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Genome Biol Evol. 2017 Nov 1;9(11):3039-3053. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evx225.

A Journey across Genomes Uncovers the Origin of Ubiquinone in Cyanobacteria.

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Italian Institute of Technology, Genoa, Italy.
Center for Genomic Sciences, Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico Campus of Cuernavaca, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.


Ubiquinone (Q) is an isoprenoid quinone that functions as membrane electron carrier in mitochondria and bacterial organisms belonging to the alpha, beta, and gamma class of proteobacteria. The biosynthesis of Q follows various biochemical steps catalyzed by diverse proteins that are, in general, homologous in mitochondria and bacteria. Nonorthologous proteins can also contribute to some biochemical steps as originally uncovered in Escherichia coli, which is the best studied organism for Q biosynthesis in prokaryotes. However, the origin of the biosynthetic pathway of Q has remained obscure. Here, I show by genome analysis that Q biosynthesis originated in cyanobacteria and then diversified in anaerobic alpha proteobacteria which have extant relatives in members of the Rhodospirillaceae family. Two distinct biochemical pathways diverged when ambient oxygen reached current levels on earth, one leading to the well-known series of Ubi genes found in E. coli, and the other containing CoQ proteins originally found in eukaryotes. Extant alpha proteobacteria show Q biosynthesis pathways that are more similar to that present in mitochondria than to that of E. coli. Hence, this work clarifies not only the origin but also the evolution of Q biosynthesis from bacteria to mitochondria.


evolution of mitochondria; menaquinone; plastoquinone; quinone biosynthesis; ubiquinone

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