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1.  One-component systems dominate signal transduction in prokaryotes 
Trends in microbiology  2005;13(2):52-56.
Two-component systems that link environmental signals to cellular responses are viewed as the primary mode of signal transduction in prokaryotes. By analyz-ing information encoded by 145 prokaryotic genomes, we found that the majority of signal transduction systems consist of a single protein that contains input and output domains but lacks phosphotransfer domains typical of two-component systems. One-component systems are evolutionarily older, more widely distributed among bacteria and archaea, and display a greater diversity of domains than two-component systems.
PMCID: PMC2756188  PMID: 15680762
2.  Transcription of mammalian mRNAs by a novel nuclear RNA polymerase of mitochondrial origin 
Nature  2005;436(7051):735-739.
It is commonly known that transcription of eukaryotic genes is carried out by three nuclear RNA polymerases of which RNA polymerase II is thought to be solely responsible for the synthesis of mRNAs1. Here we show that transcription of some mRNAs in humans and rodents is mediated by a previously unknown single-polypeptide nuclear RNA polymerase (spRNAP-IV). The spRNAP-IV is expressed from an alternative transcript of the mitochondrial RNA polymerase (mtRNAP) gene (POLRMT). The RNAP IVSP lacks 262 N-terminal amino acids of mtRNAP, including the mitochondrial-targeting signal, and localizes to the nucleus. Transcription by spRNAP-IV is resistant to the RNA-polymease II inhibitor α-amanitin but sensitive to siRNA specific for the POLRMT gene. The promoters for spRNAP-IV differ substantially from those utilized by RNAP-II, do not respond to transcriptional enhancers, and contain a common functional sequence motif.
PMCID: PMC1352165  PMID: 16079853
3.  Comparative genomics of Thermus thermophilus and Deinococcus radiodurans: divergent routes of adaptation to thermophily and radiation resistance 
Thermus thermophilus and Deinococcus radiodurans belong to a distinct bacterial clade but have remarkably different phenotypes. T. thermophilus is a thermophile, which is relatively sensitive to ionizing radiation and desiccation, whereas D. radiodurans is a mesophile, which is highly radiation- and desiccation-resistant. Here we present an in-depth comparison of the genomes of these two related but differently adapted bacteria.
By reconstructing the evolution of Thermus and Deinococcus after the divergence from their common ancestor, we demonstrate a high level of post-divergence gene flux in both lineages. Various aspects of the adaptation to high temperature in Thermus can be attributed to horizontal gene transfer from archaea and thermophilic bacteria; many of the horizontally transferred genes are located on the single megaplasmid of Thermus. In addition, the Thermus lineage has lost a set of genes that are still present in Deinococcus and many other mesophilic bacteria but are not common among thermophiles. By contrast, Deinococcus seems to have acquired numerous genes related to stress response systems from various bacteria. A comparison of the distribution of orthologous genes among the four partitions of the Deinococcus genome and the two partitions of the Thermus genome reveals homology between the Thermus megaplasmid (pTT27) and Deinococcus megaplasmid (DR177).
After the radiation from their common ancestor, the Thermus and Deinococcus lineages have taken divergent paths toward their distinct lifestyles. In addition to extensive gene loss, Thermus seems to have acquired numerous genes from thermophiles, which likely was the decisive contribution to its thermophilic adaptation. By contrast, Deinococcus lost few genes but seems to have acquired many bacterial genes that apparently enhanced its ability to survive different kinds of environmental stresses. Notwithstanding the accumulation of horizontally transferred genes, we also show that the single megaplasmid of Thermus and the DR177 megaplasmid of Deinococcus are homologous and probably were inherited from the common ancestor of these bacteria.
PMCID: PMC1274311  PMID: 16242020
5.  Evolutionary conservation suggests a regulatory function of AUG triplets in 5′-UTRs of eukaryotic genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(17):5512-5520.
By comparing sequences of human, mouse and rat orthologous genes, we show that in 5′-untranslated regions (5′-UTRs) of mammalian cDNAs but not in 3′-UTRs or coding sequences, AUG is conserved to a significantly greater extent than any of the other 63 nt triplets. This effect is likely to reflect, primarily, bona fide evolutionary conservation, rather than cDNA annotation artifacts, because the excess of conserved upstream AUGs (uAUGs) is seen in 5′-UTRs containing stop codons in-frame with the start AUG and many of the conserved AUGs are found in different frames, consistent with the location in authentic non-coding sequences. Altogether, conserved uAUGs are present in at least 20–30% of mammalian genes. Qualitatively similar results were obtained by comparison of orthologous genes from different species of the yeast genus Saccharomyces. Together with the observation that mammalian and yeast 5′-UTRs are significantly depleted in overall AUG content, these findings suggest that AUG triplets in 5′-UTRs are subject to the pressure of purifying selection in two opposite directions: the uAUGs that have no specific function tend to be deleterious and get eliminated during evolution, whereas those uAUGs that do serve a function are conserved. Most probably, the principal role of the conserved uAUGs is attenuation of translation at the initiation stage, which is often additionally regulated by alternative splicing in the mammalian 5′-UTRs. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that open reading frames starting from conserved uAUGs are significantly shorter than those starting from non-conserved uAUGs, possibly, owing to selection for optimization of the level of attenuation.
