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1.  Primordial spliceosomal introns were probably U2-type 
Trends in Genetics  2008;24(11):525-528.
The two types of eukaryotic spliceosomal introns, U2 and U12, possess different splice signals and are excised by distinct spliceosomes. The nature of the primordial introns remains uncertain. A comparison of the amino acid distributions at insertion sites of introns that retained their positions throughout eukaryotic evolution with the distributions for human and Arabidopsis thaliana U2 and U12 introns reveals close similarity with U2 but not U12. Thus, the primordial spliceosomal introns were, most likely, U2-type.
PMCID: PMC3381341  PMID: 18824272
2.  Nested genes and increasing organizational complexity of metazoan genomes 
Trends in Genetics  2008;24(10):475-478.
The most common form of protein-coding gene overlap in eukaryotes is a simple nested structure, whereby one gene is embedded in an intron of another. Analysis of nested protein-coding genes in vertebrates, fruit flies and nematodes revealed substantially higher rates of evolutionary gains than losses. The accumulation of nested gene structures could not be attributed to any obvious functional relationships between the genes involved and represents an increase of the organizational complexity of animal genomes via a neutral process.
PMCID: PMC3380635  PMID: 18774620
3.  Evolution of Genome Architecture 
Charles Darwin believed that all traits of organisms have been honed to near perfection by natural selection. The empirical basis underlying Darwin’s conclusions consisted of numerous observations made by him and other naturalists on the exquisite adaptations of animals and plants to their natural habitats and on the impressive results of artificial selection. Darwin fully appreciated the importance of heredity but was unaware of the nature and, in fact, the very existence of genomes. A century and a half after the publication of the “Origin”, we have the opportunity to draw conclusions from the comparisons of hundreds of genome sequences from all walks of life. These comparisons suggest that the dominant mode of genome evolution is quite different from that of the phenotypic evolution. The genomes of vertebrates, those purported paragons of biological perfection, turned out to be veritable junkyards of selfish genetic elements where only a small fraction of the genetic material is dedicated to encoding biologically relevant information. In sharp contrast, genomes of microbes and viruses are incomparably more compact, with most of the genetic material assigned to distinct biological functions. However, even in these genomes, the specific genome organization (gene order) is poorly conserved. The results of comparative genomics lead to the conclusion that the genome architecture is not a straightforward result of continuous adaptation but rather is determined by the balance between the selection pressure, that is itself dependent on the effective population size and mutation rate, the level of recombination, and the activity of selfish elements. Although genes and, in many cases, multigene regions of genomes possess elaborate architectures that ensure regulation of expression, these arrangements are evolutionarily volatile and typically change substantially even on short evolutionary scales when gene sequences diverge minimally. Thus, the observed genome archtiectures are, mostly, products of neutral processes or epiphenomena of more general selective processes, such as selection for genome streamlining in successful lineages with large populations. Selection for specific gene arrangements (elements of genome architecture) seems only to modulate the results of these processes.
PMCID: PMC3272702  PMID: 18929678
4.  Trends in Prokaryotic Evolution Revealed by Comparison of Closely Related Bacterial and Archaeal Genomes ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;191(1):65-73.
In order to explore microevolutionary trends in bacteria and archaea, we constructed a data set of 41 alignable tight genome clusters (ATGCs). We show that the ratio of the medians of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates (dN/dS) that is used as a measure of the purifying selection pressure on protein sequences is a stable characteristic of the ATGCs. In agreement with previous findings, parasitic bacteria, notwithstanding the sometimes dramatic genome shrinkage caused by gene loss, are typically subjected to relatively weak purifying selection, presumably owing to relatively small effective population sizes and frequent bottlenecks. However, no evidence of genome streamlining caused by strong selective pressure was found in any of the ATGCs. On the contrary, a significant positive correlation between the genome size, as well as gene size, and selective pressure was observed, although a variety of free-living prokaryotes with very close selective pressures span nearly the entire range of genome sizes. In addition, we examined the connections between the sequence evolution rate and other genomic features. Although gene order changes much faster than protein sequences during the evolution of prokaryotes, a strong positive correlation was observed between the “rearrangement distance” and the amino acid distance, suggesting that at least some of the events leading to genome rearrangement are subjected to the same type of selective constraints as the evolution of amino acid sequences.
