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Photosynth Res. 2015 Oct;126(1):111-34. doi: 10.1007/s11120-014-0065-x. Epub 2014 Dec 16.

A fresh look at the evolution and diversification of photochemical reaction centers.

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Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2AZ, UK.


In this review, I reexamine the origin and diversification of photochemical reaction centers based on the known phylogenetic relations of the core subunits, and with the aid of sequence and structural alignments. I show, for example, that the protein folds at the C-terminus of the D1 and D2 subunits of Photosystem II, which are essential for the coordination of the water-oxidizing complex, were already in place in the most ancestral Type II reaction center subunit. I then evaluate the evolution of reaction centers in the context of the rise and expansion of the different groups of bacteria based on recent large-scale phylogenetic analyses. I find that the Heliobacteriaceae family of Firmicutes appears to be the earliest branching of the known groups of phototrophic bacteria; however, the origin of photochemical reaction centers and chlorophyll synthesis cannot be placed in this group. Moreover, it becomes evident that the Acidobacteria and the Proteobacteria shared a more recent common phototrophic ancestor, and this is also likely for the Chloroflexi and the Cyanobacteria. Finally, I argue that the discrepancies among the phylogenies of the reaction center proteins, chlorophyll synthesis enzymes, and the species tree of bacteria are best explained if both types of photochemical reaction centers evolved before the diversification of the known phyla of phototrophic bacteria. The primordial phototrophic ancestor must have had both Type I and Type II reaction centers.


Acidobacteria; Chlorobi; Chloroflexi; Cyanobacteria; Heliobacteria; Photosystem

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