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Nucleic Acids Res. Aug 1, 1998; 26(15): 3513–3520.
PMCID: PMC147740

Microsporidian Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a unicellular eukaryote with an unusual chromosomal dispersion of ribosomal genes and a LSU rRNA reduced to the universal core.


Microsporidia are eukaryotic parasites lacking mitochondria, the ribosomes of which present prokaryote-like features. In order to better understand the structural evolution of rRNA molecules in microsporidia, the 5S and rDNA genes were investigated in Encephalitozoon cuniculi . The genes are not in close proximity. Non-tandemly arranged rDNA units are on every one of the 11 chromosomes. Such a dispersion is also shown in two other Encephalitozoon species. Sequencing of the 5S rRNA coding region reveals a 120 nt long RNA which folds according to the eukaryotic consensus structural shape. In contrast, the LSU rRNA molecule is greatly reduced in length (2487 nt). This dramatic shortening is essentially due to truncation of divergent domains, most of them being removed. Most variable stems of the conserved core are also deleted, reducing the LSU rRNA to only those structural features preserved in all living cells. This suggests that the E.cuniculi LSU rRNA performs only the basic mechanisms of translation. LSU rRNA phylogenetic analysis with the BASEML program favours a relatively recent origin of the fast evolving microsporidian lineage. Therefore, the prokaryote-like ribosomal features, such as the absence of ITS2, may be derived rather than primitive characters.

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Selected References

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