RNA Polymerase of Aquifex pyrophilus: Implications for the Evolution of the Bacterial rpoBC Operon and Extremely Thermophilic Bacteria
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A 16,226-bp fragment from the genome of Aquifex pyrophilus was sequenced, containing the genes for ribosomal proteins L1, L10, and L7/12 (rplAJL), DNA-directed RNA polymerase subunits β and β′(rpoBC), alanyl-tRNA synthetase (alaS), and subunit A of proteinase Clp (clpA). Enzymatic activity and extreme thermostability of purified A. pyrophilus RNA polymerase were verified. Transcription initiation on a DNA construct harboring the T7 A1 promoter was demonstrated by elongation of a 32P-labeled trinucleotide. Phylogenetic analyses of the two largest subunits of bacterial RNA polymerases (β and β′) showed overall consistency with the 16S rRNA-based phylogeny, except for the positions of the hyperthermophiles A. pyrophilus and Thermotoga maritima and for the location of the root of the domain Bacteria. In the phylogenies for both RNA polymerase subunits β and β′, A. pyrophilus was placed within the Gram-negative bacteria below the ε subdivision of the Proteobacteria. No support was found for the 16S rRNA-based hypothesis that A. pyrophilus might be the deepest branch of the Bacteria, but the cell wall–less mycoplasmas were found with a high confidence at the root of the Bacteria phylogenies. This raised doubts not only about whether the original Bacteria were indeed like the hyperthermophiles, but also concerning the value of single-gene phylogenies for hypotheses about the evolution of organisms.
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