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Trends Microbiol. 2006 Nov;14(11):463-9. Epub 2006 Sep 27.

Microbial rhodopsins: functional versatility and genetic mobility.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dalhousie University, 5850 College St, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 1X5, Canada.


The type 1 (microbial) rhodopsins are a diverse group of photochemically reactive proteins that span the three domains of life. Their broad phylogenetic distribution has motivated conjecture that rhodopsin-like functionality was present in the last common ancestor of all life. Here, we discuss the evolution of the type 1 microbial rhodopsins and document five cases of lateral gene transfer (LGT) between domains. We suggest that, thanks to the functional versatility of these retinylidene proteins and the relative ease with which they can complement the existing energy-generating or photosensory repertoires of many organisms, LGT is in fact the principal force that determines their broad but patchy distribution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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