Phylogenetic mapping of intron positions: a case study of translation initiation factor eIF2gamma.

Department of Genetics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
Molecular Biology and Evolution (Impact Factor: 10.35). 02/2005; 22(1):74-84. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msh255
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2) is a G protein that delivers the methionyl initiator tRNA to the small ribosomal subunit and releases it upon GTP hydrolysis after the recognition of the initiation codon. eIF2 is composed of three subunits, alpha, beta, and gamma. Subunit gamma shows the strongest conservation, and it confers both tRNA and GTP/GDP binding. Using intron positioning and protein sequence alignment, here we show that eIF2gamma is a suitable phylogenetic marker for eukaryotes. We determined or completed the sequences of 13 arthropod eIF2gamma genes. Analyzing the phylogenetic distribution of 52 different intron positions in 55 distantly related eIF2gamma genes, we identified ancient ones and shared derived introns in our data set. Obviously, intron positioning in eIF2gamma is evolutionarily conserved. However, there were episodes of complete and partial intron losses followed by intron gains. We identified 17 clusters of intron positions based on their distribution. The evolution of these clusters appears to be connected with preferred exon length and can be used to estimate the relative timing of intron gain because nearby precursor introns had to be erased from the gene before the new introns could be inserted. Moreover, we identified a putative case of intron sliding that constitutes a synapomorphic character state supporting monophyly of Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, and Diptera excluding Hymenoptera. We also performed tree reconstructions using the eIF2gamma protein sequences and intron positioning as phylogenetic information. Our results support the monophyly of Viridoplantae, Ascomycota, Homobasidiomyceta, and Apicomplexa.

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