the results of a comprehensive search for non-homologous isofunctional enzymes (NISE) that yielded 185 EC nodes with two or more experimentally characterized - or predicted - structurally unrelated proteins. Of these NISE sets, only 74 were from the original 1998 list. Structural assignments of the NISE show over-representation of proteins with the TIM barrel fold and the nucleotide-binding Rossmann fold. From the functional perspective, the set of NISE is enriched in hydrolases, particularly carbohydrate hydrolases, and in enzymes involved in defense against oxidative stress.
These results indicate that at least some of the non-homologous isofunctional enzymes were recruited relatively recently from enzyme families that are active against related substrates and are sufficiently flexible to accommodate changes in substrate specificity.
This article was reviewed by Andrei Osterman, Keith F. Tipton (nominated by Martijn Huynen) and Igor B. Zhulin. For the full reviews, go to the Reviewers' comments section.
PMCID: PMC2876114  PMID: 20433725
2.  Evolutionary primacy of sodium bioenergetics 
Biology Direct  2008;3:13.
The F- and V-type ATPases are rotary molecular machines that couple translocation of protons or sodium ions across the membrane to the synthesis or hydrolysis of ATP. Both the F-type (found in most bacteria and eukaryotic mitochondria and chloroplasts) and V-type (found in archaea, some bacteria, and eukaryotic vacuoles) ATPases can translocate either protons or sodium ions. The prevalent proton-dependent ATPases are generally viewed as the primary form of the enzyme whereas the sodium-translocating ATPases of some prokaryotes are usually construed as an exotic adaptation to survival in extreme environments.
We combine structural and phylogenetic analyses to clarify the evolutionary relation between the proton- and sodium-translocating ATPases. A comparison of the structures of the membrane-embedded oligomeric proteolipid rings of sodium-dependent F- and V-ATPases reveals nearly identical sets of amino acids involved in sodium binding. We show that the sodium-dependent ATPases are scattered among proton-dependent ATPases in both the F- and the V-branches of the phylogenetic tree.
Barring convergent emergence of the same set of ligands in several lineages, these findings indicate that the use of sodium gradient for ATP synthesis is the ancestral modality of membrane bioenergetics. Thus, a primitive, sodium-impermeable but proton-permeable cell membrane that harboured a set of sodium-transporting enzymes appears to have been the evolutionary predecessor of the more structurally demanding proton-tight membranes. The use of proton as the coupling ion appears to be a later innovation that emerged on several independent occasions.
This article was reviewed by J. Peter Gogarten, Martijn A. Huynen, and Igor B. Zhulin. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' comments section.
PMCID: PMC2359735  PMID: 18380897
3.  Algorithms for computing parsimonious evolutionary scenarios for genome evolution, the last universal common ancestor and dominance of horizontal gene transfer in the evolution of prokaryotes 
Comparative analysis of sequenced genomes reveals numerous instances of apparent horizontal gene transfer (HGT), at least in prokaryotes, and indicates that lineage-specific gene loss might have been even more common in evolution. This complicates the notion of a species tree, which needs to be re-interpreted as a prevailing evolutionary trend, rather than the full depiction of evolution, and makes reconstruction of ancestral genomes a non-trivial task.
