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Mol Biol Evol. 1995 Jul;12(4):533-45.

Evolutionary transfer of ORF-containing group I introns between different subcellular compartments (chloroplast and mitochondrion).

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Program in Evolutionary Biology, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.


We describe here a case of homologous introns containing homologous open reading frames (ORFs) that are inserted at the same site in the large subunit (LSU) rRNA gene of different organelles in distantly related organisms. We show that the chloroplast LSU rRNA gene of the green alga Chlamydomonas pallidostigmatica contains a group I intron (CpLSU.2) encoding a site-specific endonuclease (I-CpaI). This intron is inserted at the identical site (corresponding to position 1931-1932 of the Escherichia coli 23S rRNA sequence) as a group I intron (AcLSU.m1) in the mitochondrial LSU rRNA gene of the amoeboid protozoon Acanthamoeba castellanii. The CpLSU.2 intron displays a remarkable degree of nucleotide similarity in both primary sequence and secondary structure to the AcLSU.m1 intron; moreover, the Acanthamoeba intron contains an ORF in the same location within its secondary structure as the CpLSU.2 ORF and shares with it a strikingly high level of amino acid similarity (65%; 42% identity). A comprehensive survey of intron distribution at site 1931 of the chloroplast LSU rRNA gene reveals a rather restricted occurrence within the polyphyletic genus Chlamydomonas, with no evidence of this intron among a number of non-Chlamydomonad green algae surveyed, nor in land plants. A parallel survey of homologues of a previously described and similar intron/ORF pair (C. reinhardtii chloroplast CrLSU/A. castellanii mitochondrial AcLSU.m3) also shows a restricted occurrence of this intron (site 2593) among chloroplasts, although the intron distribution is somewhat broader than that observed at site 1931, with site-2593 introns appearing in several green algal branches outside of the Chlamydomonas lineage. The available data, while not definitive, are most consistent with a relatively recent horizontal transfer of both site-1931 and site-2593 introns (and their contained ORFs) between the chloroplast of a Chlamydomonas-type organism and the mitochondrion of an Acanthamoeba-like organism, probably in the direction chloroplast to mitochondrion. The data also suggest that both introns could have been acquired in a single event.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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