226 research outputs found

    The Origin and Evolution of Metabolic Pathways: Why and How did Primordial Cells Construct Metabolic Routes?

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    Abstract The emergence and evolution of metabolic pathways represented a crucial step in molecular and cellular evolution. In fact, the exhaustion of the prebiotic supply of amino acids and other compounds that were likely present on the primordial Earth imposed an important selective pressure, favoring those primordial heterotrophic cells that became able to synthesize those molecules. Thus, the emergence of metabolic pathways allowed primitive organisms to become increasingly less dependent on exogenous sources of organic compounds. Comparative analyses of genes and genomes from organisms belonging to Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya reveal that, during evolution, different forces and molecular mechanisms might have driven the shaping of genomes and the emergence of new metabolic abilities. Among these gene elongations, gene and operon duplications played a crucial role since they can lead to the (immediate) appearance of new genetic material that, in turn, might undergo evolutionary divergence, giving rise to new genes coding for new metabolic abilities. Concerning the mechanisms of pathway assembly, both the analysis of completely sequenced genomes and directed evolution experiments strongly support the patchwork hypothesis, according to which metabolic pathways have been assembled through the recruitment of primitive enzymes that could react with a wide range of chemically related substrates. However, the analysis of the structure and organization of genes belonging to ancient metabolic pathways, such as histidine biosynthesis, suggests that other different hypothesis, i.e., the retrograde hypothesis, may account for the evolution of some steps within metabolic pathways

    MotifScorer: using a compendium of microarrays to identify regulatory motifs

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    Abstract Summary: We describe MotifScorer, a program for systematic genome-wide identification of transcription sites. The program uses a compendium of gene expression microarrays and implements state-of-art partial least squares (PLSs) based regression and stepwise regression procedures. Candidate motifs from the upstream sequences of groups of co-regulated genes are identified and assigned a score using genomic background models and available motif finding tools. The use of a large library of expression data allows statistical comparative analysis of the specificity of motifs identified in different conditions. Availability: MotifScorer, which is written in Java and Matlab, manual and example files are available from the authors. Contact: [email protected]

    On the origin and evolution of biosynthetic pathways: integrating microarray data with structure and organization of the Common Pathway genes

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    Background: The lysine, threonine, and methionine biosynthetic pathways share the three initial enzymatic steps, which are referred to as the Common Pathway (CP). In Escherichia coli three different aspartokinases (AKI, AKII, AKIII, the products of thrA, metL and lysC, respectively) can perform the first step of the CP. Moreover, two of them (AKI and AKII) are bifunctional, carrying also homoserine dehydrogenasic activity (hom product). The second step of the CP is catalyzed by a single aspartate semialdehyde dehydrogenase (ASDH, the product of asd). Thus, in the CP of E. coli while a single copy of ASDH performs the same reaction for three different metabolic routes, three different AKs perfom a unique step. Why and how such a situation did emerge and maintain? How is it correlated to the different regulatory mechanisms acting on these genes? The aim of this work was to trace the evolutionary pathway leading to the extant scenario in proteobacteria. Results: The analysis of the structure, organization, phylogeny, and distribution of ask and hom genes revealed that the presence of multiple copies of these genes and their fusion events are restricted to the gamma-subdivision of proteobacteria. This allowed us to depict a model to explain the evolution of ask and hom according to which the fused genes are the outcome of a cascade of gene duplication and fusion events that can be traced in the ancestor of gamma-proteobacteria. Moreover, the appearance of fused genes paralleled the assembly of operons of different sizes, suggesting a strong correlation between the structure and organization of these genes. A statistic analysis of microarray data retrieved from experiments carried out on E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa was also performed. Conclusion: The integration of data concerning gene structure, organization, phylogeny, distribution, and microarray experiments allowed us to depict a model for the evolution of ask and hom genes in proteobacteria and to suggest a biological significance for the extant scenario

    The role of gene fusions in the evolution of metabolic pathways: the histidine biosynthesis case

