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Mol Biol Evol. 2002 Aug;19(8):1234-43.

Proliferation and deterioration of Rickettsia palindromic elements.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Evolution, University of Uppsala, Sweden.


It has been suggested that Rickettsia Palindromic Elements (RPEs) have evolved as selfish DNA that mediate protein sequence evolution by being targeted to genes that code for RNA and proteins. Here, we have examined the phylogenetic depth of two RPEs that are located close to the genes encoding elongation factors Tu (tuf) and G (fus) in Rickettsia. An exceptional organization of the elongation factor genes was found in all 11 species examined, with complete or partial RPEs identified downstream of the tuf gene (RPE-tuf) in six species and of the fus gene (RPE-fus) in 10 species. A phylogenetic reconstruction shows that both RPE-tuf and RPE-fus have evolved in a manner that is consistent with the expected species divergence. The analysis provides evidence for independent loss of RPE-tuf in several species, possibly mediated by short repetitive sequences flanking the site of excision. The remaining RPE-tuf sequences evolve as neutral sequences in different stages of deterioration. Likewise, highly fragmented remnants of the RPE-fus sequence were identified in two species. This suggests that genome-specific differences in the content of RPEs are the result of recent loss rather than recent proliferation.

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