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Mol Microbiol. 2000 Nov;38(3):446-55.

Early lateral transfer of genes encoding malic enzyme, acetyl-CoA synthetase and alcohol dehydrogenases from anaerobic prokaryotes to Entamoeba histolytica.

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Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The fermentation enzymes, which enable the microaerophilic protist Entamoeba histolytica to parasitize the colonic lumen and tissue abscesses, closely resemble homologues in anaerobic prokaryotes. Here, genes encoding malic enzyme and acetyl-CoA synthetase (nucleoside diphosphate forming) were cloned from E. histolytica, and their evolutionary origins, as well as those encoding two alcohol dehydrogenases (ADHE and ADH1), were inferred by means of phylogenetic reconstruction. The E. histolytica malic enzyme, which decarboxylates malate to pyruvate, closely resembles that of the archaeon Archaeoglobus fulgidus, strongly suggesting a common origin. The E. histolytica acetyl-CoA synthetase, which converts acetyl-CoA to acetate with the production of ATP, appeared to be closely related to the Plasmodium falciparum enzyme, but it was no more closely related to the Giardia lamblia acetyl-CoA synthetase than to those of archaea. Phylogenetic analyses suggested that the adh1 and adhe genes of E. histolytica and Gram-positive eubacteria share a common ancestor. Lateral transfer of genes encoding these fermentation enzymes from archaea or eubacteria to E. histolytica probably occurred early, because the sequences of the amoebic enzymes show considerable divergence from those of prokaryotes, and the amoebic genes encoding these enzymes are in the AT-rich codon usage of the parasite.

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