Signature proteins that are distinctive of alpha proteobacteria.
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BACKGROUND: The alpha (alpha) proteobacteria, a very large and diverse group, are presently characterized solely on the basis of 16S rRNA trees, with no known molecular characteristic that is unique to this group. The genomes of three alpha-proteobacteria, Rickettsia prowazekii (RP), Caulobacter crescentus (CC) and Bartonella quintana (BQ), were analyzed in order to search for proteins that are unique to this group. RESULTS: Blast analyses of protein sequences from the above genomes have led to the identification of 61 proteins which are distinctive characteristics of alpha-proteobacteria and are generally not found in any other bacteria. These alpha-proteobacterial signature proteins are generally of hypothetical functions and they can be classified as follows: (i) Six proteins (CC2102, CC3292, CC3319, CC1887, CC1725 and CC1365) which are uniquely present in most sequenced alpha-proteobacterial genomes; (ii) Ten proteins (CC1211, CC1886, CC2245, CC3470, CC0520, CC0365, CC0366, CC1977, CC3010 and CC0100) which are present in all alpha-proteobacteria except the Rickettsiales; (iii) Five proteins (CC2345, CC3115, CC3401, CC3467 and CC1021) not found in the intracellular bacteria belonging to the order Rickettsiales and the Bartonellaceae family; (iv) Four proteins (CC1652, CC2247, CC3295 and CC1035) that are absent from various Rickettsiales as well as Rhodobacterales; (v) Three proteins (RP104, RP105 and RP106) that are unique to the order Rickettsiales and four proteins (RP766, RP192, RP030 and RP187) which are specific for the Rickettsiaceae family; (vi) Six proteins (BQ00140, BQ00720, BQ03880, BQ12030, BQ07670 and BQ11900) which are specific to the order Rhizobiales; (vii) Four proteins (BQ01660, BQ02450, BQ03770 and BQ13470) which are specific for the order Rhizobiales excluding the family Bradyrhizobiaceae; (viii) Nine proteins (BQ12190, BQ11460, BQ11450, BQ11430, BQ11380, BQ11160, BQ11120, BQ11100 and BQ11030 which are distinctive of the Bartonellaceae family;(ix) Six proteins (CC0189, CC0569, CC0331, CC0349, CC2323 and CC2637) which show sporadic distribution in alpha-proteobacteria, (x) Four proteins (CC2585, CC0226, CC2790 and RP382) in which lateral gene transfers are indicated to have occurred between alpha-proteobacteria and a limited number of other bacteria. CONCLUSION: The identified proteins provide novel means for defining and identifying the alpha-proteobacteria and many of its subgroups in clear molecular terms and in understanding the evolution of this group of species. These signature proteins, together with the large number of alpha-proteobacteria specific indels that have recently been identified http://www.bacterialphylogeny.com, provide evidence that all species from this diverse group share many unifying and distinctive characteristics. Functional studies on these proteins should prove very helpful in the identification of such characteristics.
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