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1.  Viral AlkB proteins repair RNA damage by oxidative demethylation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(17):5451-5461.
Bacterial and mammalian AlkB proteins are iron(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases that reverse methylation damage, such as 1-methyladenine and 3-methylcytosine, in RNA and DNA. An AlkB-domain is encoded by the genome of numerous single-stranded, plant-infecting RNA viruses, the majority of which belong to the Flexiviridae family. Our phylogenetic analysis of AlkB sequences suggests that a single plant virus might have acquired AlkB relatively recently, followed by horizontal dissemination among other viruses via recombination. Here, we describe the first functional characterization of AlkB proteins from three plant viruses. The viral AlkB proteins efficiently reactivated methylated bacteriophage genomes when expressed in Escherichia coli, and also displayed robust, iron(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent demethylase activity in vitro. Viral AlkB proteins preferred RNA over DNA substrates, and thus represent the first AlkBs with such substrate specificity. Our results suggest a role for viral AlkBs in maintaining the integrity of the viral RNA genome through repair of deleterious methylation damage, and support the notion that AlkB-mediated RNA repair is biologically relevant.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn519
PMCID: PMC2553587  PMID: 18718927
2.  Genome-Wide Molecular Clock and Horizontal Gene Transfer in Bacterial Evolution 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(19):6575-6585.
We describe a simple theoretical framework for identifying orthologous sets of genes that deviate from a clock-like model of evolution. The approach used is based on comparing the evolutionary distances within a set of orthologs to a standard intergenomic distance, which was defined as the median of the distribution of the distances between all one-to-one orthologs. Under the clock-like model, the points on a plot of intergenic distances versus intergenomic distances are expected to fit a straight line. A statistical technique to identify significant deviations from the clock-like behavior is described. For several hundred analyzed orthologous sets representing three well-defined bacterial lineages, the α-Proteobacteria, the γ-Proteobacteria, and the Bacillus-Clostridium group, the clock-like null hypothesis could not be rejected for ∼70% of the sets, whereas the rest showed substantial anomalies. Subsequent detailed phylogenetic analysis of the genes with the strongest deviations indicated that over one-half of these genes probably underwent a distinct form of horizontal gene transfer, xenologous gene displacement, in which a gene is displaced by an ortholog from a different lineage. The remaining deviations from the clock-like model could be explained by lineage-specific acceleration of evolution. The results indicate that although xenologous gene displacement is a major force in bacterial evolution, a significant majority of orthologous gene sets in three major bacterial lineages evolved in accordance with the clock-like model. The approach described here allows rapid detection of deviations from this mode of evolution on the genome scale.
doi:10.1128/JB.186.19.6575-6585.2004
PMCID: PMC516599  PMID: 15375139
3.  Deinococcus geothermalis: The Pool of Extreme Radiation Resistance Genes Shrinks 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(9):e955.
Bacteria of the genus Deinococcus are extremely resistant to ionizing radiation (IR), ultraviolet light (UV) and desiccation. The mesophile Deinococcus radiodurans was the first member of this group whose genome was completely sequenced. Analysis of the genome sequence of D. radiodurans, however, failed to identify unique DNA repair systems. To further delineate the genes underlying the resistance phenotypes, we report the whole-genome sequence of a second Deinococcus species, the thermophile Deinococcus geothermalis, which at its optimal growth temperature is as resistant to IR, UV and desiccation as D. radiodurans, and a comparative analysis of the two Deinococcus genomes. Many D. radiodurans genes previously implicated in resistance, but for which no sensitive phenotype was observed upon disruption, are absent in D. geothermalis. In contrast, most D. radiodurans genes whose mutants displayed a radiation-sensitive phenotype in D. radiodurans are conserved in D. geothermalis. Supporting the existence of a Deinococcus radiation response regulon, a common palindromic DNA motif was identified in a conserved set of genes associated with resistance, and a dedicated transcriptional regulator was predicted. We present the case that these two species evolved essentially the same diverse set of gene families, and that the extreme stress-resistance phenotypes of the Deinococcus lineage emerged progressively by amassing cell-cleaning systems from different sources, but not by acquisition of novel DNA repair systems. Our reconstruction of the genomic evolution of the Deinococcus-Thermus phylum indicates that the corresponding set of enzymes proliferated mainly in the common ancestor of Deinococcus. Results of the comparative analysis weaken the arguments for a role of higher-order chromosome alignment structures in resistance; more clearly define and substantially revise downward the number of uncharacterized genes that might participate in DNA repair and contribute to resistance; and strengthen the case for a role in survival of systems involved in manganese and iron homeostasis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000955
PMCID: PMC1978522  PMID: 17895995
4.  Genome Sequence and Comparative Analysis of the Solvent-Producing Bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(16):4823-4838.
The genome sequence of the solvent-producing bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum ATCC 824 has been determined by the shotgun approach. The genome consists of a 3.94-Mb chromosome and a 192-kb megaplasmid that contains the majority of genes responsible for solvent production. Comparison of C. acetobutylicum to Bacillus subtilis reveals significant local conservation of gene order, which has not been seen in comparisons of other genomes with similar, or, in some cases closer, phylogenetic proximity. This conservation allows the prediction of many previously undetected operons in both bacteria. However, the C. acetobutylicum genome also contains a significant number of predicted operons that are shared with distantly related bacteria and archaea but not with B. subtilis. Phylogenetic analysis is compatible with the dissemination of such operons by horizontal transfer. The enzymes of the solventogenesis pathway and of the cellulosome of C. acetobutylicum comprise a new set of metabolic capacities not previously represented in the collection of complete genomes. These enzymes show a complex pattern of evolutionary affinities, emphasizing the role of lateral gene exchange in the evolution of the unique metabolic profile of the bacterium. Many of the sporulation genes identified in B. subtilis are missing in C. acetobutylicum, which suggests major differences in the sporulation process. Thus, comparative analysis reveals both significant conservation of the genome organization and pronounced differences in many systems that reflect unique adaptive strategies of the two gram-positive bacteria.
doi:10.1128/JB.183.16.4823-4838.2001
PMCID: PMC99537  PMID: 11466286

Results 1-4 (4)