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J Mol Evol. 2008 May;66(5):529-32. doi: 10.1007/s00239-008-9106-4. Epub 2008 Apr 15.

Detection of the genes evolving under Ureaplasma-specific selection.

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Department of Agricultural and Environmental Biology, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan.


Mycoplasmas are parasitic bacteria with small genomes. Since parasitic bacteria need to adapt themselves to their hosts, there is a possibility that some genes evolved under species-specific constraint. We assume that Ureaplasma parvum has candidate genes that evolved in a species-specific manner in its genome. Here we examined synonymous-to-nonsynonymous substitution ratios (omega) of the 143 mycoplasma-orthologous genes of Ureaplasma and other mycoplasmas using branch models. As a result, the model allowing for Ureaplasma branch-specific omega in addition to omega of other mycoplasmas was significantly supported in 16 genes. First, the Ureaplasma-specific model was significantly supported in the genes encoding a transcription elongation factor and a transcription terminator factor, suggesting that transcription-related genes of Ureaplasma have evolved in a unique manner compared to those of other mycoplasmas. Second, the Ureaplasma-specific model was significantly supported in the gene encoding uracil-DNA glycosylase. In addition, the omega value of the gene in the Ureaplasma lineage was approximately 30-fold lower than those of other lineages, suggesting that uracil-DNA glycosylase of Ureaplasma evolved under stronger functional constraint than those of other mycoplasmas. Finally, three glycolytic genes of Ureaplasma were suggested to have evolved under relaxed selection. Among mycoplasmas, only Ureaplasma has urease and synthesizes ATPs via hydrolysis of urea. This raises the possibility that Ureaplasma does not need a glycolysis pathway for ATP synthesis. This unique energy-producing system may be related to the Ureaplasma-specific evolution of the glycolytic genes.

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