Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 3-5

First online:

The Origin of Modern 5S rRNA: A Case of Relating Models of Structural History to Phylogenetic Data

  • Feng-Jie SunAffiliated withDepartment of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignLaboratory of Molecular Epigenetics of the Ministry of Education, School of Life Sciences, Northeast Normal UniversityW.M. Keck Center for Comparative and Functional Genomics, Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, University of Illinois
  • , Gustavo Caetano-AnollésAffiliated withDepartment of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Email author 

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Evolutionary models of molecular structures must incorporate molecular information at different levels of structural complexity and must be phrased within a phylogenetic perspective. In this regard, phylogenetic trees of substructures that are reconstructed from molecular features that contribute to order and thermodynamic stability show that a gradual model of evolution of 5S rRNA structure is more parsimonious than models that invoke large segmental duplications of the molecule. The search for trees of substructures that are most parsimonious, by their very nature, defines an objective strategy to select models of molecular change that best fit structural data. When combined with additional data, such as the age of protein domains that interact with RNA substructures, these trees can be used to falsify unlikely hypotheses.


5S rRNA origin Inverse duplication Molecular evolution Phylogenetics RNA structure