Completed genomes and environmental genomic sequences are bringing a significant contribution to understanding the evolution of gene families, microbial metabolism and community eco-physiology. Here, we used comparative genomics and phylogenetic analyses in conjunction with enzymatic data to probe the evolution and functions of a microbial nitrilase gene family. Nitrilases are relatively rare in bacterial genomes, their biological function being unclear.
We examined the genetic neighborhood of the different subfamily genes and discovered conserved gene clusters or operons associated with specific nitrilase clades. The inferred evolutionary transitions that separate nitrilases which belong to different gene clusters correlated with changes in their enzymatic properties. We present evidence that Darwinian adaptation acted during one of those transitions and identified sites in the enzyme that may have been under positive selection.
Changes in the observed biochemical properties of the nitrilases associated with the different gene clusters are consistent with a hypothesis that those enzymes have been recruited to a novel metabolic pathway following gene duplication and neofunctionalization. These results demonstrate the benefits of combining environmental genomic sampling and completed genomes data with evolutionary and biochemical analyses in the study of gene families. They also open new directions for studying the functions of nitrilases and the genes they are associated with.
BMC Evolutionary Biology. 01/2005;
ABSTRACT: Nitrilases are important in the biosphere as participants in synthesis and degradation pathways for naturally occurring, as well as xenobiotically derived, nitriles. Because of their inherent enantioselectivity, nitrilases are also attractive as mild, selective catalysts for setting chiral centers in fine chemical synthesis. Unfortunately, <20 nitrilases have been reported in the scientific and patent literature, and because of stability or specificity shortcomings, their utility has been largely unrealized. In this study, 137 unique nitrilases, discovered from screening of >600 biotope-specific environmental DNA (eDNA) libraries, were characterized. Using culture-independent means, phylogenetically diverse genomes were captured from entire biotopes, and their genes were expressed heterologously in a common cloning host. Nitrilase genes were targeted in a selection-based expression assay of clonal populations numbering 10(6) to 10(10) members per eDNA library. A phylogenetic analysis of the novel sequences discovered revealed the presence of at least five major sequence clades within the nitrilase subfamily. Using three nitrile substrates targeted for their potential in chiral pharmaceutical synthesis, the enzymes were characterized for substrate specificity and stereospecificity. A number of important correlations were found between sequence clades and the selective properties of these nitrilases. These enzymes, discovered using a high-throughput, culture-independent method, provide a catalytic toolbox for enantiospecific synthesis of a variety of carboxylic acid derivatives, as well as an intriguing library for evolutionary and structural analyses.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 04/2004; 70(4):2429-36. · 3.83 Impact Factor
ABSTRACT: The hyperthermophile Nanoarchaeum equitans is an obligate symbiont growing in coculture with the crenarchaeon Ignicoccus. Ribosomal protein and rRNA-based phylogenies place its branching point early in the archaeal lineage, representing the new archaeal kingdom Nanoarchaeota. The N. equitans genome (490,885 base pairs) encodes the machinery for information processing and repair, but lacks genes for lipid, cofactor, amino acid, or nucleotide biosyntheses. It is the smallest microbial genome sequenced to date, and also one of the most compact, with 95% of the DNA predicted to encode proteins or stable RNAs. Its limited biosynthetic and catabolic capacity indicates that N. equitans' symbiotic relationship to Ignicoccus is parasitic, making it the only known archaeal parasite. Unlike the small genomes of bacterial parasites that are undergoing reductive evolution, N. equitans has few pseudogenes or extensive regions of noncoding DNA. This organism represents a basal archaeal lineage and has a highly reduced genome.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2003; 100(22):12984-8. · 9.68 Impact Factor