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    RIGHTS : This article is licensed under the BioMed Central licence at http://www.biomedcentral.com/about/license which is similar to the 'Creative Commons Attribution Licence'. In brief you may : copy, distribute, and display the work; make derivative works; or make commercial use of the work - under the following conditions: the original author must be given credit; for any reuse or distribution, it must be made clear to others what the license terms of this work are.Abstract Background Histidine biosynthesis is one of the best characterized anabolic pathways. There is a large body of genetic and biochemical information available, including operon structure, gene expression, and increasingly larger sequence databases. For over forty years this pathway has been the subject of extensive studies, mainly in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica, in both of which details of histidine biosynthesis appear to be identical. In these two enterobacteria the pathway is unbranched, includes a number of unusual reactions, and consists of nine intermediates; his genes are arranged in a compact operon (hisGDC [NB]HAF [IE]), with three of them (hisNB, hisD and hisIE) coding for bifunctional enzymes. We performed a detailed analysis of his gene fusions in available genomes to understand the role of gene fusions in shaping this pathway. Results The analysis of HisA structures revealed that several gene elongation events are at the root of this protein family: internal duplication have been identified by structural superposition of the modules composing the TIM-barrel protein. Several his gene fusions happened in distinct taxonomic lineages; hisNB originated within γ-proteobacteria and after its appearance it was transferred to Campylobacter species (ε-proteobacteria) and to some Bacteria belonging to the CFB group. The transfer involved the entire his operon. The hisIE gene fusion was found in several taxonomic lineages and our results suggest that it probably happened several times in distinct lineages. Gene fusions involving hisIE and hisD genes (HIS4) and hisH and hisF genes (HIS7) took place in the Eukarya domain; the latter has been transferred to some δ-proteobacteria. Conclusion Gene duplication is the most widely known mechanism responsible for the origin and evolution of metabolic pathways; however, several other mechanisms might concur in the process of pathway assembly and gene fusion appeared to be one of the most important and common

    A horizontal gene transfer at the origin of phenylpropanoid metabolism: a key adaptation of plants to land

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    <p>Abstract</p> <p>Background</p> <p>The pioneering ancestor of land plants that conquered terrestrial habitats around 500 million years ago had to face dramatic stresses including UV radiation, desiccation, and microbial attack. This drove a number of adaptations, among which the emergence of the phenylpropanoid pathway was crucial, leading to essential compounds such as flavonoids and lignin. However, the origin of this specific land plant secondary metabolism has not been clarified.</p> <p>Results</p> <p>We have performed an extensive analysis of the taxonomic distribution and phylogeny of Phenylalanine Ammonia Lyase (PAL), which catalyses the first and essential step of the general phenylpropanoid pathway, leading from phenylalanine to p-Coumaric acid and p-Coumaroyl-CoA, the entry points of the flavonoids and lignin routes. We obtained robust evidence that the ancestor of land plants acquired a PAL <it>via </it>horizontal gene transfer (HGT) during symbioses with soil bacteria and fungi that are known to have established very early during the first steps of land colonization. This horizontally acquired PAL represented then the basis for further development of the phenylpropanoid pathway and plant radiation on terrestrial environments.</p> <p>Conclusion</p> <p>Our results highlight a possible crucial role of HGT from soil bacteria in the path leading to land colonization by plants and their subsequent evolution. The few functional characterizations of sediment/soil bacterial PAL (production of secondary metabolites with powerful antimicrobial activity or production of pigments) suggest that the initial advantage of this horizontally acquired PAL in the ancestor of land plants might have been either defense against an already developed microbial community and/or protection against UV.</p> <p>Reviewers</p> <p>This article was reviewed by Purificaci贸n L贸pez-Garc铆a, Janet Siefert, and Eugene Koonin.</p

