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Photosynth Res. 2010 Jun;104(2-3):357-72. doi: 10.1007/s11120-010-9553-9. Epub 2010 Apr 23.

Molecular signatures for the main phyla of photosynthetic bacteria and their subgroups.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


The bacterial groups corresponding to different photosynthetic prokaryotes are presently identified mainly on the basis of their branching in phylogenetic trees. The availability of genome sequences is enabling identification of many molecular signatures that are specific for different groups of photosynthetic bacteria. Our recent work has identified large numbers of signatures consisting of conserved inserts or deletions (indels) in widely distributed proteins, as well as whole proteins that are specific for various sequenced species/strains from Cyanobacteria, Chlorobi, and Proteobacteria phyla. Based upon these signatures, it is now possible to identify/distinguish bacteria from these phyla of photosynthetic bacteria as well as their major subclades in clear molecular terms. The use of these signatures in conjunction with phylogenomic analyses, summarized here, is leading to a holistic picture concerning the branching order and evolutionary relationships among the above groups of photosynthetic bacteria. Although detailed studies in this regard have not yet been carried on Chloroflexi and Heliobacteriaceae, we have identified some conserved indels that are specific for these groups. Some of the conserved indels for the photosynthetic bacteria are present in photosynthesis-related proteins. These include a 4 aa insert in the pyruvate flavodoxin/ferridoxin oxidoreductase that is specific for the genus Chloroflexus, a 2 aa insert in magnesium chelatase that is uniquely shared by all Cyanobacteria except the deepest branching Clade A (Gloebacterales), a 6 aa insert in an A-type flavoprotein that is specific for various marine unicellular Cyanobacteria, a 2 aa insert in heme oxygenase that is specific for various Prochlorococcus strains/isolates, and 1 aa deletion in the protein protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase that is commonly shared by various Prochlorococcus strains except the deepest branching isolates MIT 9303 and MIT 9313. The identified CSIs are located in the structures of these proteins in surface loops indicating that they may be important in mediating protein-protein interactions. The cellular functions of these conserved indels, or most of the signature proteins are presently unknown, but they provide valuable means for discovering novel properties that are unique to different groups of photosynthetic bacteria.

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