PMCID: PMC2612427  PMID: 18978059
5.  Origins and evolution of eukaryotic RNA interference 
Trends in ecology & evolution  2008;23(10):578-587.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and genome-encoded microRNAs (miRNAs) silence genes via complementary interactions with mRNAs. With thousands of miRNA genes identified and genome sequences of diverse eukaryotes available for comparison, the opportunity emerges for insights into origin and evolution of RNA interference (RNAi). The miRNA repertoires of plants and animals appear to have evolved independently. However, conservation of the key proteins involved in RNAi suggests that the last common ancestor of modern eukaryotes possessed siRNA-based mechanisms. Prokaryotes have a RNAi-like defense system that is functionally analogous but not homologous to eukaryotic RNAi. The protein machinery of eukaryotic RNAi seems to have been pieced together from ancestral proteins of archaeal, bacterial and phage origins that are involved in DNA repair and RNA-processing pathways.
PMCID: PMC2695246  PMID: 18715673
6.  A conserved poxvirus NLPC/P60 superfamily protein contributes to vaccinia virus virulence in mice but not to replication in cell culture 
Virology  2008;374(2):506-514.
Of the vaccinia virus genes that are conserved in all sequenced poxviruses, each one except for VACWR084 (G6R) has been at least partially characterized. The poxvirus protein encoded by G6R belongs to the NLPC/P60 superfamily, which consists of proteins with a papain-like fold and known or predicted protease, amidase or acyltransferase activity. The G6 protein was synthesized late in infection and localized to the interior of virions, primarily between the membrane and core. Unlike other conserved poxvirus genes, G6R was not required for virus propagation and spread in a variety of cells. Nevertheless, G6R null mutants caused less severe disease in mice than the parent or revertant virus. Moreover, mutation of the predicted catalytic cysteine led to the same level of attenuation as a null mutant, suggesting that the G6 protein has enzymatic activity that is important in vivo. Conservation of G6R amongst poxviruses and the disparity between its role in vitro and in vivo imply that the protein is involved in an aspect of the virus-host interaction that is common to vertebrates and insects.
PMCID: PMC2412903  PMID: 18281072
7.  Comparative Analysis of in vivo Interactions Between Rev1 Protein and Other Y-Family DNA Polymerases in Animals and Yeasts 
DNA repair  2008;7(3):439-451.
Eukaryotes are endowed with multiple specialized DNA polymerases, some (if not all) of which are believed to play important roles in the tolerance of base damage during DNA replication. Among these DNA polymerases, Rev1 protein (a deoxycytidyl transferase) from vertebrates interacts with several other specialized polymerases via a highly conserved C-terminal region. The present studies assessed whether these interactions are retained in more experimentally tractable model systems, including yeasts, flies, and the nematode C. elegans. We observed a physical interaction between Rev1 protein and other Y-family polymerases in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. However, despite the fact that the C-terminal region of Drosophila and yeast Rev1 are conserved from vertebrates to a similar extent, such interactions were not observed in S. cerevisiae or S. pombe. With respect to regions in specialized DNA polymerases that are required for interaction with Rev1, we find predicted disorder to be an underlying structural commonality. The results of this study suggest that special consideration should be exercised when making mechanistic extrapolations regarding translesion DNA synthesis from one eukaryotic system to another.
PMCID: PMC2363158  PMID: 18242152
Y-family of DNA polymerases; TLS; Rev1; polymerase η; polymerase ι; polymerase κ; protein-protein interactions
8.  X-ray structure of the complex of regulatory subunits of human DNA polymerase δ 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2008;7(19):3026-3036.
The eukaryotic DNA polymerase δ (Pol δ) participates in genome replication, homologous recombination, DNA repair and damage tolerance. Regulation of the plethora of Pol δ functions depends on the interaction between the second (p50) and third (p66) non-catalytic subunits. We report the crystal structure of p50•p66N complex featuring oligonucleotide binding and phosphodiesterase domains in p50 and winged helix-turn-helix N-terminal domain in p66. Disruption of the interaction between the yeast orthologs of p50 and p66 by strategic amino acid changes leads to cold-sensitivity, sensitivity to hydroxyurea and to reduced UV mutagenesis, mimicking the phenotypes of strains where the third subunit of Pol δ is absent. The second subunits of all B family replicative DNA polymerases in archaea and eukaryotes, except Pol δ, share a three-domain structure similar to p50•p66N, raising the possibility that a portion of the gene encoding p66 was derived from the second subunit gene relatively late in evolution.
PMCID: PMC2605013  PMID: 18818516
DNA polymerase δ; Pol δ; p50; p66; Pol31; Pol32; OB; Myb; phosphodiesterase; human; yeast
9.  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
10.  A genomic analysis of the archaeal system Ignicoccus hospitalis-Nanoarchaeum equitans 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R158.
