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Nat Commun. 2011 Feb 8;2:183. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1188.

A bacterial proteorhodopsin proton pump in marine eukaryotes.

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Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Botany Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4.

Erratum in

  • Nat Commun. 2012;3. doi:10.1038/ncomms1863.


Proteorhodopsins are light-driven proton pumps involved in widespread phototrophy. Discovered in marine proteobacteria just 10 years ago, proteorhodopsins are now known to have been spread by lateral gene transfer across diverse prokaryotes, but are curiously absent from eukaryotes. In this study, we show that proteorhodopsins have been acquired by horizontal gene transfer from bacteria at least twice independently in dinoflagellate protists. We find that in the marine predator Oxyrrhis marina, proteorhodopsin is indeed the most abundantly expressed nuclear gene and its product localizes to discrete cytoplasmic structures suggestive of the endomembrane system. To date, photosystems I and II have been the only known mechanism for transducing solar energy in eukaryotes; however, it now appears that some abundant zooplankton use this alternative pathway to harness light to power biological functions.

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