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Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2007 Apr-Jun;27(2):77-91.

Molecular phylogenies and evolution of crt genes in algae.

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College of Food and Bioengineering, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, People's Republic of China.


The carotenoids constitute the most widespread class of pigments in nature. Most previous work has concentrated on the identification and characterization of their chemical physical properties and bioavailability. In recent years, significant amounts of research have been conducted in an attempt to analyze the genes and the molecular regulation of the genes involved in the biosynthesis of carotenoids. However, it is important not to lose sight of the early evolution of carotenoid biosynthesis. One of the major obstacles in understanding the evolution of the respective enzymes and their patterns of selection is a lack of a well-supported phylogenic analysis. In the present research, a major long-term objective was to provide a clearer picture of the evolutionary history of genes, together with an evaluation of the patterns of selection in algae. These phylogenies will be important in studies characterizing the evolution of algae. The gene sequences of the enzymes involved in the major steps of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway in algae (cyanobacteria, rhofophyta, chlorophyta) have been analyzed. Phylogenetic relationships among protein-coding DNA sequences were reconstructed by neighbor-joining (NJ) analysis for the respective carotenoid biosynthetic pathway genes (crt) in algae. The analysis also contains an estimation of the rate of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions per nonsynonymous site (d(N)), synonymous nucleotide substitution per synonymous site (d(S)), and the ratio of nonsynonmous (d(N)/d(S)) for the test of selection patterns. The phylogenetic trees show that the taxa of some genera have a closer evolutionary relationship with other genera in some gene sequences, which suggests a common ancient origin and that lateral gene transfer has occurred among unrelated genera. The d(N) values of crt genes in the early pathway are relatively low, while those of the following steps are slightly higher, while the d(N) values of crt genes in chlorophyta are higher than those in cyanobacteria. Most of the d(N)/d(S) values exceed 1. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that lateral gene transfer may have taken place across algal genomes and the d(N) values suggest that most of the early crt genes are well conserved compared to the later crt genes. Furthermore, d(N) values also revealed that the crt genes of chlorophyta are more evolutionary than cyanobacteria. The amino acids' changes are mostly adaptive evolution under the influence of positive diversity selection.

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