Sequencing of the complete genome of Ignicoccus hospitalis gives insight into its association with another species of Archaea, Nanoarchaeum equitans.
The relationship between the hyperthermophiles Ignicoccus hospitalis and Nanoarchaeum equitans is the only known example of a specific association between two species of Archaea. Little is known about the mechanisms that enable this relationship.
We sequenced the complete genome of I. hospitalis and found it to be the smallest among independent, free-living organisms. A comparative genomic reconstruction suggests that the I. hospitalis lineage has lost most of the genes associated with a heterotrophic metabolism that is characteristic of most of the Crenarchaeota. A streamlined genome is also suggested by a low frequency of paralogs and fragmentation of many operons. However, this process appears to be partially balanced by lateral gene transfer from archaeal and bacterial sources.
A combination of genomic and cellular features suggests highly efficient adaptation to the low energy yield of sulfur-hydrogen respiration and efficient inorganic carbon and nitrogen assimilation. Evidence of lateral gene exchange between N. equitans and I. hospitalis indicates that the relationship has impacted both genomes. This association is the simplest symbiotic system known to date and a unique model for studying mechanisms of interspecific relationships at the genomic and metabolic levels.
PMCID: PMC2614490  PMID: 19000309
11.  Genomics of bacteria and archaea: the emerging dynamic view of the prokaryotic world 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(21):6688-6719.
The first bacterial genome was sequenced in 1995, and the first archaeal genome in 1996. Soon after these breakthroughs, an exponential rate of genome sequencing was established, with a doubling time of approximately 20 months for bacteria and approximately 34 months for archaea. Comparative analysis of the hundreds of sequenced bacterial and dozens of archaeal genomes leads to several generalizations on the principles of genome organization and evolution. A crucial finding that enables functional characterization of the sequenced genomes and evolutionary reconstruction is that the majority of archaeal and bacterial genes have conserved orthologs in other, often, distant organisms. However, comparative genomics also shows that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a dominant force of prokaryotic evolution, along with the loss of genetic material resulting in genome contraction. A crucial component of the prokaryotic world is the mobilome, the enormous collection of viruses, plasmids and other selfish elements, which are in constant exchange with more stable chromosomes and serve as HGT vehicles. Thus, the prokaryotic genome space is a tightly connected, although compartmentalized, network, a novel notion that undermines the ‘Tree of Life’ model of evolution and requires a new conceptual framework and tools for the study of prokaryotic evolution.
PMCID: PMC2588523  PMID: 18948295
12.  ATGC: a database of orthologous genes from closely related prokaryotic genomes and a research platform for microevolution of prokaryotes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D448-D454.
The database of Alignable Tight Genomic Clusters (ATGCs) consists of closely related genomes of archaea and bacteria, and is a resource for research into prokaryotic microevolution. Construction of a data set with appropriate characteristics is a major hurdle for this type of studies. With the current rate of genome sequencing, it is difficult to follow the progress of the field and to determine which of the available genome sets meet the requirements of a given research project, in particular, with respect to the minimum and maximum levels of similarity between the included genomes. Additionally, extraction of specific content, such as genomic alignments or families of orthologs, from a selected set of genomes is a complicated and time-consuming process. The database addresses these problems by providing an intuitive and efficient web interface to browse precomputed ATGCs, select appropriate ones and access ATGC-derived data such as multiple alignments of orthologous proteins, matrices of pairwise intergenomic distances based on genome-wide analysis of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitution rates and others. The ATGC database will be regularly updated following new releases of the NCBI RefSeq. The database is hosted by the Genomics Division at Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory and is publicly available at
PMCID: PMC2686458  PMID: 18845571
13.  Comparable contributions of structural-functional constraints and expression level to the rate of protein sequence evolution 
Biology Direct  2008;3:40.
Proteins show a broad range of evolutionary rates. Understanding the factors that are responsible for the characteristic rate of evolution of a given protein arguably is one of the major goals of evolutionary biology. A long-standing general assumption used to be that the evolution rate is, primarily, determined by the specific functional constraints that affect the given protein. These constrains were traditionally thought to depend both on the specific features of the protein's structure and its biological role. The advent of systems biology brought about new types of data, such as expression level and protein-protein interactions, and unexpectedly, a variety of correlations between protein evolution rate and these variables have been observed. The strongest connections by far were repeatedly seen between protein sequence evolution rate and the expression level of the respective gene. It has been hypothesized that this link is due to the selection for the robustness of the protein structure to mistranslation-induced misfolding that is particularly important for highly expressed proteins and is the dominant determinant of the sequence evolution rate.
