, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 524-537

The Archaea Monophyly Issue: A Phylogeny of Translational Elongation Factor G(2) Sequences Inferred from an Optimized Selection of Alignment Positions

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A global alignment of EF-G(2) sequences was corrected by reference to protein structure. The selection of characters eligible for construction of phylogenetic trees was optimized by searching for regions arising from the artifactual matching of sequence segments unique to different phylogenetic domains. The spurious matchings were identified by comparing all sections of the global alignment with a comprehensive inventory of significant binary alignments obtained by BLAST probing of the DNA and protein databases with representative EF-G(2) sequences. In three discrete alignment blocks (one in domain II and two in domain IV), the alignment of the bacterial sequences with those of Archaea–Eucarya was not retrieved by database probing with EF-G(2) sequences, and no EF-G homologue of the EF-2 sequence segments was detected by using partial EF-G(2) sequences as probes in BLAST/FASTA searches. The two domain IV regions (one of which comprises the ADP-ribosylatable site of EF-2) are almost certainly due to the artifactual alignment of insertion segments that are unique to Bacteria and to Archaea–Eucarya. Phylogenetic trees have been constructed from the global alignment after deselecting positions encompassing the unretrieved, spuriously aligned regions, as well as positions arising from misalignment of the G′ and G″ subdomain insertion segments flanking the ``fifth'' consensus motif of the G domain (Ævarsson, 1995). The results show inconsistencies between trees inferred by alternative methods and alternative (DNA and protein) data sets with regard to Archaea being a monophyletic or paraphyletic grouping. Both maximum-likelihood and maximum-parsimony methods do not allow discrimination (by log-likelihood difference and difference in number of inferred substitutions) between the conflicting (monophyletic vs. paraphyletic Archaea) topologies. No specific EF-2 insertions (or terminal accretions) supporting a crenarchaeal–eucaryal clade are detectable in the new EF-G(2) sequence alignment.