We addressed the problem of constructing parsimonious scenarios for individual sets of orthologous genes given a species tree. The orthologous sets were taken from the database of Clusters of Orthologous Groups of proteins (COGs). We show that the phyletic patterns (patterns of presence-absence in completely sequenced genomes) of almost 90% of the COGs are inconsistent with the hypothetical species tree. Algorithms were developed to reconcile the phyletic patterns with the species tree by postulating gene loss, COG emergence and HGT (the latter two classes of events were collectively treated as gene gains). We prove that each of these algorithms produces a parsimonious evolutionary scenario, which can be represented as mapping of loss and gain events on the species tree. The distribution of the evolutionary events among the tree nodes substantially depends on the underlying assumptions of the reconciliation algorithm, e.g. whether or not independent gene gains (gain after loss after gain) are permitted. Biological considerations suggest that, on average, gene loss might be a more likely event than gene gain. Therefore different gain penalties were used and the resulting series of reconstructed gene sets for the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of the extant life forms were analysed. The number of genes in the reconstructed LUCA gene sets grows as the gain penalty increases. However, qualitative examination of the LUCA versions reconstructed with different gain penalties indicates that, even with a gain penalty of 1 (equal weights assigned to a gain and a loss), the set of 572 genes assigned to LUCA might be nearly sufficient to sustain a functioning organism. Under this gain penalty value, the numbers of horizontal gene transfer and gene loss events are nearly identical. This result holds true for two alternative topologies of the species tree and even under random shuffling of the tree. Therefore, the results seem to be compatible with approximately equal likelihoods of HGT and gene loss in the evolution of prokaryotes.
The notion that gene loss and HGT are major aspects of prokaryotic evolution was supported by quantitative analysis of the mapping of the phyletic patterns of COGs onto a hypothetical species tree. Algorithms were developed for constructing parsimonious evolutionary scenarios, which include gene loss and gain events, for orthologous gene sets, given a species tree. This analysis shows, contrary to expectations, that the number of predicted HGT events that occurred during the evolution of prokaryotes might be approximately the same as the number of gene losses. The approach to the reconstruction of evolutionary scenarios employed here is conservative with regard to the detection of HGT because only patterns of gene presence-absence in sequenced genomes are taken into account. In reality, horizontal transfer might have contributed to the evolution of many other genes also, which makes it a dominant force in prokaryotic evolution.
PMCID: PMC149225  PMID: 12515582
4.  Towards understanding the first genome sequence of a crenarchaeon by genome annotation using clusters of orthologous groups of proteins (COGs) 
Genome Biology  2000;1(5):research0009.1-research0009.19.
Standard archival sequence databases have not been designed as tools for genome annotation and are far from being optimal for this purpose. We used the database of Clusters of Orthologous Groups of proteins (COGs) to reannotate the genomes of two archaea, Aeropyrum pernix, the first member of the Crenarchaea to be sequenced, and Pyrococcus abyssi.
A. pernix and P. abyssi proteins were assigned to COGs using the COGNITOR program; the results were verified on a case-by-case basis and augmented by additional database searches using the PSI-BLAST and TBLASTN programs. Functions were predicted for over 300 proteins from A. pernix, which could not be assigned a function using conventional methods with a conservative sequence similarity threshold, an approximately 50% increase compared to the original annotation. A. pernix shares most of the conserved core of proteins that were previously identified in the Euryarchaeota. Cluster analysis or distance matrix tree construction based on the co-occurrence of genomes in COGs showed that A. pernix forms a distinct group within the archaea, although grouping with the two species of Pyrococci, indicative of similar repertoires of conserved genes, was observed. No indication of a specific relationship between Crenarchaeota and eukaryotes was obtained in these analyses. Several proteins that are conserved in Euryarchaeota and most bacteria are unexpectedly missing in A. pernix, including the entire set of de novo purine biosynthesis enzymes, the GTPase FtsZ (a key component of the bacterial and euryarchaeal cell-division machinery), and the tRNA-specific pseudouridine synthase, previously considered universal. A. pernix is represented in 48 COGs that do not contain any euryarchaeal members. Many of these proteins are TCA cycle and electron transport chain enzymes, reflecting the aerobic lifestyle of A. pernix.
Special-purpose databases organized on the basis of phylogenetic analysis and carefully curated with respect to known and predicted protein functions provide for a significant improvement in genome annotation. A differential genome display approach helps in a systematic investigation of common and distinct features of gene repertoires and in some cases reveals unexpected connections that may be indicative of functional similarities between phylogenetically distant organisms and of lateral gene exchange.
PMCID: PMC15027  PMID: 11178258
5.  Encapsulated in silica: genome, proteome and physiology of the thermophilic bacterium Anoxybacillus flavithermus WK1 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R161.