This work is an attempt to assess the relative contributions of protein domain structure and function, on the one hand, and expression level on the other hand, to the rate of sequence evolution. To this end, we performed a genome-wide analysis of the effect of the fusion of a pair of domains in multidomain proteins on the difference in the domain-specific evolutionary rates. The mistranslation-induced misfolding hypothesis would predict that, within multidomain proteins, fused domains, on average, should evolve at substantially closer rates than the same domains in different proteins because, within a mutlidomain protein, all domains are translated at the same rate. We performed a comprehensive comparison of the evolutionary rates of mammalian and plant protein domains that are either joined in multidomain proteins or contained in distinct proteins. Substantial homogenization of evolutionary rates in multidomain proteins was, indeed, observed in both animals and plants, although highly significant differences between domain-specific rates remained. The contributions of the translation rate, as determined by the effect of the fusion of a pair of domains within a multidomain protein, and intrinsic, domain-specific structural-functional constraints appear to be comparable in magnitude.
Fusion of domains in a multidomain protein results in substantial homogenization of the domain-specific evolutionary rates but significant differences between domain-specific evolution rates remain. Thus, the rate of translation and intrinsic structural-functional constraints both exert sizable and comparable effects on sequence evolution.
This article was reviewed by Sergei Maslov, Dennis Vitkup, Claus Wilke (nominated by Orly Alter), and Allan Drummond (nominated by Joel Bader). For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2572155  PMID: 18840284
14.  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.
PMCID: PMC2553587  PMID: 18718927
15.  A highly conserved family of inactivated archaeal B family DNA polymerases 
Biology Direct  2008;3:32.
A widespread and highly conserved family of apparently inactivated derivatives of archaeal B-family DNA polymerases is described. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the inactivated forms comprise a distinct clade among archaeal B-family polymerases and that, within this clade, Euryarchaea and Crenarchaea are clearly separated from each other and from a small group of bacterial homologs. These findings are compatible with an ancient duplication of the DNA polymerase gene followed by inactivation and parallel loss in some of the lineages although contribution of horizontal gene transfer cannot be ruled out. The inactivated derivative of the archaeal DNA polymerase could form a complex with the active paralog and play a structural role in DNA replication.
This article was reviewed by Purificacion Lopez-Garcia and Chris Ponting. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2527604  PMID: 18684330
16.  Accumulation of GC donor splice signals in mammals 
Biology Direct  2008;3:30.
The GT dinucleotide in the first two intron positions is the most conserved element of the U2 donor splice signals. However, in a small fraction of donor sites, GT is replaced by GC. A substantial enrichment of GC in donor sites of alternatively spliced genes has been observed previously in human, nematode and Arabidopsis, suggesting that GC signals are important for regulation of alternative splicing. We used parsimony analysis to reconstruct evolution of donor splice sites and inferred 298 GT > GC conversion events compared to 40 GC > GT conversion events in primate and rodent genomes. Thus, there was substantive accumulation of GC donor splice sites during the evolution of mammals. Accumulation of GC sites might have been driven by selection for alternative splicing.
This article was reviewed by Jerzy Jurka and Anton Nekrutenko. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2490688  PMID: 18613975
17.  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
18.  U12 intron positions are more strongly conserved between animals and plants than U2 intron positions 
Biology Direct  2008;3:19.
We report that the positions of minor, U12 introns are conserved in orthologous genes from human and Arabidopsis to an even greater extent than the positions of the major, U2 introns. The U12 introns, especially, conserved ones are concentrated in 5'-portions of plant and animal genes, where the U12 to U2 conversions occurs preferentially in the 3'-portions of genes. These results are compatible with the hypothesis that the high level of conservation of U12 intron positions and their persistence in genomes despite the unidirectional U12 to U2 conversion are explained by the role of the slowly excised U12 introns in down-regulation of gene expression.
This article was reviewed by John Logsdon and Manyuan Long. For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Reports section.
