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      Diversity and evolution of phycobilisomes in marine Synechococcus spp.: a comparative genomics study

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          By comparing Synechococcus genomes, candidate genes required for the production of phycobiliproteins, which are part of the light-harvesting antenna complexes called phycobilisomes, were identified. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the phycobilisome core evolved together with the core genome, whereas rods evolved independently.



          Marine Synechococcus owe their specific vivid color (ranging from blue-green to orange) to their large extrinsic antenna complexes called phycobilisomes, comprising a central allophycocyanin core and rods of variable phycobiliprotein composition. Three major pigment types can be defined depending on the major phycobiliprotein found in the rods (phycocyanin, phycoerythrin I or phycoerythrin II). Among strains containing both phycoerythrins I and II, four subtypes can be distinguished based on the ratio of the two chromophores bound to these phycobiliproteins. Genomes of eleven marine Synechococcus strains recently became available with one to four strains per pigment type or subtype, allowing an unprecedented comparative genomics study of genes involved in phycobilisome metabolism.


          By carefully comparing the Synechococcus genomes, we have retrieved candidate genes potentially required for the synthesis of phycobiliproteins in each pigment type. This includes linker polypeptides, phycobilin lyases and a number of novel genes of uncharacterized function. Interestingly, strains belonging to a given pigment type have similar phycobilisome gene complements and organization, independent of the core genome phylogeny (as assessed using concatenated ribosomal proteins). While phylogenetic trees based on concatenated allophycocyanin protein sequences are congruent with the latter, those based on phycocyanin and phycoerythrin notably differ and match the Synechococcus pigment types.


          We conclude that the phycobilisome core has likely evolved together with the core genome, while rods must have evolved independently, possibly by lateral transfer of phycobilisome rod genes or gene clusters between Synechococcus strains, either via viruses or by natural transformation, allowing rapid adaptation to a variety of light niches.

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          Most cited references 88

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          Gapped BLAST and PSI-BLAST: a new generation of protein database search programs.

           S Altschul (1997)
          The BLAST programs are widely used tools for searching protein and DNA databases for sequence similarities. For protein comparisons, a variety of definitional, algorithmic and statistical refinements described here permits the execution time of the BLAST programs to be decreased substantially while enhancing their sensitivity to weak similarities. A new criterion for triggering the extension of word hits, combined with a new heuristic for generating gapped alignments, yields a gapped BLAST program that runs at approximately three times the speed of the original. In addition, a method is introduced for automatically combining statistically significant alignments produced by BLAST into a position-specific score matrix, and searching the database using this matrix. The resulting Position-Specific Iterated BLAST (PSI-BLAST) program runs at approximately the same speed per iteration as gapped BLAST, but in many cases is much more sensitive to weak but biologically relevant sequence similarities. PSI-BLAST is used to uncover several new and interesting members of the BRCT superfamily.
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            A simple, fast, and accurate algorithm to estimate large phylogenies by maximum likelihood.

            The increase in the number of large data sets and the complexity of current probabilistic sequence evolution models necessitates fast and reliable phylogeny reconstruction methods. We describe a new approach, based on the maximum- likelihood principle, which clearly satisfies these requirements. The core of this method is a simple hill-climbing algorithm that adjusts tree topology and branch lengths simultaneously. This algorithm starts from an initial tree built by a fast distance-based method and modifies this tree to improve its likelihood at each iteration. Due to this simultaneous adjustment of the topology and branch lengths, only a few iterations are sufficient to reach an optimum. We used extensive and realistic computer simulations to show that the topological accuracy of this new method is at least as high as that of the existing maximum-likelihood programs and much higher than the performance of distance-based and parsimony approaches. The reduction of computing time is dramatic in comparison with other maximum-likelihood packages, while the likelihood maximization ability tends to be higher. For example, only 12 min were required on a standard personal computer to analyze a data set consisting of 500 rbcL sequences with 1,428 base pairs from plant plastids, thus reaching a speed of the same order as some popular distance-based and parsimony algorithms. This new method is implemented in the PHYML program, which is freely available on our web page:
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              CLUSTAL W: improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice.

              The sensitivity of the commonly used progressive multiple sequence alignment method has been greatly improved for the alignment of divergent protein sequences. Firstly, individual weights are assigned to each sequence in a partial alignment in order to down-weight near-duplicate sequences and up-weight the most divergent ones. Secondly, amino acid substitution matrices are varied at different alignment stages according to the divergence of the sequences to be aligned. Thirdly, residue-specific gap penalties and locally reduced gap penalties in hydrophilic regions encourage new gaps in potential loop regions rather than regular secondary structure. Fourthly, positions in early alignments where gaps have been opened receive locally reduced gap penalties to encourage the opening up of new gaps at these positions. These modifications are incorporated into a new program, CLUSTAL W which is freely available.

                Author and article information

                Genome Biol
                Genome Biology
                BioMed Central
                5 December 2007
                : 8
                : 12
                : R259
                [1 ]UMR 7144 Université Paris VI and CNRS, Station Biologique, Groupe Plancton Océanique, F-29682 Roscoff cedex, France
                [2 ]Mount Allison University, Photosynthetic Molecular Ecophysiology Group, Biology Department, E4L 1G7 Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada
                [3 ]UMR 8186 CNRS and Ecole Normale Supérieure, Biologie Moléculaire des Organismes Photosynthétiques, F-75230 Paris, France
                [4 ]Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
                Copyright © 2007 Six et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




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