Sequencing of the complete genome of Anoxybacillus flavithermus reveals enzymes that are required for silica adaptation and biofilm formation.
Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Anoxybacillus have been found in diverse thermophilic habitats, such as geothermal hot springs and manure, and in processed foods such as gelatin and milk powder. Anoxybacillus flavithermus is a facultatively anaerobic bacterium found in super-saturated silica solutions and in opaline silica sinter. The ability of A. flavithermus to grow in super-saturated silica solutions makes it an ideal subject to study the processes of sinter formation, which might be similar to the biomineralization processes that occurred at the dawn of life.
We report here the complete genome sequence of A. flavithermus strain WK1, isolated from the waste water drain at the Wairakei geothermal power station in New Zealand. It consists of a single chromosome of 2,846,746 base pairs and is predicted to encode 2,863 proteins. In silico genome analysis identified several enzymes that could be involved in silica adaptation and biofilm formation, and their predicted functions were experimentally validated in vitro. Proteomic analysis confirmed the regulation of biofilm-related proteins and crucial enzymes for the synthesis of long-chain polyamines as constituents of silica nanospheres.
Microbial fossils preserved in silica and silica sinters are excellent objects for studying ancient life, a new paleobiological frontier. An integrated analysis of the A. flavithermus genome and proteome provides the first glimpse of metabolic adaptation during silicification and sinter formation. Comparative genome analysis suggests an extensive gene loss in the Anoxybacillus/Geobacillus branch after its divergence from other bacilli.
PMCID: PMC2614493  PMID: 19014707
6.  Complete genome sequence of the extremely acidophilic methanotroph isolate V4, Methylacidiphilum infernorum, a representative of the bacterial phylum Verrucomicrobia 
Biology Direct  2008;3:26.
The phylum Verrucomicrobia is a widespread but poorly characterized bacterial clade. Although cultivation-independent approaches detect representatives of this phylum in a wide range of environments, including soils, seawater, hot springs and human gastrointestinal tract, only few have been isolated in pure culture. We have recently reported cultivation and initial characterization of an extremely acidophilic methanotrophic member of the Verrucomicrobia, strain V4, isolated from the Hell's Gate geothermal area in New Zealand. Similar organisms were independently isolated from geothermal systems in Italy and Russia.
We report the complete genome sequence of strain V4, the first one from a representative of the Verrucomicrobia. Isolate V4, initially named "Methylokorus infernorum" (and recently renamed Methylacidiphilum infernorum) is an autotrophic bacterium with a streamlined genome of ~2.3 Mbp that encodes simple signal transduction pathways and has a limited potential for regulation of gene expression. Central metabolism of M. infernorum was reconstructed almost completely and revealed highly interconnected pathways of autotrophic central metabolism and modifications of C1-utilization pathways compared to other known methylotrophs. The M. infernorum genome does not encode tubulin, which was previously discovered in bacteria of the genus Prosthecobacter, or close homologs of any other signature eukaryotic proteins. Phylogenetic analysis of ribosomal proteins and RNA polymerase subunits unequivocally supports grouping Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia and Chlamydiae into a single clade, the PVC superphylum, despite dramatically different gene content in members of these three groups. Comparative-genomic analysis suggests that evolution of the M. infernorum lineage involved extensive horizontal gene exchange with a variety of bacteria. The genome of M. infernorum shows apparent adaptations for existence under extremely acidic conditions including a major upward shift in the isoelectric points of proteins.
The results of genome analysis of M. infernorum support the monophyly of the PVC superphylum. M. infernorum possesses a streamlined genome but seems to have acquired numerous genes including those for enzymes of methylotrophic pathways via horizontal gene transfer, in particular, from Proteobacteria.
This article was reviewed by John A. Fuerst, Ludmila Chistoserdova, and Radhey S. Gupta.
PMCID: PMC2474590  PMID: 18593465

Results 1-6 (6)