PMCID: PMC2426677  PMID: 18479526
19.  The Deep Archaeal Roots of Eukaryotes 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2008;25(8):1619-1630.
The set of conserved eukaryotic protein-coding genes includes distinct subsets one of which appears to be most closely related to and, by inference, derived from archaea, whereas another one appears to be of bacterial, possibly, endosymbiotic origin. The “archaeal” genes of eukaryotes, primarily, encode components of information-processing systems, whereas the “bacterial” genes are predominantly operational. The precise nature of the archaeo–eukaryotic relationship remains uncertain, and it has been variously argued that eukaryotic informational genes evolved from the homologous genes of Euryarchaeota or Crenarchaeota (the major branches of extant archaea) or that the origin of eukaryotes lies outside the known diversity of archaea. We describe a comprehensive set of 355 eukaryotic genes of apparent archaeal origin identified through ortholog detection and phylogenetic analysis. Phylogenetic hypothesis testing using constrained trees, combined with a systematic search for shared derived characters in the form of homologous inserts in conserved proteins, indicate that, for the majority of these genes, the preferred tree topology is one with the eukaryotic branch placed outside the extant diversity of archaea although small subsets of genes show crenarchaeal and euryarchaeal affinities. Thus, the archaeal genes in eukaryotes appear to descend from a distinct, ancient, and otherwise uncharacterized archaeal lineage that acquired some euryarchaeal and crenarchaeal genes via early horizontal gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC2464739  PMID: 18463089
archaea; eukaryotes; Euryarchaeota; Crenarchaeota; phylogenetic analysis
20.  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
21.  Homoplasy in genome-wide analysis of rare amino acid replacements: the molecular-evolutionary basis for Vavilov's law of homologous series 
Biology Direct  2008;3:7.
Rare genomic changes (RGCs) that are thought to comprise derived shared characters of individual clades are becoming an increasingly important class of markers in genome-wide phylogenetic studies. Recently, we proposed a new type of RGCs designated RGC_CAMs (after Conserved Amino acids-Multiple substitutions) that were inferred using genome-wide identification of amino acid replacements that were: i) located in unambiguously aligned regions of orthologous genes, ii) shared by two or more taxa in positions that contain a different, conserved amino acid in a much broader range of taxa, and iii) require two or three nucleotide substitutions. When applied to animal phylogeny, the RGC_CAM approach supported the coelomate clade that unites deuterostomes with arthropods as opposed to the ecdysozoan (molting animals) clade. However, a non-negligible level of homoplasy was detected.
We provide a direct estimate of the level of homoplasy caused by parallel changes and reversals among the RGC_CAMs using 462 alignments of orthologous genes from 19 eukaryotic species. It is shown that the impact of parallel changes and reversals on the results of phylogenetic inference using RGC_CAMs cannot explain the observed support for the Coelomata clade. In contrast, the evidence in support of the Ecdysozoa clade, in large part, can be attributed to parallel changes. It is demonstrated that parallel changes are significantly more common in internal branches of different subtrees that are separated from the respective common ancestor by relatively short times than in terminal branches separated by longer time intervals. A similar but much weaker trend was detected for reversals. The observed evolutionary trend of parallel changes is explained in terms of the covarion model of molecular evolution. As the overlap between the covarion sets in orthologous genes from different lineages decreases with time after divergence, the likelihood of parallel changes decreases as well.
The level of homoplasy observed here appears to be low enough to justify the utility of RGC_CAMs and other types of RGCs for resolution of hard problems in phylogeny. Parallel changes, one of the major classes of events leading to homoplasy, occur much more often in relatively recently diverged lineages than in those separated from their last common ancestor by longer time intervals of time. This pattern seems to provide the molecular-evolutionary underpinning of Vavilov's law of homologous series and is readily interpreted within the framework of the covarion model of molecular evolution.
This article was reviewed by Alex Kondrashov, Nicolas Galtier, and Maximilian Telford and Robert Lanfear (nominated by Laurence Hurst).
PMCID: PMC2292158  PMID: 18346278
22.  The prokaryotic V4R domain is the likely ancestor of a key component of the eukaryotic vesicle transport system 
Biology Direct  2008;3:2.
Intracellular vesicle traffic that enables delivery of proteins between the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi and various endosomal subcompartments is one of the hallmarks of the eukaryotic cell. Its evolutionary history is not well understood but the process itself and the core vesicle traffic machinery are believed to be ancient. We show here that the 4-vinyl reductase (V4R) protein domain present in bacteria and archaea is homologous to the Bet3 subunit of the TRAPP1 vesicle-tethering complex that is conserved in all eukaryotes. This suggests, for the first time, a prokaryotic origin for one of the key eukaryotic trafficking proteins.
This article was reviewed by Gaspar Jekely and Mark A. Ragan
PMCID: PMC2253512  PMID: 18221539

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