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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Evolution of glutamine synthetase in heterokonts: evidence for endosymbiotic gene transfer and the early evolution of photosynthesis.

Although the endosymbiotic evolution of chloroplasts through primary and secondary associations is well established, the evolutionary timing and stability of the secondary endosymbiotic events is less well resolved. Heterokonts include both photosynthetic and nonphotosynthetic members and the nonphotosynthetic lineages branch basally in phylogenetic reconstructions. Molecular and morphological data indicate that heterokont chloroplasts evolved via a secondary endosymbiosis, involving a heterotrophic host cell and a photosynthetic ancestor of the red algae and this endosymbiotic event may have preceded the divergence of heterokonts and alveolates. If photosynthesis evolved early in this lineage, nuclear genomes of the nonphotosynthetic groups may contain genes that are not essential to photosynthesis but were derived from the endosymbiont genome through gene transfer. These genes offer the potential to trace the evolutionary history of chloroplast gains and losses within these lineages. Glutamine synthetase ( GS) is essential for ammonium assimilation and glutamine biosynthesis in all organisms. Three paralogous gene families (GSI, GSII, and GSIII) have been identified and are broadly distributed among prokaryotic and eukaryotic lineages. In diatoms (Heterokonta), the nuclear-encoded chloroplast and cytosolic-localized GS isoforms are encoded by members of the GSII and GSIII family, respectively. Here, we explore the evolutionary history of GSII in both photosynthetic and nonphotosynthetic heterokonts, red algae, and other eukaryotes. GSII cDNA sequences were obtained from two species of oomycetes by polymerase chain reaction amplification. Additional GSII sequences from eukaryotes and bacteria were obtained from publicly available databases and genome projects. Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood phylogenetic analyses of GSII provided strong support for the monophyly of heterokonts, rhodophytes, chlorophytes, and plants and strong to moderate support for the Opisthokonts. Although the phylogeny is reflective of the unikont/bikont division of eukaryotes, we propose based on the robustness of the phylogenetic analyses that the heterokont GSII gene evolved via endosymbiotic gene transfer from the nucleus of the red-algal endosymbiont to the nucleus of the host. The lack of GSIII sequences in the oomycetes examined here further suggests that the GSIII gene that functions in the cytosol of photosynthetic heterokonts was replaced by the endosymbiont-derived GSII gene.[1]


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