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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Dec;33(3):615-25.

Ribosomal protein-sequence block structure suggests complex prokaryotic evolution with implications for the origin of eukaryotes.

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BioMolecular Engineering Research Center, Boston University, 36 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Amino acid sequence alignments of orthologous ribosomal proteins found in Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryota display, relative to one another, an unusual segment or block structure, with major evolutionary implications. Within each of the prokaryotic phylodomains the sequences exhibit substantial similarity, but cross-domain alignments break up into (a) universal blocks (conserved in both phylodomains), (b) bacterial blocks (unalignable with any archaeal counterparts), and (c) archaeal blocks (unalignable with any bacterial counterparts). Sequences of those eukaryotic cytoplasmic riboproteins that have orthologs in both Bacteria and Archaea, exclusively match the archaeal block structure. The distinct blocks do not correlate consistently with any identifiable functional or structural feature including RNA and protein contacts. This phylodomain-specific block pattern also exists in a number of other proteins associated with protein synthesis, but not among enzymes of intermediary metabolism. While the universal blocks imply that modern Bacteria and Archaea (as defined by their translational machinery) clearly have had a common ancestor, the phylodomain-specific blocks imply that these two groups derive from single, phylodomain-specific types that came into existence at some point long after that common ancestor. The simplest explanation for this pattern would be a major evolutionary bottleneck, or other scenario that drastically limited the progenitors of modern prokaryotic diversity at a time considerably after the evolution of a fully functional translation apparatus. The vast range of habitats and metabolisms that prokaryotes occupy today would thus reflect divergent evolution after such a restricting event. Interestingly, phylogenetic analysis places the origin of eukaryotes at about the same time and shows a closer relationship of the eukaryotic ribosome-associated proteins to crenarchaeal rather than euryarchaeal counterparts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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