Horizontal Transfer of Archaeal Genes into the Deinococcaceae: Detection by Molecular and Computer-Based Approaches
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Members of the Deinococcaceae (e.g., Thermus, Meiothermus, Deinococcus) contain A/V-ATPases typically found in Archaea or Eukaryotes which were probably acquired by horizontal gene transfer. Two methods were used to quantify the extent to which archaeal or eukaryotic genes have been acquired by this lineage. Screening of a Meiothermus ruber library with probes made against Thermoplasma acidophilum DNA yielded a number of clones which hybridized more strongly than background. One of these contained the prolyl tRNA synthetase (RS) gene. Phylogenetic analysis shows the M. ruber and D. radiodurans prolyl RS to be more closely related to archaeal and eukaryal forms of this gene than to the typical bacterial type. Using a bioinformatics approach, putative open reading frames (ORFs) from the prerelease version of the D. radiodurans genome were screened for genes more closely related to archaeal or eukaryotic genes. Putative ORFs were searched against representative genomes from each of the three domains using automated BLAST. ORFs showing the highest matches against archaeal and eukaryotic genes were collected and ranked. Among the top-ranked hits were the A/V-ATPase catalytic and noncatalytic subunits and the prolyl RS genes. Using phylogenetic methods, ORFs were analyzed and trees assessed for evidence of horizontal gene transfer. Of the 45 genes examined, 20 showed topologies in which D. radiodurans homologues clearly group with eukaryotic or archaeal homologues, and 17 additional trees were found to show probable evidence of horizontal gene transfer. Compared to the total number of ORFs in the genome, those that can be identified as having been acquired from Archaea or Eukaryotes are relatively few (approximately 1%), suggesting that interdomain transfer is rare.
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