    Large-Scale Analysis of Plasmid Relationships through Gene-Sharing Networks

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    Plasmids are vessels of genetic exchange in microbial communities. They are known to transfer between different host organisms and acquire diverse genetic elements from chromosomes and/or other plasmids. Therefore, they constitute an important element in microbial evolution by rapidly disseminating various genetic properties among different communities. A paradigmatic example of this is the dissemination of antibiotic resistance (AR) genes that has resulted in the emergence of multiresistant pathogenic bacterial strains. To globally analyze the evolutionary dynamics of plasmids, we built a large graph in which 2,343 plasmids (nodes) are connected according to the proteins shared by each other. The analysis of this gene-sharing network revealed an overall coherence between network clustering and the phylogenetic classes of the corresponding microorganisms, likely resulting from genetic barriers to horizontal gene transfer between distant phylogenetic groups. Habitat was not a crucial factor in clustering as plasmids from organisms inhabiting different environments were often found embedded in the same cluster. Analyses of network metrics revealed a statistically significant correlation between plasmid mobility and their centrality within the network, providing support to the observation that mobile plasmids are particularly important in spreading genes in microbial communities. Finally, our study reveals an extensive (and previously undescribed) sharing of AR genes between Actinobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria, suggesting that the former might represent an important reservoir of AR genes for the latter

    Sequencing and analysis of plasmids pAV1 and pAV2 ofAcinetobacter venetianus VE-C3 involved in diesel fuel degradation

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    Acinetobacter venetianus strain VE-C3 was isolated in the Venice lagoon (Italy) as a strain able to degrade diesel fuel oil. This strain possesses genes of the alkane monoxygenase complex responsible forn-alkane degradation and carries two plasmids, pAV1 (10820 bp) and pAV2 (15135 bp), which were supposed from the analysis of Alk mutant strains to harbour genetic determinants for hydrocarbon degradation. In this work we determined the nucleotide sequence of both plasmids and showed the presence of a putative aldehyde dehydrogenase gene, essential for hydrocarbon degradation, on plasmid pAV2, and of an ORF similar toalkL gene present on pAV1 plasmid. These data, combined with genetic reports indicating that strains lacking one of the two plasmids or carrying transposon insertion on pAV1, are defective inn-alkane degradation, suggest a complex genomic organisation of genes involved in alkane degradation inA. venetianus VE-C3. In this bacterium these genes are carried by both the chromosome and the plasmids, while inAcinetobacter sp. strain ADP1 and M1 all the genes for alkane monoxygenase complex are located only on the chromosome

    The primordial metabolism: an ancestral interconnection between leucine, arginine, and lysine biosynthesis

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    <p>Abstract</p> <p>Background</p> <p>It is generally assumed that primordial cells had small genomes with simple genes coding for enzymes able to react with a wide range of chemically related substrates, interconnecting different metabolic routes. New genes coding for enzymes with a narrowed substrate specificity arose by paralogous duplication(s) of ancestral ones and evolutionary divergence. In this way new metabolic pathways were built up by primordial cells. Useful hints to disclose the origin and evolution of ancestral metabolic routes and their interconnections can be obtained by comparing sequences of enzymes involved in the same or different metabolic routes. From this viewpoint, the lysine, arginine, and leucine biosynthetic routes represent very interesting study-models. Some of the <it>lys</it>, <it>arg </it>and <it>leu </it>genes are paralogs; this led to the suggestion that their ancestor genes might interconnect the three pathways. The aim of this work was to trace the evolutionary pathway leading to the appearance of the extant biosynthetic routes and to try to disclose the interrelationships existing between them and other pathways in the early stages of cellular evolution.</p> <p>Results</p> <p>The comparative analysis of the genes involved in the biosynthesis of lysine, leucine, and arginine, their phylogenetic distribution and analysis revealed that the extant metabolic "grids" and their interrelationships might be the outcome of a cascade of duplication of ancestral genes that, according to the patchwork hypothesis, coded for unspecific enzymes able to react with a wide range of substrates. These genes belonged to a single common pathway in which the three biosynthetic routes were highly interconnected between them and also to methionine, threonine, and cell wall biosynthesis. A possible evolutionary model leading to the extant metabolic scenarios was also depicted.</p> <p>Conclusion</p> <p>The whole body of data obtained in this work suggests that primordial cells synthesized leucine, lysine, and arginine through a single common metabolic pathway, whose genes underwent a set of duplication events, most of which can have predated the appearance of the last common universal ancestor of the three cell domains (Archaea, Bacteria, and Eucaryotes). The model proposes a relative timing for the appearance of the three routes and also suggests a possible evolutionary pathway for the assembly of bacterial cell-wall.</p
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