Phylogenetic analysis of 70 kD heat shock protein sequences suggests a chimeric origin for the eukaryotic cell nucleus
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BACKGROUND: The evolutionary relationships between archaebacteria, eubacteria and eukaryotic cells are of central importance in biology. The current view is that each of these three groups of organisms constitutes a monophyletic domain, and that eukaryotic cells have evolved fom an archaebacterial ancestor. Recent studies on a number of highly conserved protein sequences do not, however, support this view and raise important questions concerning the evolutionary relationships between all extant organisms, particularly regarding the origin of eukaryotic cells. RESULTS: RESULTS: We have used sequences of 70 kD heat shock protein (hsp70)--the most conserved protein found to date in all species--to examine the evolutionary relationship between various species. We have obtained two new archaebacterial hsp70 sequences from the species, Thermoplasma acidophilum and Halobacterium cutirubrum. A global comparison of hsp70 sequences, including our two new sequences, shows that all known archaebacterial homologs share a number of sequence signatures with the Gram-positive group of bacteria that are not found in any other prokaryotic or eukaryotic species. In contrast, the eukaryotic homologs are shown to share a number of unique sequence features with the Gram-negative bacteria that are not present in any archaebacteria. Detailed phylogenetic analyses of hsp70 sequences strongly support a specific evolutionary relationship between archaebacteria and Gram-positive bacteria on the one hand, and Gram-negative bacteria and eukaryotes on the other. The phylogenetic analyses also indicate a polyphyletic branching of archaebacteria within the Gram-positive species. The possibility that the observed relationships are due to horizontal gene transfers can be excluded on the basis of sequence characteristics of different groups of homologs. CONCLUSIONS: Our results do not support the view that archaebacteria constitute a monophyletic domain, but instead suggest a close evolutionary linkage between archaebacteria and Gram-positive bacteria. Furthermore, in contrast to the presently accepted view, eukaryotic hsp70s show a close and specific relationship to those from Gram-negative species. To explain the phylogenies based on different gene sequences, a chimeric model for the origin of the eukaryotic cell nucleus involving fusion between an archaebacterium and a Gram-negative eubacterium is proposed. Several predictions from the chimeric model are discussed.
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