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Gene. 2001 Oct 31;278(1-2):253-64.

Prokaryotic structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) proteins: distribution, phylogeny, and comparison with MukBs and additional prokaryotic and eukaryotic coiled-coil proteins.

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  • 1Institut für Mikrobiologie, Biozentrum Niederursel, Marie-Curie-Strasse 9, D-60439 Frankfurt, Germany.


Structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) proteins are known to be essential for chromosome segregation in some prokaryotes and in eukaryotes. A systematic search for the distribution of SMC proteins in prokaryotes with fully or partially sequenced genomes showed that they form a larger family than previously anticipated and raised the number of known prokaryotic homologs to 54. Secondary structure predictions revealed that the length of the globular N-terminal and C-terminal domains is extremely well conserved in contrast to the hinge domain and coiled-coil domains which are considerably shorter in several bacterial species. SMC proteins are present in all gram-positive bacteria and in nearly all archaea while they were found in less than half of the gram-negative bacteria. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the SMC tree roughly resembles the 16S rRNA tree, but that cyanobacteria and Aquifex aeolicus obtained smc genes by lateral transfer from archaea. Fourteen out of 22 smc genes located in fully sequenced genomes seem to be co-transcribed with a second gene out of six different gene families, indicating that the deduced gene products might be involved in similar functions. The SMC proteins were compared with other prokaryotic proteins with long coiled-coil domains. The lengths of different protein domains and signature sequences allowed to differentiate SMCs, MukBs, which were found to be confined to gamma proteobacteria, and two subfamilies of COG 0419 including the SbcC nuclease from E. coli. A phylogenetic analysis was performed including the prokaryotic coiled-coil proteins as well as SMCs and Rad18 proteins from selected eukaryotes.

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