PMCID: PMC1236974  PMID: 16186132
6.  Systemic determinants of gene evolution and function 
Molecular Systems Biology  2005;1:2005.0021.
PMCID: PMC1681469  PMID: 16729056
7.  Ancestral paralogs and pseudoparalogs and their role in the emergence of the eukaryotic cell 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(14):4626-4638.
Gene duplication is a crucial mechanism of evolutionary innovation. A substantial fraction of eukaryotic genomes consists of paralogous gene families. We assess the extent of ancestral paralogy, which dates back to the last common ancestor of all eukaryotes, and examine the origins of the ancestral paralogs and their potential roles in the emergence of the eukaryotic cell complexity. A parsimonious reconstruction of ancestral gene repertoires shows that 4137 orthologous gene sets in the last eukaryotic common ancestor (LECA) map back to 2150 orthologous sets in the hypothetical first eukaryotic common ancestor (FECA) [paralogy quotient (PQ) of 1.92]. Analogous reconstructions show significantly lower levels of paralogy in prokaryotes, 1.19 for archaea and 1.25 for bacteria. The only functional class of eukaryotic proteins with a significant excess of paralogous clusters over the mean includes molecular chaperones and proteins with related functions. Almost all genes in this category underwent multiple duplications during early eukaryotic evolution. In structural terms, the most prominent sets of paralogs are superstructure-forming proteins with repetitive domains, such as WD-40 and TPR. In addition to the true ancestral paralogs which evolved via duplication at the onset of eukaryotic evolution, numerous pseudoparalogs were detected, i.e. homologous genes that apparently were acquired by early eukaryotes via different routes, including horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from diverse bacteria. The results of this study demonstrate a major increase in the level of gene paralogy as a hallmark of the early evolution of eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC1187821  PMID: 16106042
8.  Origin and evolution of the archaeo-eukaryotic primase superfamily and related palm-domain proteins: structural insights and new members 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(12):3875-3896.
We report an in-depth computational study of the protein sequences and structures of the superfamily of archaeo-eukaryotic primases (AEPs). This analysis greatly expands the range of diversity of the AEPs and reveals the unique active site shared by all members of this superfamily. In particular, it is shown that eukaryotic nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses, including poxviruses, asfarviruses, iridoviruses, phycodnaviruses and the mimivirus, encode AEPs of a distinct family, which also includes the herpesvirus primases whose relationship to AEPs has not been recognized previously. Many eukaryotic genomes, including chordates and plants, encode previously uncharacterized homologs of these predicted viral primases, which might be involved in novel DNA repair pathways. At a deeper level of evolutionary connections, structural comparisons indicate that AEPs, the nucleases involved in the initiation of rolling circle replication in plasmids and viruses, and origin-binding domains of papilloma and polyoma viruses evolved from a common ancestral protein that might have been involved in a protein-priming mechanism of initiation of DNA replication. Contextual analysis of multidomain protein architectures and gene neighborhoods in prokaryotes and viruses reveals remarkable parallels between AEPs and the unrelated DnaG-type primases, in particular, tight associations with the same repertoire of helicases. These observations point to a functional equivalence of the two classes of primases, which seem to have repeatedly displaced each other in various extrachromosomal replicons.
PMCID: PMC1176014  PMID: 16027112
9.  Conservation versus parallel gains in intron evolution 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(6):1741-1748.
Orthologous genes from distant eukaryotic species, e.g. animals and plants, share up to 25–30% intron positions. However, the relative contributions of evolutionary conservation and parallel gain of new introns into this pattern remain unknown. Here, the extent of independent insertion of introns in the same sites (parallel gain) in orthologous genes from phylogenetically distant eukaryotes is assessed within the framework of the protosplice site model. It is shown that protosplice sites are no more conserved during evolution of eukaryotic gene sequences than random sites. Simulation of intron insertion into protosplice sites with the observed protosplice site frequencies and intron densities shows that parallel gain can account but for a small fraction (5–10%) of shared intron positions in distantly related species. Thus, the presence of numerous introns in the same positions in orthologous genes from distant eukaryotes, such as animals, fungi and plants, appears to reflect mostly bona fide evolutionary conservation.
PMCID: PMC1069513  PMID: 15788746

Results 1-9 (9)