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J Mol Evol. 2004 May;58(5):540-9.

Presence of a bacterial-like citrate synthase gene in Tetrahymena thermophila: recent lateral gene transfers (LGT) or multiple gene losses subsequent to a single ancient LGT?

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Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa 920-1192, Japan,


Citrate synthase is the initial enzyme in the tricarboxylic acid cycle of mitochondria. In plants and fungi, it is the second isozyme in the glyoxylate cycle of peroxisomes (or glyoxysomes), and it is also present in bacteria. Some of the biochemical reactions in the glyoxylate cycle of the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena pyriformis depend upon mitochondrial enzymes, as T. pyriformis lacks some glyoxysome-specific enzymes. Here we demonstrate a new citrate synthase gene from Tetrahymena thermophila that is different from the mitochondrial counterpart. A potential peroxysome-targeted signal was detected in the N-terminus, suggesting the localization of the enzyme in peroxysomes. Phylogenetic analysis placed the Tetrahymena sequence in a clade consisting of a few sequences from eukaryotes such as cellular slime molds and two land plants, near a green sulfur bacterium and many proteobacteria as a sister group but not in a mitochondrial clade. Southern blot analysis revealed that this type of gene was absent from distantly related ciliates and other species of Tetrahymena except for the closest species, T. mallaccensis. The scattered presence of the bacterial-like genes among distantly related eukaryotes suggests three alternative interpretations of acquisition of the novel glyoxysomal citrate synthase gene via lateral gene transfer (LGT). (1). Some eukaryotes independently acquired the gene from a common bacterium or closely related bacteria via LGT. (2). A hypothetical eukaryote once acquired the gene, which was thereafter independently transferred from the eukaryote to other eukaryotes. (3). A single event of LGT (or duplication) occurred in a certain common ancestor of eukaryotes, followed by multiple losses in many eukaryotic lineages during the subsequent evolution. Considering the monophyly of the bacterial-like eukaryotic citrate synthase genes, the first model is somewhat unlikely, even though it is not impossible. The second and third models can rationally explain the present observation, so these models are discussed in some detail.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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