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J Mol Biol. 1987 May 5;195(1):43-61.

Evolutionary relationships amongst archaebacteria. A comparative study of 23 S ribosomal RNAs of a sulphur-dependent extreme thermophile, an extreme halophile and a thermophilic methanogen.

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Biostructural Chemistry, Kemisk Institut, Aarhus Universitet, Denmark.


The 23 S RNA genes representative of each of the main archaebacterial subkingdoms, Desulfurococcus mobilis an extreme thermophile, Halococcus morrhuae an extreme halophile and Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum a thermophilic methanogen, were cloned and sequenced. The inferred RNA sequences were aligned with all the available 23 S-like RNAs of other archaebacteria, eubacteria/chloroplasts and the cytoplasm of eukaryotes. Universal secondary structural models containing six major structural domains were refined, and extended, using the sequence comparison approach. Much of the present structure was confirmed but six new helices were added, including one that also exists in the eukaryotic 5.8 S RNA, and extensions were made to several existing helices. The data throw doubt on whether the 5' and 3' ends of the 23 S RNA interact, since no stable helix can form in either the extreme thermophile or the methanogen RNA. A few secondary structural features, specific to the archaebacterial RNAs were identified; two of these were supported by a comparison of the archaebacterial RNA sequences, and experimentally, using chemical and ribonuclease probes. Seven tertiary structural interactions, common to all 23 S-like RNAs, were predicted within unpaired regions of the secondary structural model on the basis of co-variation of nucleotide pairs; two lie in the region of the 23 S RNA corresponding to 5.8 S RNA but they are not conserved in the latter. The flanking sequences of each of the RNAs could base-pair to form long RNA processing stems. They were not conserved in sequence but each exhibited a secondary structural feature that is common to all the archaebacterial stems for both 16 S and 23 S RNAs and constitutes a processing site. Kingdom-specific nucleotides have been identified that are associated with antibiotic binding sites at functional centres in 23 S-like RNAs: in the peptidyl transferase centre (erythromycin-domain V) the archaebacterial RNAs classify with the eukaryotic RNAs; at the elongation factor-dependent GTPase centre (thiostrepton-domain II) they fall with the eubacteria, and at the putative amino acyl tRNA site (alpha-sarcin-domain VI) they resemble eukaryotes. Two of the proposed tertiary interactions offer a structural explanation for how functional coupling of domains II and V occurs at the peptidyl transferase centre. Phylogenetic trees were constructed for the archaebacterial kingdom, and for the other two kingdoms, on the basis of the aligned 23 S-like RNA sequences.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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