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J Eukaryot Microbiol. 1999 Mar-Apr;46(2):116-24.

Critical analysis of eukaryotic phylogeny: a case study based on the HSP70 family.

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Laboratoire de Biologie comparée des Protistes (UPRESA CNRS 6023), Université Clermont Ferrand 2, Aubière, France.


Trichomonads, together with diplomonads and microsporidia, emerge at the base of the eukaryotic tree, on the basis of the small subunit rRNA phylogeny. However, phylogenies based on protein sequences such as tubulin are markedly different with these protists emerging much later. We have investigated 70 kDa heat-shock protein (HSP70), which could be a reliable phylogenetic marker. In eukaryotes, HSP70s are found in cytosol, endoplasmic reticulum, and organelles (mitochondria and chloroplasts). In Trichomonas vaginalis we identified nine different HSP70-encoding genes and sequenced three nearly complete cDNAs corresponding to cytosolic, endoplasmic reticulum, and mitochondrial-type HSP70. Phylogenies of eukaryotes were reconstructed using the classical methods while varying the number of species and characters considered. Almost all the undoubtedly monophyletic groups, defined by ultrastructural characters, were recovered. However, due to the long branch attraction phenomenon, the evolutionary rates were the main factor determining the position of species, even with the use of a close outgroup, which is an important advantage of HSP70 with respect to many other markers. Numerous variable sites are peculiar to Trichomonas and probably generated the artefactual placement of this species at the base of the eukaryotes or as the sister group of fast-evolving species. The inter-phyla relationships were not well supported and were sensitive to the reconstruction method, the number of species; and the quantity of information used. This lack of resolution could be explained by the very rapid diversification of eukaryotes, likely after the mitochondrial endosymbiosis.

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